People often ask me this, somewhere between “how are you” & “why did your wife leave you,” usually perplexed that I left a bustling, hip city like Austin to return to my struggling little hometown. My friends here seem a little disappointed in me, seeming to think I gave up & didn’t respect my opportunity to “get out.” People elsewhere get tipsy on being judgemental. My grandfather, before he passed, said I didn’t belong here, that I was “too good” for this town, whatever the hell that means. My therapist in Austin before the move wondered about the psychological effects of the transition & the isolation.
After she kept us in Austin for a couple extra years, doing the seminary route, D said it was my choice where to move next, both of us tired of the hustle of Austin, not wanting to be neck-deep in high rent, big expectations, & overly-committed schedules. After much consideration, we agreed that my hometown of Elwood, Indiana would be the best environment for us. Check off the affordable & sustainable cost of living. Check off the support & proximity to family. Check off the spaciousness for our mental health & art making processes.
It might seem rosy-tinted knowing what we now know of how it’d turn out, but I must say that first year was going as planned, minus the increasingly psychotic / chaotic episodes--later learned to be caused by the Fluoxetine I was misprescribed. D was paying off her debts & we were settling into our roles--she as breadwinner, me as homemaker. We were reconnecting with my family, finding our game night buds & exercise circles, creating space for porch talks & date night. Both together & on our own, we were making art--D writing an animated feature film & developing a new play for towns like Elwood, me transitioning from therapeutic collage maker to actual collagist & tapping away on a consuming long poem, & us writing songs & learning covers for the short-lived Leon Tyner’s Antique Horse Blanket band.
But we do know what we now know--my total breakdown, D’s leaving in its midst, the transition & isolation worries of that therapist popping up a year later than expected, wearing a different hue. The problem I am struggling with now is if this is the best place for single ol’ me. Thanks to my grandpa’s leaving of this house to me, my disabled self has the affordability to make it work, but I wonder if alone, as I plan to be, is sustainable, caring for this family-sized house & property. I am already finding it isolating, lost out here in the country for days at a time in my funks. I feel role-less in the domestic space & uninspired in my artistic life, instead concerned more with documenting my experience & managing my disorder.
That brings me back to the Texas question. I don’t miss Texas, Austin, big city life, the culture, whatever. I can find most of those things in pockets around here or on the internet, honestly; it was a great place to grow, to close out my 20’s. More than anything, I miss the life I had there, a life I could never recreate. We were so blessed to have a tight-knit group of friends in several circles (theatre, rock n’ roll, poetry, the hang-around crowd), affordable housing at the seminary, & purpose in our passions. Those elements are irreplicable these days for various, obvious reasons. I grieve the loss of those days, the closing of those circles, & the ending of that moment.
Just as I am still moving beyond my years in Austin, I’m grieving the loss of the possibilities of the life we had planned here. I am sad certain people will never get to visit this home we made. I am sad D & I no longer collaborate on this home, our band, or ways to bring fresh art to this community. I am sad this community will not know D & her necessary work. I am sad we do not get to explore inventive ways to be a couple & to have a family in the midst of my psychological struggles. There is a void. There is a ghost. It is not D. It is the life I had built with D, the life we were building here. That’s what I am struggling with, the cracks where the depression seeps in.
In the past six years, so much of my esteem & worth were tied to my position next to D--supportive theater husband, percussion backdrop to her angelic voice, chef of the food she brought home. For the years to come, so much of my hope & plans were in conjunction to D--the runs of House Play, the artist residency we wanted to start, the shows we were about to play. Even as I do my projects & make new connections & collaborations, it feels hollow. I never knew a void could make such a pang.