I’m an alienated person. I feel too much and I don’t fit in.

I’m not sure when I recognized this. Probably sometime in elementary school. When I thought doing well would result in happiness, when I couldn’t handle being the most popular kid in class. And when you fall from the throne you end up in the abyss. And the funny thing about life is it’s nearly impossible to get back to where you once belonged, to recover and be who you once were, who you desire to be again.

The literature tells us otherwise. The rags to riches story has been replaced by one of failure. That’s today’s mantra, that you must fail to succeed, that your losses make you stronger. But what if you can’t recover from your losses? Or what if you lose and you never grasp the brass ring. All the stories are about the winners. And the rest of us are not losers, but somewhere in the middle, living our lives with a few laughs and unsure direction, confounded by the length of life before it gets too short.

I just finished reading “Hausfrau.” The review intrigued me. An expat wife living in Switzerland who sees a psychiatrist and keeps having affairs.

I see a psychiatrist. You’re not supposed to admit that. It means you’re crazy. Especially if you’re male. You’re supposed to buck up and solve your own problems, and certainly not announce them.

But Anna won’t tell her shrink the truth. She’s completely isolated.

Or maybe she’s not, maybe it’s just viewpoint.

That’s what I love about great art, it speaks to my alienation, it makes me feel like I belong. I can relate to the song, book or movie with no other human beings involved. Suddenly, the world make sense. I fit in. Someone else feels like I do.

Isn’t that what we’re all looking for? Someone who feels what we do? Who’s been there? Who understands us?

Cheryl Strayed says we’re all outsiders. We all feel less than. But I don’t see that in popular culture, where the essence is to belong.

I was never good at belonging.

Belonging means compromise. Of not only your identity, but your values.

Want to belong as a guy?

Make fun of others. For their bodies, for their names, for their behavior.

I’m never gonna do that. I’ve been made fun of too much to behave that way. I’ve got sympathy for those who don’t fit in. But the guy with the broken glasses, the girl who’s twenty five pounds overweight with the ill-fitting clothes…is my sympathy for them justified? Do they feel persecuted or am I just reading myself into their appearance. Life is a struggle. I want to hug them, but maybe unlike me they’re fine.

Or maybe they’re not.

And life is about hoops.

But I stopped jumping through those long ago.

But once you stop jumping, you end up in a backwater from which you can never recover. There are no kids to show up when you’re aged and ill. You suddenly find yourself without enough money to retire. You look back and you see you got off track and you didn’t even realize it. Life passed you by. You’re on a spur when everybody else is coursing to the destination on the main line.

But I was never one to have a job, a home and a wife. I would say I didn’t deserve them, but I know that is untrue. Everybody deserves them, everybody is entitled to them. But I wanted to pursue that feeling I get when I bond with art.

“Hausfrau” is not a perfect book. For a minute there, I thought I was reading “Fifty Shades Of Gray.” Or a tome by a poet angry that a newbie writer could make so much dough writing a bad, smutty book.

But “Hausfrau” is not that. It’s the story of someone who jumped through the hoops and then realized they didn’t work for her, did not make her happy. She flailed, she despaired…

I’ve done that.

Ever called an old friend at four in the morning after a night of imbibing, believing they’re the only one who will understand you, make you feel all right?

I’ve done that. Don’t. It doesn’t work. It’s more about you than them, they don’t get your mood or your situation. You’re not in college anymore. And even though you and she might have shared a bed and she even thinks about you now and again she’s in bed with someone else right now.

Don’t read “Hausfrau” if you’re a guy with more answers than questions. You won’t get it.

And don’t read “Hausfrau” if you’re a woman who believes in having it all. Anna will just piss you off.

But read “Hausfrau” if you wonder if you have a best friend, if anybody really understands you.

Read “Hausfrau” if you find being alone more comfortable than attending social functions.

Read “Hausfrau” if you’ve experienced despair. If people think you have it all but you think you don’t. If you read books and watch movies and listen to music and think that the creators know your story and if you could just meet them your life would work.

That is untrue.

You’re on your own.

But the conundrum is we are all in it together.

And deep down inside we’re all a little bit alienated. We all feel inadequate. And we need someone to shine a light on this subject.

The best art does.

Jill Alexander Essbaum has here.

P.S. The book struggles with the denouement. The interweaving of the German lessons becomes tiresome. Ultimately the book is a failure. But so is life. We live, we die. And if there’s a beacon of truth we cling to it. There are beacons in “Hausfrau.”

Hausfrau: A Novel

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