Tatyana and I watched Robert Redford‘s Ordinary People last night. It hit me that there’s a vague parallel between it and Sean Baker‘s The Florida Project in that (a) both focus on emotionally destructive mothers and (b) they both conclude with Evil Mom, to the audience’s great relief, finally being defeated and prevented from doing further harm.

Tatyana’s main take-away from the Redford flick, which she’d never seen, is that life is nothing without love. She based that on the fact Timothy Hutton‘s Conrad character seemed to be as much restored or healed by his budding relationship with Elizabeth McGovern as by his therapy sessions with Judd Hirsch.

I was once Conrad, I told her, except the villain in in my situation was my alcoholic dad, and work (i.e., gradually becoming a respected film journalist) was my salvation, and not love from this or that girlfriend or wife. 

Because for years and years I was hidden and conflicted, mainly because I felt held back by a little barking man in my chest who didn’t like who I was or approve of anything I did. The only way I was able to gradually smother that little fucker was to do well in journalism. He finally started to lose his voice in the late ’80s, when my two sons were born. The little man was further subdued when I stopped vodka in ’96, and was weakened all the more when I embraced full sobriety 5 and 1/2 years ago. **

I’ve never had a great deal of faith in the the idea of a relationship making my life whole because work is the only thing that has led to any feelings of accomplishment or peace or security. I’ve tried to be a reliable, full-hearted boyfriend or a loyal and supportive husband, but I’d be lying if I said I’ve been a radiant success in that department. 

How am I doing right now? The more important question is “how is Tatyana doing?”  Sometimes I feel inspired and carried aloft and other times not so much. I’m not doing too badly, I guess, but marriage is a day-by-day thing. Two steps forward, one step back, a half-step forward, etc. That said, I’m very happy to be with someone as tough and loving and demanding (in all respects) as Tatyana.

** I regret to say that the little man hasn’t been totally stilled, and that he’s in fact thriving on Twitter from time to time, and in the person of a certain contemptible life force whom I won’t identify but who lives back east.