Boats against the current

Most of you recognized from the title the last line of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby.”

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

Also known as the creed of the lost cause, I have grimaced at this phrase for decades. Why? Because I don’t give up, even after I’ve lost. Mirroring the words of Isaac Asimov, “In life, unlike chess, the game continues after checkmate,” I seek out lost causes and hang on long after a healthy person would walk away. I know I’m doing it, I know it will end in tears, and I dive in anyway.

I first read Gatsby because my girlfriend was reading it in her English class. Some fifty years after it was written, I couldn’t picture the New York and New Jersey described by Fitzgerald. I could picture Daisey though, and so could my girlfriend. They had many similarities, a lack of self awareness being the most obvious. Some forty years later I see the same flaw in myself, wrapped in the noble concept of “compassion.” I have serially become involved with damaged women, helping them to be strong enough to rip my heart out. I see it happening and I keep doing it.


It is not just my love life, I embrace “the good fight” in several aspects of my life. It’s like a gambling addiction, losing only makes me fight harder, those rare victories spurring me on. I live at peace, with the self assured smugness I detest in others. My veneer is flawless, hiding the scarred troubled soul within. Why do I take comfort in smiling through the tears, when I could have avoided the tears altogether?

Today my wife has informed me she wants a divorce. Not a big surprise, but I’m still devastated. I had to expect I wasn’t being very endearing by pointing out her lies and inconsistencies, but there was no way to make things better without acknowledging the issues. She lacked the emotional depth required for self reflection. I can imagine that rather than embrace a growing experience, “finding herself” as she said she intended, it was much more comfortable to continue to deny any responsibility, or even concede that some things are simply the way they are. It was easier to blame me for her unhappiness, I’m not sure how she reconciles the unhappiness she has experienced for most of her life, I only met her four years ago.

I can’t be angry. Love is like that. This is one of the reasons battered wives stay with abusive husbands. A lot of it is my fault. I believed in her, I thought she was the person she told me she was. I thought she was deeper and more intelligent. I had faith, supported by nothing other than my positive opinion of her. I was at least as blind as she is.

Although I have no desire to do so, I suspect I will carry on, perhaps find someone else to break my heart. My capacity to trust, always a rare commodity, is all but gone now, but I’ll do something stupid. I always do.

I was talking with a friend today, and she said she thought I was still mourning Emma. I always will. I’ve been thinking of Emma more than usual these last few months, partially because Lieve chose to announce her intention to separate on the anniversary of Emma’s death, probably more so as contrast to my relationship with Lieve. Sharing love until the last breath as white against the marriage of convenience black.

I have known love. Perhaps cherishing the memory would be more satisfying than attempting to find it again. I need to give love, and although loving is an end within itself, it is ever so nice when it is reciprocated. Right now I would settle for a warm embrace, so I need to get past that and not mistake it for love, as I did this last time.



It is said writing is easy, you just open a vein and bleed. That’s how easy it was to write this.


2 comments on “Boats against the current

  1. Mari Collier says:

    I’m so sorry, Blake. The hurting for two must be intense. Hugs.


  2. Mike R says:

    I cannot help but hurt at the moment, though surely not anything close to what you must be going through. Having known you for so long, I remember the bittersweet last days with Emma that you wrote about. A true love ended by death. As it should be, but never so soon.

    You are the indefatigable optimist, if nothing else. Even through tears you see a rainbow somewhere. I so admire that, though I’ve failed in reproducing that in my own life. Depression is a black dog that follows me where ever I go. Like you, I’ve learned to live with who I am. I’ve even learned to thank God (sometimes) for creating in my life those heart-breaking things he knew that were needed to soften my heart for him. But pain is still pain. Perhaps it eases it a bit to believe that there is a reason for it that I am not capable of understanding.

    Like you, I’ve been attracted to broken people. People with a personality that limps. Hurting people. I don’t know why. Maybe it is that in their brokenness they appear more transparent than other people. Lacking the façade that most people wear. I suppose what we gauge incorrectly is their ability or even willingness to heal.

    Is there some deeper need to punish ourselves? Are we martyrs, or incapable or loving those who are not so broken? I don’t know. But I know what it is like to love and not be loved. To pull the knife out of my back and still not be able to have anger our hate towards that person. Counselors tell me that it is not a healthy way to I’ve life, but Paul wrote that love is the highest form of godliness. Not being loved, but loving others.

    My greatest comfort is that Jesus went through so much more emotional and physical pain that I will ever suffer. And that he has prepared a time and place for me to be with him, in perfect love. At times it means little to me, to be honest. But in the end it remains my only source of true comfort.

    Blake, your writing is always meaningful because you write with a sincere heart. No make-up. No façade. I pray that you may find that woman who is not broken beyond healing, and is a healer to you.


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