Sister Karamazova; or, signs of hope

Many, many years ago, in fact, back in the late 20th century, I was an undergraduate student at a university in southern California. I was a big Dostoevsky fan back than, had read nearly all of his works, and was working my way through many other Russian authors as well: Tolstoy, Turgenev, Lermontov, etc. I happened across a book in the library one day that was a scholarly tome about the usage and symbolism of names in the works of Dostoevsky. I had some fairly good competence with the Russian language, as I had already studied it for a year of so, but nothing that would have enabled me to make the discoveries that I found in that book. I had no idea, for instance, that the surname Raskolnikov, the main character in Crime and Punishment, actually means something like “the one who splits things asunder,” or “schismatic.” (Incidentally, I had also forgotten that his forename is Rodion — my nom de plume for this blog, although I’m not schizophrenic, as was poor Raskolnikov!) I also recall learning that the surname Karamazov, as used in The Brothers Karamazov, means something like “black smear,” and that this smear implies negative qualities, such as sin. It was kind of a revelation for me: Dostoevsky was actually broadcasting the qualities of his characters through their names, both first and last; such details are mostly lost on the foreign and/or uninformed reader.

I’ve spoken about the cloud of blackish grey energy that seems to hover over my wife these days. Actually, it’s been there for the better part of the last six months, but it seems to have gotten steadily worse since the beginning of the year. It was the experience of this darkish cloud that came to me during my morning spiritual practice. I was doing tonglen, which I’ve written about before, and my subject for this meditation more often than not is my wife. I relate directly to the energy of my situation with her, and the situation of her own being. What struck me the most about my experience this morning was the general energetic tone. Sure, there were the emotions, and they were not surprising: I sense that she is feeling guilt and nervousness, and is more than a little fearful, and also is quite tired from everything she has put herself through. But the tone was really interesting. It was like a black smear, a block, or a smudge of incredible negativity. This is the cloud she carries around with her, and that’s what came through. The main difference is that it wasn’t diffuse, it was really kind of solid and heavy. It must really suck to have to lug something like that around with you 24/7. Shortly after wrapping up that session, the name Karamazov popped into my mind, relating directly to that block of darkness. Thus she came to mind as Sister Karamazova.

She had texted me early this morning to say she wanted to make arrangements to collect the dog, but that I shouldn’t drop her off at the house that she was at last week. Well of course, she never moved in there in the first place. She hasn’t been there since last Wednesday, most likely. She had also asked about taxes, so I texted back to tell her that we would need to chat about that. She then texted back to ask when she should call, and my response was vary simple: “You can call me pretty much whenever; if I’m busy it will go to voicemail, but otherwise I’ll always answer if you call.”

Wouldn’t you know she’d call when I was in the restroom? I know, TMI. I checked the voice mail, and her energy was vary odd. She sounded really charged, and not really in a good way. So I called her right back, and I got that same energy when she picked up. I called her by one of the nicknames I have for her, and we started to chat. We discussed the tax situation, and she agreed to sit down with me next week sometime. I told her I had just filed an extension, since I felt it both unwise and unethical to sign the return on her behalf. I don’t have power of attorney, anyway. I made it clear to her that I felt that it would be no different from lying, except in this case it would also be against the law. I told her I did what I thought was the right thing to do, and she did not disagree.

We continued to chat a bit, and she told me that she was indeed at the home of this student of hers; the student’s mother is an acquaintance, but not much more than that, yet she feels comfortable staying there for the night. She thanked me for the picture book I’d mailed her last week, and I told her she was welcome, that I’d seen it and thought she’d like it. I asked her if she had read it at all, and she said she had. Hmmmm, you know, I never thought I could actually detect a lie over the phone, but I could tell from everything about the way she answered that question that she did not have the book in her possession, that she has not seen it yet, and that she certainly has not read it. I didn’t ask anything more about it.

She then brought up the dog, and we arranged a plan for me to drop her off at the acquaintance’s house tomorrow. She told me that she has another session with the “energy worker” tomorrow, and I offered to give her a ride. She declined the offer, and I told her that it really would not be a problem. She said, “I’m not comfortable with that,” to which I said, jokingly, “what, am I some kind of poison?” This caught her a bit off guard, and she said that she is trying very hard not to be dependent on other people, and she really would just prefer to ride the bus. Funny that she doesn’t want to be dependent on me, but being virtually totally dependent on the adulterer is somehow okay. We did come to an arrangement, though, and I’ll be swinging by tomorrow morning to drop off the dog and to take my wife to a nearby bus stop.

An interesting thing happened by the end of our conversation, though. Her whole tone had changed. That sharply edged energy I had heard, which is really a sort of charged, neurotic karma energy, had softened into something far more genuine, open, and positive. I was able to joke around with her and to even get her to revert to a tone of voice I’ve heard almost nothing of for six months now. This is significant. Very significant. I already know that my presence can soothe her demons, but now I also know that the sound of my voice over the phone can do that as well.

I came away from that conversation with a somewhat odd feeling, but I didn’t realize what it was until an hour or two later, and then it struck me: she cannot take much more of this. She is watching her path crumble. She is not finding the happiness she thought would be there. She is almost certainly beginning to realize that the problems are not external, but rather internal. There is no amount of avoidance of or separation from me or others that will change this internal discontent that she harbors. It must be excruciatingly painful. Right now, I’m sure all she’s doing is distracting herself from this existential crisis. But at the end of the day, the crisis is still there, and it’s getting worse. She looks at me and sees that I’m not in any crisis at all, not fundamentally. She looks at the adulterer and sees… well, I don’t know what she sees, but I’m sure that pretty soon she will see nothing more than an adulterer, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she is seeing that already. I am beginning to realize that my counselor was right, and that he and I sense the same things because energetically it’s just out there. It’s a meltdown waiting to happen, and it is coming.

And I think it’s coming soon.