What do I want to say today?
I do a lot of listening, scanning Facebook, reflecting. Absorbing rather than expressing, until some impulse strikes and I feel the urge to lay some thoughts down.
I had an idea last night, or rather in the early hours of the morning (which is when my body has reset the onset of sleep to, for years now – despite medication, supplements etc.) so I came here. It’s like the quiet and sense of solitude thickens in the early hours. The saying goes, ‘Life abhors a vacuum’, and my mind seems to bubble up with notions moreso in these hours.
You know though, I can’t remember what it was! Sorry. But isn’t that the way of things, ethereal and dynamic? Every moment holds the potential to birth anew, a state of mind or circumstance.
Even being stuck mostly on the couch for so long now, I can appreciate this. Perhaps more now that life has slowed to a snail pace, at least in external life terms. Like the slow motion sequence in a film, this slowing affords a closer look and therefore more appreciation of the subtleties of a situation. This can be painful and exquisitely beautiful in turn.
Before we moved back to Melbourne in March of this year I spent two years in fairly intense isolation. I was in a town where I knew no-one, where I was too ill to involve myself in any sort of social groups to change that and where I spent 90% of my time alone at home, the rest with MB outside of work hours or at medical appointments.
My companion was my laptop and my lapcat, who passed away from bone cancer at 17 in April. This was enough, not always, but most of the time, and when it wasn’t I endured anyway because enduring is just time spent bridging between difficulty and non-difficulty. So far non-difficulty has always shown up eventually.
When it got really challenging and I felt so disconnected, floating in my consciousness bubble, caged in a body that seemed so weighed down by illness and incapacitation, it stretched me. I thought about situations where other people may have experienced such protracted solitude. I thought about mountain climbers, scientists living for months in Antarctica, of spouses who relocate to foreign and strange lands for their partner’s work, and I felt less unique. Any self-pity that could have festered was nipped in the bud.
Perspective is immensely powerful. Loneliness and feeling disconnected can happen in a crowded room. It can happen when we feel insecure or out of touch. Being alone, by contrast, can be a deeply rich experience. I know this.
So how has it felt to be back in my home-town where old friends are around, where old threads are reinvigorated? Relief, self-doubt, expansion, confronting, busy, energy exchange, heart-opening, grief, joy, external rhythm, connection.
I can’t say it’s better or worse, but it feels healthier. Initially I felt very out of step, socially retarded. I feel like I’m going through interpersonal rehabilitation. When I try to articulate this my friends assure me they can’t see it, but I feel it. I’m aware of my own awareness, which is uncomfortable, like when you become overly conscious of previously inherent bodily functions like blinking or breathing. The awareness of the gap between my old social self and where I am now makes what was so natural feel awkward, almost contrived.
Fish out of water.
But the water was stale.
I’d like to say this time of solitude led to some sort of meaningful distillation of self. That it held purpose. I believe this sometimes and other times I believe that there doesn’t always need to be a reason or tidy way to sum up life experiences. Maybe I need some more distance, a length of time between then and now that is more vast in order to see more clearly.
Sometimes shit is just hard. Maybe it doesn’t need to mean anything but it did show me a sort of strength I previously didn’t know I had – or capacity to endure. Again I compare my experience to others, historically, people have endured far more: solitary confinement in a penitentiary institution, being a prisoner of war, protracted domestic violence, slavery.
In one way or another we all come up against something that tests us and asks us to stretch.
When pushed, the capacity for human endurance is awe-inspiring. I’ve only tasted it from one facet and I look to examples of others’ endurance to fuel my own. I think it’s a beautiful quality to face hardship each day with a measure of faith, a little flame in our hearts that refuses to extinguish.
I think deep down we all know how precious our life is.