December 8th, 2007

A Cautionary Tale

Elizabeth's sister Harriet married a man she didn’t love because she figured his affection, kindness and unconditional acceptance would do her a world of good. And indeed they did. Over the months and years Harriet gradually felt her admiration for Harold steadily increase. She started to see his quirks not as strange or annoying, but charming. And then one morning, just like that, she knew she was in love with him, and she saw him in a way that she hadn’t been able to see before, and Oh, my God! Harold had always been there for her, and there he remained: Her own husband! How did she get so lucky?

When we were still married Elizabeth repeated this story to me, over and again, but I never understood its significance. She was giving me hints. But I was too stupid to pick up on them. She was begging me: Please, please, please give me TIME! Like Harold had the good sense to do.

But I was impatient. Neurotic. Needy. And the more I pressed Elizabeth, the worse things got. It was an intense, crazy-making struggle, all loaded down with my fear of failure, fear of success, loathing myself for never being able to do relationships right, sabotaging them, because deep down I felt I didn’t deserve her or anyone else.

I never understood that accepting her unconditionally and putting her happiness above my own would draw her to me. No, I couldn't do that. Instead, I drove her away.


Journalism is—or at least ought to be—simply telling the truth. As opposed to lying. Like my father lied, when he told me my mother was dead. When he called her a whore. Especially when he drunkenly insisted he loved me.

When your father lies, you never get completely over it. Because you know a liar is the opposite of an omnipotent loving god, who is supposed to be there to protect you. A liar will throw you to the wolves, leave you to die.

As a child I was surrounded by lies. Which is why I was strongly drawn to newspaper reporting, which at one time held that the truth and its verification was the ultimate goal. Verification is the key word here. It’s why as a boy I saved up my odd-job money and bought a Gilbert microscope. With it I saw that the skin of an onion—precisely as the biology textbook said—was made up of cells containing a nucleus and mitochondria.

Verifying this biological allegation for myself made me feel good. And safe.