The Falsehood of the Memoir as Narcissism Trope: An Epistolary Essay
This essay was written as part of one of the nine or so drafts of a letter I wrote to a friend of mine with whom I had just had a terrible, relationship-threatening (and eventually, relationship-ending) argument. I wanted to explain to her how she did not have to be as helpless as she had become over the years due to her depression, anxiety, and other disabilities. But my pointing that out was seen as unacceptable, unfair criticism.
I knew it would probably not be appreciated. But I had become extraordinarily frustrated with her as her health declined but she kept up with habits that contributed to her poor emotional and physical health, and her connection to the extraordinary scholar she had been — but had mostly walked away from after her tenure track contract was not renewed.
She mostly pulled away from the intellectual world that had been the territory we together had proudly walked once upon a time. I can’t say I didn’t see parallels between her choices and mine, and I know depression is a tough monkey to get off your back. But, despite several actual WINS in her life (which often I didn’t learn about till long after), pretty much all our interactions dealt with me trying to help her pick up the pieces. For 30 years I stuck by her. But finally I could not summon the strength to do it longer.
I’m sure she sees it all differently, of course, with me rather than she being weighted down. Except that her tendency in that direction showed up long before all hell fell down on either one of us.
I really hate it that a 30-year relationship ended…let’s see…nine years ago. But I was exhausted from seemingly always helping her pick up the pieces while I shoved aside my own needs to deal with hers. Hers always seemed so much weightier than mine, so much more pressing than mine, and to me the friendship was rather lopsided. Her health concerns were more serious than mine (quadruple bypass among them), but I gave a lot of thought to that.
When I asked her to come down from St. Paul and visit me near Madison for a change instead of the usual reverse trip, I was excited about the possibility of sharing my new life in Madison with her — for instance, my new water exercise program…