Friday, April 28, 2023


I will be closing on the house in Brandon on June 5, and the main move will be on June 10. Anne isn't pressuring me to leave quickly, so I may not finish until June 11 or 12. Since my family doesn't want any contact with Anne, she has agreed to leave the premises while they're present. This move came up so suddenly that I'll have many unplanned activities. For example, I don't own much furniture and will have to buy some. Also, I have few cooking and dining utensils, so I'll have to buy some of those too.

Overall, I'm feeling a little more positive now, because I'm weary of living in Anne-world. Part of my personality has been repressed by her, and I'm looking forward to being myself again. The main drawback is the risk of being alone for too long a period. I've done that before, in Dixon, Illinois, and grew tired of it. Though I'm fairly robust psychologically, I know that being alone can be bad for your mental health. This is especially true if you live in a rural area and don't have local friends. I am hoping that it will be easier to develop a basic social network here, where the local population is better-educated and more widely-traveled than the people in Dixon. This will be my twenty-second home after living in two countries and eight states. In the meantime, our daily interactions have become less tense: if I don't question or criticize her, she seems perfectly happy. She is enjoying the hypomanic state accompanying her preparation to move.

I am still cogitating about the way Anne handled this, and the picture that emerges isn't very pretty. To be fair, other women I've known – my ex-wife and Kimberly – behaved in a similar fashion. In all three cases, their approach was somewhat clinical: they realized that their goals were not the same as my goals, and that they would be happier if they moved on to a different arrangement. My general complaint in all three cases was that there wasn't much discussion. However, in the cases of my ex-wife and Kimberly, it wasn't very difficult to infer their motives. My ex-wife wanted an upper-middle-class lifestyle and more social prestige, and Kimberly wanted to continue her free-spirit-artistic-traveler fantasy, which was inconsistent with committed relationships, something I don't think she ever had. My ex-wife's plan didn't materialize, because her standard of living mainly declined after the divorce: she was a single mother with a low income. I don't particularly want to pick on Kimberly, but I think that she went from being a failed dancer to being a failed singer to being a failed writer – without ever having had a serious relationship. Her latest book is an autobiographical one about her back pain!

Anne is a lot more complex than my ex-wife or Kimberly. She is pathologically self-protective to such an extent that she deviates further from social orthodoxy than they do. Her main statement, "I'm moving to Seattle," gives away nothing about her motives. You have no immediate way of knowing whether she is specifically rejecting you, whether she dislikes Middlebury, whether she wants to be near her son, whether she will save money on housing, etc. It's been over a month now, and it seems that she decided that she doesn't want to live with a man any longer. She does seem to dislike specific things about me, but she won't discuss them. Part of her strategy may be based on fear that I'll retaliate if she criticizes me. The oddest part, I think, is her complete disregard for the inconvenience that this causes me. All of a sudden, without notice, during weak housing and stock markets, after just providing funds for my daughter and her family to buy a house, I am being involuntarily forced out of my home. It seems possible, though perhaps unlikely, that she planned it now in order to inflict maximum damage. She hasn't said a single apologetic word, and she showed no interest in and made no suggestions about what course of action I might take. I still find this rather astounding behavior coming from someone who pretends to be a caring human being. She also makes light of the fact that selling this house will provide a windfall to her, since it has almost doubled in value since she bought it. Combining these factors, I still think that there are psychopathic elements to her personality that can't be explained simply by bipolar disorder, autism and ADHD.

What do you think?

Saturday, April 22, 2023


As I mentioned on March 22, my partner, Anne, has broken up with me. I have been pondering how much I should say about it, since some people might consider it to be in poor taste to discuss it in public. However, I have been thinking about it a lot, as there are many oddities associated with this, and this blog is, after all, about free speech. Therefore, I am going to make at least this post on it.

After Kimberly broke up with me in November, 2000, as described in "Panic Attacks," I placed a singles ad in the New York Review of Books. I was living in Highland Park, Illinois at the time, and one of the responses was from Anne, who lived nearby in Lake Forest. We met on June 2, 2001, and my initial impression was not good: she looked and spoke like a suburban housewife. I later learned that she was taken aback by my jacket, which I thought and still think was perfectly fine. I had been divorced since 1985, and my daughter, who was then twenty, was sometimes at home. Anne was also divorced and raising her children, who were then fourteen and twelve. It was an odd matchup in many respects, because her ex-husband was a wealthy Chicago real estate attorney, and I was just some guy who worked at a printing plant. This was balanced to some extent by the fact that my family background was considerably better than hers. The main thing that we had in common was that we were both born in England and didn't like Americans much.

The relationship was a little rocky at first, because she had a snobby friend who didn't like me, and I didn't like her conspicuously autistic children. I had less of a problem with her daughter, who is now a transgender male, but I was never able to develop the slightest rapport with her son, who is now married to his gay boyfriend and lives in Seattle. By 2004, the relationship stabilized, and in 2007, with both of her children away at college, she bought and moved into a house in Evanston, Illinois, which was closer to her job, which had moved to downtown Chicago. I moved in with her that year, which coincided with the death of my mother, which provided me with an inheritance that enabled me to retire. Anne continued to work until she retired in 2011. During the interim, I researched retirement options and decided that Middlebury, Vermont was at the top of my list. We visited Middlebury in May, 2011, and I was ecstatic. We viewed seven houses in the area and made an offer on the Enos Severance house, where we currently live. We moved here in August, 2011.

The decline in our relationship began gradually after that. At first, there were many things to do, and I painted the house, garage and a new shed that we bought in 2015. Anne became preoccupied with gardening and growing vegetables, while also expanding into the kinds of groups that are typically dominated by upper-middle-class women. Initially, I participated in garden club events, but I eventually found them too boring. By 2013 I determined that our interests were very different, and that I should develop my own hobbies. I bought a 130 mm refractor telescope and mount and took up stargazing, and the following year I bought an 18" Dobsonian telescope. Anne showed no interest whatsoever in stargazing or astronomy. In 2014 I started this blog. Later, I renewed my interest in genealogy and had a genetic test which helped expand my genealogical chart. Anne briefly had her own blog but quickly gave up. She took no interest in genealogy, though I added her family to my tree. Anne, while generally introverted, is extremely social. She took a tai chi class and volunteered at the library. For a time, she worked at a kitchenware shop downtown, though she didn't need the money. She also worked on the Middlebury Development Review Board. After tai chi, she led bone builder classes at a local retirement community and transitioned to doing it online during the pandemic. She has also taken up painting and currently belongs to the local pastel society.

Although we were never in direct conflict, we never took much interest in each other's hobbies. I was basically a relaxed retiree with a few intellectual proclivities and an enjoyment of the outdoors, while she returned to her habits as a hyperactive suburban housewife that placed her in the company of people with whom I would never have contact of my own volition. Most of them were quite old, and some of them have died already. She also likes to go on walks with women friends, but dislikes hiking. Because of her personality, she likes to do things with her hands all day: knitting, sewing, cooking, painting, gardening and cleaning. She always multitasks and listens to books on tape while working. During the evening, she also multitasks by knitting while watching TV. Her multitasking is often, from a social standpoint, quite rude, because she never pays any attention to the people around her, and in order to converse with her you always have to make a special effort to get her attention, which takes several seconds and sometimes upsets her. She is also not a visual person and usually pays no attention to what is going on in her immediate environment. I have often been puzzled by her choice of hobbies, since she does not seem to have developed much of an aesthetic sense and actually doesn't have good fine motor skills. Furthermore, her constant multitasking tends to diminish the quality of her work and causes her to spend a lot of time correcting errors that she's made. Ever since her childhood, she has learned by reading, and that includes the arts, which are more commonly pursued by people who experiment and invent rather than follow instructions.

Anne is usually easy to be around as long as you follow her plan. Since I didn't often rebel, we generally got along, although, over time, her focus on hedonistic pursuits began to irritate me, because she had no curiosity about things that I take seriously. Even so, I gave her credit for being unlike many of the American women in my age group and social experience, who tend to exhibit a mixture of hedonism and narcissism. Another aspect of the decline in our relationship was the disappearance of my physical attraction to her. She took this in stride. When we met she had had a mastectomy from previous breast cancer, and she decided to have a mastectomy on her remaining breast, which not only reduced her future cancer risk but also made it much easier for her to find clothes that fit properly. From the beginning, I had primarily thought of the relationship as being about companionship, so I wasn't bothered. Anne recently seems to be transitioning to a later life stage in which she will place less emphasis on flirting with men and focus more on developing friendships with women. At this point she does not anticipate any future relationships with men.

The real troubles in our relationship seemed to arise suddenly in 2021, with a confluence of events. Her younger son in Seattle bought a new house and kept his old house, eventually offering it as a residence to Anne. My daughter and her family moved to our area, and I think that this interfered with Anne's need for control. Moreover, my daughter and I have a long history of discussing psychiatric issues, based on the difficulties that she faced while growing up with her mother, which were resolved by her moving in with me in fifth grade and from eighth grade onward. Anne was already extremely leery of my tendency to psychologize, and she may have felt as if she were being double-teamed. Over a very brief period, she went from being supportive and friendly toward my family to being critical and insulting. Eventually, my daughter and son-in-law decided that my grandson should no longer be exposed to her because of her abusive behavior.

Though I was used to the fact that Anne tends to act unilaterally without any discussion, I was shocked on March 20, 2023, when she suddenly announced that she was selling this house in Middlebury and moving to her son's house in Seattle in the fall. We have never, even today, had any discussion of why she made this decision or what my options might be. Consequently, I have made my own plans, and I am purchasing a house in Brandon, Vermont, not far from Middlebury, in June.

I had often wondered about Anne's psychological makeup, but never made much progress, because she refuses to discuss it in any detail. In this instance, it seemed as if she had gone through some sort of psychiatric event, which I have been studying since then. I never met her mother, but apparently she was diagnosed with depression and exhibited symptoms before drug therapies were available, causing her to be hospitalized. During one such hospitalization, Anne was sent to a foster home, where she says that she was abused. Anne's mother also had a daughter out of wedlock, whom I have met. This half-sister has lived most of her life under state care in England, and I believe was also diagnosed with depression. Her brother didn't exhibit any obvious psychiatric symptoms when I met him. I have spent a lot of time with her father, who is still alive, and he has autism symptoms. Anne's nieces, whom I've met, also seem autistic. Anne was diagnosed with depression and has been medicated accordingly for many years. Anne's eldest child has been more proactive about his psychiatric state and I think brought to Anne's attention that she could have autism and ADHD, which has since been confirmed.

What I have observed, especially since late 2021, is that Anne's behavior tends to be cyclically manic, with infrequent bouts of depression. The manias are usually not conspicuous enough to be identified as bipolar I disorder but fit within the definition of bipolar II disorder, which involves hypomania rather than mania. Bipolar II disorder is often misdiagnosed as depression, because the hypomania symptoms aren't recognized. Another possible diagnosis is cyclothymic disorder. Bipolar I disorder symptoms include the strongest depression and mania, bipolar II disorder symptoms include depression and hypomania, and cyclothymic disorder symptoms include weak depression and weak hypomania. These are probably somewhat arbitrary definitions, because the symptoms for all of these diagnoses are probably produced by slight variations in genetic bundles. There are other risks associated with these bundles, such as psychopathy and early dementia.

I should also mention that I know of two instances of Anne alienating a close female friend. One case involved an English friend whom she knew while living in Lake Forest who explicitly told her that she no longer wanted to have any contact with her. The other occurred more recently in Middlebury when one of her closest friends suddenly stopped communicating with her without providing any explanation. Although I don't know exactly what happened in each case, I would guess that she engaged in socially unacceptable behavior of one kind or another and was unapologetic about it. There is probably a similar pattern in these two examples to the current situation: Anne behaves in an offensive manner towards a friend, the friend responds negatively, Anne isn't circumspect or remorseful, and the relationship abruptly ends. It would be interesting to see how a psychiatric researcher might evaluate these examples. Autism seems like a handy explanation, but the harshness of Anne's stance may be indicative of something more serious than autism: psychopathy. She may be prone to discarding people when she determines that they no longer serve any purpose for her. It currently appears that she may never again see me or any member of my family after I move out. And, since I'm still here, I can see that she isn't exactly crying herself to sleep.

During the months leading up to the March 20 announcement, Anne went through cycles during which she would obsessively clean the house. She rose earlier than usual and went to bed later, and when she was up, she was usually so loud that I couldn't read. It is hard to know the exact timing of her decision-making, but it would appear that she went through hypomanic cycles while thinking that the house should be spruced up for sale and cleaned for viewing by potential buyers. A separate hypomanic cycle seemed to be related to an obsessive period of concern about her physical appearance, which was related to cataract surgery and new glasses. I think that could have been part of an unspoken plan to move away and begin a new identity. She currently seems to have started a new hypomanic phase, in which she is obsessively sorting through all of her possessions even though she may not be moving for several months.

Since I will soon be out of the picture, I have communicated with Anne's psychiatrist and her children. None of them expressed any agreement with my statements, but in my view I have adequately warned the children that Anne may have more serious episodes in the future, and it will be their responsibility to assist her, not mine.

My primary reaction to Anne's recent behavior is that, though I can deal with it and am doing so, she has acted in an offensive and socially unacceptable manner and has not apologized or acknowledged any wrongdoing. I think that this is the most appalling action that I've been subjected to in my entire life. I realize that she is behaving in a self-protective manner because that is the only way that she is able to deal with this situation, but she also has accountability to others who will never forgive her. It seems possible that she is unwittingly benefitting from the female victim narrative that became part of American culture in the 1970's. In that context, not much explanation is required by a woman when she breaks up with a man, because the assumption is always that the man was a jerk and was mistreating her. The feminist view simplistically makes no allowance for the possibility that the woman herself may be a female version of Hannibal Lecter.

I know Anne as well as anyone, and I am certain that she will be in contact with me in the future and attempt to interact with me as if nothing happened. I am not holding a grudge, because I know her limitations. I am changing my focus to finding a new companion who is more stable and less problematic.

Friday, April 21, 2023

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph VII

Beethoven remained relatively productive until his death at the age of fifty-six in 1827 as a result of various maladies. I don't particularly like most of the works that I'm familiar with from that period, such as the Hammerklavier piano sonata and the late string quartets. I do like to hear the Ninth Symphony occasionally because it is so spectacular, but it's too much for regular consumption. By the way, one of my doctors says that he is a descendant of the soprano who turned Beethoven toward the audience at the end of its first performance. Actually, that symphony was not particularly popular while Beethoven was alive. 

The saga with his nephew, Karl, continued up to his death. He didn't understand Karl well, partly because he was effectively deaf, and he adopted an insensitive, controlling attitude. He won complete custody of Karl through protracted court battles, though Karl seems to have preferred his mother. Karl did benefit from a good education, but, as a teenager, he decided that he wanted to join the military. When Beethoven forbade it, Karl attempted suicide, but he failed and recovered. Beethoven remained financially challenged right up to the end, and while he did leave a substantial bequest to Karl, he was never wealthy by rock star standards.

Swafford sums up the arc of Beethoven's career as follows:

So a trajectory in Beethoven's work began in Bonn, rose to its apogee in the Third and Fifth Symphonies and in Fidelio, and came to rest in the Ninth Symphony, which resonated with the accumulated political and ethical ideas and energies of the previous decades. The Eroica exalts the conquering hero; Fidelio is a testament to individual heroism and liberation; the Fifth Symphony is an implicit drama of an individual struggling with fate. The Eroica and the Ninth have to do with the fate of societies. As to the road to an ideal society, the Ninth repudiates in thunder the answer of the Eroica.

Beethoven was deeply influenced by a popular quotation of Kant that he read in a newspaper article:

There are two things which raise man above himself and lead to eternal, ever-increasing admiration: the moral law within me and the starry sky above me.

My feeling is that Swafford overreaches in his attempt to link Beethoven to Kant. There must have been popular aphorisms floating around, but I doubt that Beethoven read much, or any, Kant. He is best known for his Critique of Pure Reason, which is well beyond Beethoven's likely reading ability. I am somewhat familiar with Kant myself, as I took a seminar on him in college. His Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals was probably more accessible and influential, but it runs counter to everything I've written about morality on this blog, because it proposes a rational basis for morality through the categorical imperative – this is all nonsense to me. However, Kant covered many areas in his works, and I think that he may have been prescient in his distinction between phenomena and noumena, which is relevant today, because it provides a conceptual underpinning to what biologists are finding now about how neural systems mediate between organisms and the real world.

Overall, I found the book informative, but it reminded me of unpleasant experiences I've had attempting to read biographies of painters: their lives are often so chaotic that they don't actually make much sense.

Thursday, April 13, 2023

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph VI

After Beethoven's relationship with Bettina Brentano collapsed, he apparently gave up on ever getting married. His personal life shifted to his brother Carl's family. Carl was sick with tuberculosis for some time and died on November 15, 1815. Beethoven detested Carl's wife, Johanna, who did have some conspicuous faults, but he seems to have been irrationally obsessed with taking their son, Karl, under his wing when his brother died. For me, there is nothing interesting in this, because the episode primarily shows that Beethoven had almost no people skills except in the realm of his professional work. At one point, Karl lived with him, and Beethoven obviously had no idea how to handle this situation. Swafford sums up Beethoven succinctly here:

His solipsistic view of the world, his blinkered ethics, his ironclad sense of duty, his relentless discipline and tenacity of purpose had served him well as an artist. They had saved him from suicide, kept him working through times of physical and mental suffering. In the case of Karl, that same blinkered tenacity fueled a struggle that ate up years of his creative life.

At this point, I am not finding Beethoven's life particularly interesting, because he himself did not seem to understand it. There is a different biography, which I haven't read, that concentrates on Beethoven's psychological makeup: that may have been more interesting to me, because, outside of his work, Beethoven seems to have been an odd psychiatric case. I think the evidence points to bipolar I disorder. But that doesn't really explain Beethoven's level of talent, and in slightly different circumstances he may have committed suicide or have been sent to a sanitarium. As a reader, I appreciate Swafford's effort to cover both the personal life and the creative work, but because Beethoven's life was so unnecessarily chaotic, I could have done with less of it. Then, as far as the music is concerned, there is some benefit to reading Swafford's explanations, though, on the whole, I think just plain listening to the music might be a better use of time.

So, even though there is still a large chunk of the book left, I am going to race through it and finish with my next post.

Friday, April 7, 2023

Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph V

In 1806, Beethoven engaged in a serious row with Lichnowsky, and they had a major falling-out. They were later partially reconciled, but he permanently lost his annual stipend. In the short term, this left him with insufficient income. Operas were popular in Vienna, but they were not Beethoven's forte. Later, in 1809, he pieced together a larger annual stipend with some other aristocrats that left him a stronger financial position. 

It is difficult to list all of Beethoven's musical connections, but I thought I'd mention Ignaz Schuppanzigh. Schuppanzigh was an innovator in string quartets and helped Beethoven excel in that medium.

Beethoven continued composing symphonies during this period and finished both the Fifth and Sixth Symphonies. I am most familiar with the Sixth Symphony, known as Pastoral, because it was the first one for which I owned a recording. 

In 1809, France attacked Austria, throwing the country into economic chaos for a time. Beethoven's hearing and health continued to decline. A source of income had been playing rather than composing, but the deterioration of his hearing increasingly made his public performances untenable.

Beethoven continued to pursue women, one of whom was Therese Malfatti, who was seventeen at the time they met in 1810. In this instance, the courtship was relatively constrained compared to his previous courtship, and he dedicated Für Elise to her. Another was Bettina Brentano, who was almost twenty-five when they met, also in 1810. Bettina was unlike the others in that she fit the profile as an artist herself, with multiple talents. She traveled in wide artistic circles and was a friend of Goethe. Bettina, Swafford thinks, is the most likely candidate referred to enigmatically by Beethoven as "Immortal Beloved."

Through this connection, Beethoven eventually met Goethe. While each knew that they were both at the respective peaks in their arts, they never developed a rapport. Beethoven was too spontaneous and wild for Goethe, and Goethe was too conservative and too much a part of the status quo compared to Beethoven, cherishing his court connections. His tastes were also more conservative: he preferred Mozart. Moreover, as Swafford points out, though Beethoven came to be associated with the Romantic movement, his formative years were spent in a more rationalistic environment, and he was not a true Romantic. Speaking for myself, I am more of a rationalist, though I still like some aspects of Romanticism.

While all this was going on, Beethoven was composing away, but with a lower output than previously. Piano Concerto No. 5, Emperor, was composed in 1809. I heard this live a few years ago, and it is my favorite of his piano concertos.

I am moving faster through the book now, but still have a long way to go.