That's a great predicament I see myself in. Perhaps I arrived as far as this only to find myself in front of another glass wall. Here I face a new destiny, privately and professionally, and I discover myself not at the height of it. I am precisely at the spot where I dreamed to be, and now? It is a well known phenomenon in psychology: we end up by avoiding what we desired most; as we arrive nearly at the point of completing our dream, avoidance and fear take over, and we loose.
I came here to fulfil myself as an Orientalist. I got the Dutch credit for more than I had initially asked them. But here I stand, shy and staggering, and not feeling competent at all. I am not a good Orientalist. It was my dream for years. As I checked while dismounting my old Multilingual Library, approximately 60% of it were Arabian books; and as I gave up lots of stuff to public institutions, I still see those as my most appreciated possessions. But I accumulated them without actually touching, perusing. It was a shocking discovery that I had at home the same Taschen volume dedicated to Islamic art in three different editions, two in English and one Polish translation. Three heavy, expensive copies of the same book. It means I did not even look inside since I bought them. Perhaps I was afraid of beauty and charm that I would see if I opened them. But even this was beyond the horizon of my awareness. I did not even know I avoided Islamic art in any particular way.
Given these circumstances, is it strange that I am such a woeful Orientalist? I have passed my life dreaming about such matters, without making more than just some occasional baby steps toward my desire.
I have dropped the ball, that's what it is. I have dropped the ball in my studies, and I have dropped the ball in my intimate life. I have fantasised vaguely about divorcing my husband perhaps for some four years now, if not more. I dreamed about a new life, about something more authentic, erotically speaking, unfalsified. My husband let himself fall into a particular kind of falsification very typical to the contemporary world; certainly he was not the only one. Perhaps I would be able to put him in line, if I really cared. But I did not. I contented myself with feeling hurt, and internally turned my back to him.
These last four years or so I was largely indifferent to eroticism, unless eroticism as an intellectual topic. It became a part of history for me. Thing you find in books. Beyond the bookish reality, I used to see myself as a completely asexual being, to such a degree that one day, while in France, I proposed to a Ph.D. student to sleep in my apartment, in total innocence, just because there was a problem at the university with covering the cost of his accommodation for a couple of extra days. He refused politely, as I felt, for the fear of seeing himself face to face with a Shakespearean queen... that I wasn't yet at the moment.
Menopause caught me unprepared, and surprised that now I might need something I had totally forgotten, something I let fall out of my horizon. And now, how shall I provide for myself?
I have checked some photos done in the presidential palace, when I was receiving my professorial nomination two weeks or so ago. Not to celebrate; on the contrary. To assess objectively how bad did I look. That's pretty bad. I did not imagine myself fat to this degree. I used to feel big and heavy, and accept myself with it, as an old lioness is big and heavy. While it required an immediate action. I have been permissive to myself, and I loved myself too much, while the reality drifted away from that love.
Should a Shakespearean queen abdicate, rather than cover herself with guilt, shame and ridicule? Should I give up? Consider myself failed as an Orientalist, come back to my Polish universities, to my shabby intellectual life in the margin of Europe? Should I come back to my husband, do whatever he asks me to do, kiss his swarthy hand and thank God for having made the Arabs tender with their old wives?
Should I accept that I have let my life escape between my fingers, apparently achieving so much, but in depth missing, forgetful of myself, what I really wanted and aspired to?
Should I stand up and fight, here, now, in this City of Men? Remain faithful to myself in this last and crucial combat?