Me and Salieri

continued on from here.

Why would God give me such a capacity for love, and not just the capacity, but also the desire for it, and then deny it to me? Not just once, but time and time again …

These are my Salieri thoughts. My baffled hurt Salieri thoughts.

How can one bear such loneliness for so many years? Especially when, for whatever reason, it has been implanted in the heart that one needs to find a mate? And not just needs, but wants … yearns … yearns to find what Robert Louis Stevenson called “solitude made perfect”?

I have wanted to get rid of this desire for good. Because it would be so much easier. Having that desire in my heart has done me no good. All it has meant for me has been heartache. This is how it feels in bleaker moments, 3 a.m. moments. At 3 a.m. I forget the laughter, the joy of my former connections with boyfriends. At 3 a.m., it’s just loss. It has taken an enormous act of will, strength, and determination to focus on other things. It is a MUST for me to focus on other things. There are long stretches when I succeed, when I am not haunted, or bitter, or sad. I’m in one of those stretches now. I have brief relapses – coming from out of nowhere (ahem – blurpy man on train) – but for the most part, I’m not eaten alive anymore by this whole wanting a mate thing.

I see myself in Salieri. There have been times when the sight of happy couples makes me not only angry, but devastated. I feel cursed. In really dark moments, I’m a bitch when I’m around my married friends. I am very ashamed of this part of me. I struggle with her almost every day. The past year I have really moved beyond that pettiness, but it has taken a lot of focus, and self-evaluation. Also self-love, to be honest. It’s no good to be hard taskmaster, and be unforgiving towards those ugly dark parts of yourself. At least it’s not for me. I struggle enough with feeling worthless. The worst thing I can do is pile it on, pile heaps of coal on my own head. So I talk myself off the ledge. “Sheila, it’s okay … you’re just sad … you’re sick of being alone … it feels like you will always be alone … so you’re just sad … It’s not THEIR fault that this is the case … so breathe … breathe …” That struggle is pretty nearly won, now. Which is nice. I can hang out with my married friends now and not feel like I’m poisoning the day with my own bitterness, my own Salieri-esque rage at how unfair life is.

I have “put myself out there” time and time again (and I swear, the next person who tells me I just have to “put myself out there” is going to get punched in the nose) and I have had a terribly rough time. Not universally, but definitely lately. As in the last 5 years. I won’t go into it. A lot in the last 5 years has been terrific, major strides in other areas. But in that area, it’s been a disaster.

I see people all around me in couples. In dark moments, in moments when I feel persecuted by the sheer NUMBER of couples I see around me, it seems like the one thing I really want in life is being denied me – out of SPITE or something … but then I always believe that this is for some REASON. I yearn to understand God’s plan for me. I want to know WHY. Because I do believe there is a reason WHY. There is a reason why it didn’t work out with the couple guys in my past who really mattered to me. Of course there is. I yearn to know the reason that I would be given this great big feckin’ HEART, and a great big LOVE of men … and yet to have it remain unfulfilled. Steadfastly.

It’s not a matter anymore of going out and dating, playing the field. There is something deeper going on. Nobody can ever convince me that something deeper isn’t going on here.

I want to know, like Salieri, what my purpose on this planet is. And I want to know, like Salieri, what God’s plan is for me. Am I missing his plan? Am I misinterpreting it? Am I wasting my time, being sad about this or that? Because from where I stand, a measly little human being, trapped in this one particular fold of the space-time continuum, it makes very little sense. And when it makes no sense, life is a howling wilderness, I feel alone, with echoes, with the past, with sadness, with this huge drive to express myself TO someone … and no one on the other side. Ghosts around me, the men in my past, all great guys, every one … where did they go? What happened back there? Could it have worked? Or was God gently guiding me along … “No, no, that is not your path … that is not your path … solitude is your path … you must accept it, stop fighting it … It’s only when you FIGHT it that it hurts you.”

I have found that to be true.

When I rail against my “lot”, when I’m angry, when I’m hurt, when I’m PISSED … is when my solitude hurts the most.

Now that I have given over to it, and accepted it, it doesn’t really hurt at all.

As long as I don’t see any random blurpy men on trains I should be okay.

All of this was brought to the forefront by watching that movie last night. I probably sound sadder than I am. I’m not actually that sad. More contemplative, reflective. Salieri’s relationship with God is what really impressed itself upon me this last time. I recognized some of my own thoughts, feelings, in Salieri. The movie, of course, is about talent, and genius. What is genius? What is it? It seems so random. Genius suddenly APPEARS. Ever since I was a tiny girl, I’ve been the kind of person who feels joy so intensely that it hurts. I would lie in bed, age 6, and press my hand down on my heart, when I was really really happy, because it felt like my heart would come out of my chest. When I’ve been in love with someone, that’s what it feels like.

I wouldn’t trade it for the world.

If I can’t love someone like that, if I have to “tone it down” in order to get a mate, then obviously love is not for me. Because I can’t. I can’t tone it down. I have the presence of mind to know that that very intensity is really the best thing about me, and if I have a gift to give? It is THAT. And I can’t compartmentalize it – although I have tried that too. I’ve tried to put that intensity into my “art” compartments – save the intensity for my creative life – and try to be a nice normal steady girlfriend in the OTHER compartment, and not frighten him away. Naturally, this does not work. It’s all or nothing.

For the most part, though, (and this probably isn’t surprising) – the men who are drawn to me, the ones who have pursued me, and who have fallen in love with me, are guys who DIG my intense quality, who want to be near it, part of it, who love it when it’s focused on them. The type of guys who LOVE that I get so excited about a movie or a book that I gesticulate wildly, and my cheeks turn red, and I trip off the curb as I try to walk and talk at the same time. Stuff like that. I generally don’t attract men who are looking for stable settled energy, or who would find my messy brand of enthusiasm embarrassing.

But like anything else in life, I have paid a price for loving people like that. The heart-break of letting someone go is fiery red-hot. Like a poker. It takes me forever to get over things. And, maybe ever since the doppelganger , I feel like there might be a little less of me to give now. Like something finally got killed back there, for good. I don’t regret much, in terms of romantic entanglements – believe it or not, I haven’t made that many mistakes or errors in judgment … but man, I regret that one. Not because it turned out he was a jerk, but because the pain was searing and something, I feel, something precious was lost in the transfer. It was the proverbial straw. I’m not sure about that, though. I always say that after a disappointment. It’s become a joke in my group of friends. Or, not a joke, but … a predictable phase of my disappointments. I make wild proclamations. I am VERY firm. “Okay, that is IT. I have had it. NEVER AGAIN.” Well, naturally there is usually “an again”. And because of my makeup, and because of the rarity of such connections (I’m not attracted to many people) – it’s intense. I can’t not be intense. And I’m not talking about “ooh, I’m so deep, let me play ‘Joe Lies’ for you 20 times, and strum on my guitar…” I’m talking about intense joy, too, intense curiosity about things, an intense love of the art of conversation, intense passion, intense laughter, all that stuff. It’s who I am.

My desire for an appropriate mate … to share my solitude with someone … to find “solitude made perfect” feels like it has come from outside of me. From God. Or maybe it feels like it is so deep within me that it is intertwined in my DNA. Nurture has nothing to do with it. It feels like it’s all Nature, I was born with this, and it feels indestructible. Maybe it is. It hasn’t been destroyed yet, which shocks me, on occasion. How on earth is it possible that I – who wants to love someone – JUST ONE PERSON – so badly – and who has had her heart broke a gazillion times … how on earth is it possible that I have not become jaded and hard? WHY THE HELL am I not jaded?

In my more hopeful moments, I think to myself – if you become jaded, Sheila, if you become bitter and hard, and “over it” … then the type of man that you love, and the type of man who has always loved you … will no longer be drawn to you. Because you will have killed the very thing within you that would attract him. My friend Maria said this very thing to me once, in the wake of the doppelganger I think, “I’m really afraid that you’re gonna get bitter, Sheila. I couldn’t stand it if you got bitter. Bitterness would hide that light you have inside of you. And then the man out there who is looking for you would no longer be able to find his way.”

I believe this to be true as well. But oh. What a struggle. And it’s not a struggle with any discernible end in sight. It’s really just the struggle of living a good and happy and meaningful life. Of not letting the goodness within you get killed, not being tempted by cynics, by those who only see the dark side, by those who treat openness and excitement with contempt and suspicion … This struggle needs to go on whether or not I find a mate. Life is beautiful, life is a gift, life must be lived fully … Regardless. There are worse things in life than being alone.

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17 Responses to Me and Salieri

  1. Burt says:

    I so much want to write something important, but at the moment seem to have no creative spark. You have struck a responsive chord in me, however. I loved Amadeus and have it on Laser Disc and DVD. Perhaps I will think of something later that I can send along to lighten your mood.

  2. red says:

    Burt –

    No need to lighten my mood. Please do not assume that I have written this because I need advice, or I need someone to “fix” it.

    I posted it because I like to express my feelings, and work things out in print. It’s healing for me, it’s cathartic.

    Please, everyone: DO NOT GIVE ME ADVICE.

    It ruins everything.

    Share your own experiences, commiserate, be open and true in how YOU feel about such things, or be briefly supportive of my journey – but no advice.


  3. Anne says:

    I’m always the big identifier on these posts, and here I am again, identifying. Particularly to the struggle between love and mistrust, or giving in to one’s big heart or being bitter.

    I was quite bitter for a number of years – to the extent that everyone who has gone out with me since, like, 1996 probably thinks of me as a cold heartless bitch. But as I’ve admitted to you – to myself – recently, I’m still a romantic at heart. It never goes away, if that’s how you’re built. So it’s not worth it, trying to fight it. It’ll sneak up on you anyway, even if you’ve built a million defenses against it.

  4. Independent George says:

    Where you were inspired by Amadeus, I find my scourge in Office Space. Michael Bolton (heh) says something along the lines of, “How can a bunch of dumb criminals be so good at this, yet a bunch of smart guys like us be so bad at it?”

    I wonder why it seems so easy for everyone else, and how it is that I could have missed out on something which seems so abundant.

    My worst moments come when I think of all the things I do have – friends, family, education, etc. How it is that I can have so much going for me in every way except what I really want?

    And then comes the guilt – How can I hate myself so much when I’ve got so much going for me? How can I want more, when I already have so much?

    And then I think of another line, from another movie: William H. Macey at the end of Magnolia, defeated and dejected, proclaim, “I have a lot of love to give, I just don’t know where to put it.”

    And then I wonder whether that’s even true of me. I wonder if I’m merely being selfish. Is it that I have love to give, or am I just desperate to feel it reciprocated? Is it love, or is it my own ego? Which, in turn, takes me right back to the whole guilt thing.

    So there you have it: Office Space sends me into a spiral of depression. Don’t even get me started on Blazing Saddles.

  5. Kate F says:

    It’ll happen. I just know it. It’s this damn limbo in the meantime that really sucks.

  6. red says:

    Anne …

    If you stopped identifying, I would be bummed out. :)

  7. red says:


    That line from Magnolia always KILLS me. God.

  8. David says:

    Oh Boy. I just spent the morning catching up on “The Variations”. I feel like I’ve been through a seminar, or some discourse on humanity, the conclusion of which is this post. I don’t know where to begin, yet I feel an enormous desire to contribute in some way. Contribute to this thread. I’ve always remarked on this paradox of yours Sheila. This IS part of your life that is a literary conceit. This “Salieri-esque” burden. Every time we meet you help me to see that my struggle for contentment is the thing.

    I learned this from my friend Bill who took a meditation course. His teacher told him that the state of deep meditation, although benificial, is not the most vital aspect of meditation. It is the recognizing that you are not present and the bringing yourself back to presence. In those moments we grow(he may not have said grow, and I don’t particularly know what word should go there but it’s something good). In those meoments for me I often berate myself with thoughts like, “What the fuck?! Why can’t I concentrate? What’s wrong with me.” But to accept that the human condition is one of struggle is to be free for me. To accept that I will leave the moment and will always leave the moment is to BE.

    I’m very inspired this morning by your honesty. I’ve always been inspired by your struggle. When you write, like you did here, so truthfully about it, I feel alive.

    The fight to remain open and to fight cyncicism is, for me, the same thing as pulling yourself back to the moment. I will always fight this. And I will not always pull myself back to openness and compassion. I will fail and maybe someday I will thank God for that. Today I can’t. Today I hate it. I hate the struggle that is my life. Yet as I write this, it slips away.

    Shanley’s small essay before “the dreamer examines his pillow” is resounding in my mind today. Here’s some:

    “As a writer and as a man I am involved in one central struggle-to discover and accept who I am. I believe all fear has its roots in denial.”

    And then is other Author’s note that resounds in my head as well. Here’s some of that, the stuff in parenthesis added by me:

    “My spirit is this moment dissatisfied with the outward life I inhabit (God can I relate to that). Why does my outward life not reflect the enormity of the miracle of existence? Why are my eyes blinded with always new scales, my ears stopped with thick chunks of fresh wax, why are my fingers calloused again? I don’t ask these questions lightly. I beat on the stone door of my tomb. I want out! Some days I wake up in a tomb, some days on a grassy mound by a river. Today I woke up in a tomb. Why does my spirit sometimes retreat into a deathly closet? Perhaps it is not my spirit leading the way at such times, but my body, longing to lie down in marble gloom and rot away.”


    “An actor who is truly heroic reveals the divine that passes through him, that aspect of himself that he does not own and cannot control. The control and artistry of the heroic actor is in service to his soul.”

    and finally:

    “You can’t avoid all the pitfalls. There are lies you must tell. But experience the lie. See it as something dead and unconnected you clutch. And let it go.”

    There is such freedom and ecstasy in this. To be truly present with all of it means nothing’s wrong, everything is perfect, the imperfection is perfect. In my finest moments on stage, and in life, I have been present with this.

  9. red says:

    Oh, Shanley. :) Shanley, Shanley. His words … there’s something ABOUT them – so powerful, and so simple.

    “You can’t avoid all the pitfalls. There are lies you must tell. But experience the lie. See it as something dead and unconnected you clutch. And let it go.” I love that essay. I relate to it. “Don’t worry about art. Do these things, and it will be art.”

    Ah well. We cannot see to the end. We rarely get a glimpse of the underlying pattern, the reasons. My worst moments are when I feel a complete loss of sight … like NOTHING makes sense then. Belief that there has got to be a reason holds me up, gets me through.

    Even now, there’s a voice in my head, chuckling at my own seriousness in a destructive way. Snickering at myself. This is the road of the cynic, this is how cynics treat me, how they hear me when I talk like this. It’s when you finally incorporate all of those cynical voices, so that you can’t differentiate theirs from your own, that you’re lost. That’s the dark side.

    I fully realize how much of a blessing life is, and how blessed I am. This does not mean that I will not ask questions, and struggle, and try to understand, and grieve things – if they need to be grieved. I will no longer diminish my own experience. I won’t do it.

  10. David says:

    It reminds me of this beautiful moment, which is so ironic to post on this site because of the hilarity that was the experience of writing a review of “The Gates”.

    But, be that as it may, two weekends back, when the last day of the gates was upon us, I realized that I hadn’t been in the park once. It was not a good day to go due to all my household, domestic, Sunday responsibilities, and seeing that most of my weekdays are quite flexible, it was also incredibly selfish of me to take off, last minute, to see the gates. But I HAD to. I asked if anyone wanted to come but my oldest daughter was sick and my wife wasn’t up for it. So I called my friend Bill, who lives right next to the park and he met me last minute. It was a gorgeous sunny day and where he lives, the park was not too crowded.

    We walked through the park and I was blown away. I thought the park was now a place of magic and beauty and wonder. I was delirious with joy. We talked and stopped and looked, and talked and had the most precious time together.

    At one point Bill said, “I find what people have to say about the gates reveals more about them than about the art” I agreed. We revelled in them and he told me some of the hostile, cynical things people said. At one point I looked at him and said, “There was a time in my life when I could come here and be cynical.” With tears in my eyes, which brought tears to his, I added, “I feel so blessed that I’m not there anymore, that I can see these patches of saffron and feel joy.”

    At that moment the anger he or I had for the hostile cynical people who, in our self-centered minds, tried to “ruin” our experience, dissolved, and I felt compassion for them and for myself. It was a beautiful moment.

  11. David says:

    That’s not to say that if you didn’t like the gates you’re cynical.

  12. red says:


    I love that observation – that was my main beef with the cynics, too. Just LOOK WITHIN please. You are projecting some ANGER onto the Gates and that is YOUR problem. Like them or don’t like them, whatever … but it was as though the very IDEA of the Gates pissed people off.

    I love you, David. I feel blessed, too, that hardness and cynicism hasn’t completely GOTTEN me. There were a couple years there when it was pretty touch and go (as I am sure you will recall) – and I think it will always be a struggle, for me – but at least now I am admitting the struggle. If you know what I mean. I will not surrender that part of me. No matter how many people laugh at me, or scorn my openness, etc. I just won’t.

  13. Scotter says:

    I quipped to somebody that you would know Steven Den Beste got a girlfriend when his posts dwindled down to small, infrequent paragraphs (a quip now tempered by the sadder truth of his circumstances).

    If you, one day, posted a little less because that wonderful energy was being re-directed to somebody special, I would be a little sad and very happy at the same time.

  14. beth says:

    know what i often wonder, sheila? why does *my* fat psychotic ass have a boyfriend, when all the wonderful women in the world like sheila don’t?

    if i knew, i’d tell you.

  15. Dave says:

    wow, sheila. just–geez.

    I can’t think of any reply to make or comment to add. I wish to God I could, because such a post deserves a profound reply. Something befitting so much depth and pulsing emotion.

    Profundity evades me on Tuesday afternoons.

    I love your writing. Have since the day I found this lovely page. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but it’s truer these days than it ever has been.

    So thank you for this post. As someone battling bachelorhood’s bitternesses, I appreciate it.

    Peace and grace.

  16. Ceci says:

    First of all, please excuse my poor English, as I am from South America and English is not my native language.
    I have discovered your site only a few days ago, but ever since I stumbled on it, I couldn’t keep from reading EVERYTHING.
    Then I came upon this post. What an incredible piece of writing. I relate so much… I felt so alone with my thoughts in the past five years, and then I read this. And the beautiful comments from your regular readers…
    I am so moved by your text, that I can’t begin to express it. THANK YOU.

  17. red says:


    Your English sounds just fine to me. :)

    I am so glad you discovered me, and thank you thank you for the very kind words. It moves me to read that you would relate. It is strangely comforting, isn’t it, to realize we are not alone in these types of experiences – even though it SO feels like we are!

    Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts – and feel free to come back and visit and join the conversations we have here. :)