Friday, May 29, 2015

Illusion/ Delusion

I am feeling a little adrift this morning, no, a lot adrift. Eyes leaky. Throat full. Chest in a vise. Perhaps I have simply been quiet long enough this week for the feelings to catch up with me. I feel as if everyone is out there living their lives, doing important and fascinating things together, and I sit at my desk, day after day, writing a book, such a solitary endeavor, and yet it is what I choose. Still, I am lonely.

I know this loneliness originates within me. Nobody is doing this to me. There are people around. The man comes home from work every day and he is wonderful and companionable. I look forward to seeing him walk through the door come evening. It's like everything good clicks into place again, and I bask in his rooted presence. But then dusk comes, and the long night stretches out ahead of me, the ceiling of my apartment presses down on my head, and I realize I didn't go outside all day, and I think, what am I doing with my life? It is passing me by.

I did a story on American hermits for Life magazine once. I pitched the piece and then found six hermits to profile for a photo essay. That image of me on Knife Lake was taken while I was reporting the story. The photographer was the late great Brian Lanker, who is probably now dancing with Mary Ellen Mark in a grand reunion on the other side. Why was I so interested in the hermits, I wonder. I felt such a kinship with them. I really understood when they described the feeling of the world being too much with them. I was in my twenties, but already I had a tendency to isolate, to stay in my corner and away from social discourse. Writing is an escape in some ways, except when I'm stuck and trying to figure out the way forward, as I am now, and then it becomes clear that I need a fuller life.

I feel so tired this morning. My head aches, my body aches, my heart aches. Every day I hear about another death, someone else departing this world. It's the way of things. I am at that age when most of my peers are losing people. The generation ahead of me is taking their leave. I feel so orphaned, so alone. I understand now why my mother did not fear death. Most of her loved ones were already on the other side. She was sure she would see them again. She looked forward to it, torn because her children and grandchildren were still in this world, but she began pointing to the next world all the same.

It's a bit how I am feeling this morning, as if the party has moved to another place, and I am in the old hall, wrung out by love and wasted from loss, dirty dishes and half filled glasses and balled up napkins scattered around.

The truth is another kind of party arrives tonight. My son is bringing home a friend who is flying in from England and staying the weekend. He's a sweet kid who I became quite fond of last summer. Some of my son's other friends will be arriving tomorrow, as there is a big pro rugby game on Saturday that several of the camp crew will be playing in. So you see, I am not really alone in a physical sense, it just feels that way in this moment.

They say our human sense of separation is just illusion, we are as connected to the whole as water in a cup bobbing in an endless sea. But the illusion feels real and tearful this morning. This too will pass.


  1. Well go read my post if you feel like everyones' lives are more important and fascinating than yours!
    Isn't it odd how when we feel depressed or anxious, our bodies hurt too? Some say inflammation is the cause of the mental thing but sometimes I wonder if it's not the opposite? Who can tell?
    I am completely alone today and will be until this evening. I am in the frame of mind in which that suits me entirely. But I completely get everything you are saying. Breathe through it, dear friend. That sounds so stupid. What else are you going to do?
    But I'm thinking about you. I hope that tonight is full of love and light. For both of us.

  2. And I do believe that those of us who crave isolation are perhaps just TOO sensitive to others. We have skin which is way too thin to bear repeated closeness with lots of people.

  3. I know exactly what you speak of. But. It's only recently that I have felt....lonely. It may be the kids being gone. I don't know. I do know that I still need my time alone and that what I really need to do is get a more regular dose of "people time". Charge my battery and then settle into hermit time again.
    You are still processing a deep sadness. You know it will take time. And hugs.
    I'm sending you lots.

  4. I feel this way so often, and you capture it so beautifully. I too have a tendency to bury myself in my little life and isolate, and truly often like it that way. I always am interested in how people like this manage to have good solid marriages, as I am at the point (only 34, but still....34) where I wonder if I can really have a companionship constant as I start to really think about what that means. Anyway, I'm rambling. Be easy with yourself. Go out and take a brisk walk for just 20 minutes and I think that would make you feel better. Maybe shake off the cobwebs. It helps me.


  5. I know I love my time alone but feel like I shouldn't, that it is somehow wrong. Hundreds and thousands of years ago our communities were tiny. We spent a lot of time with only family around us. Maybe the world today has it backwards and we spend way too much time filling the void. I think there is not a lot wrong with the quiet.

  6. "water in a cup bobbing in an endless sea"

    I am holding that in my hand ever so gently to see it close.

  7. And I like SJ's suggestion of a walk.

  8. Man, I loved the power in this post. I somehow feel very connected to it, even if I can't relate to every sentence. Isolation, on my part often voluntary, is something I definitely feel from time to time. I also think that the writer's life is by default solitary, plucking other people's stories and leaving yours in the background. Know that you are your own own power and, yes, this too shall pass.

  9. You've captured what is ineffable -- truly. I think you should keep writing and make this an essay. Your ruminations are crystal clear.

  10. The image of the party after all have left...the cup in the sea...that feeling of isolation that comes with writing and now mingled with grief and longing... You have taken heart and soul and life and death and work and love and created such a beautiful expression. I agree with Elizabeth - an essay - but continuing it or not, this feels so deeply satisfying to read, despite its sadness, because it captures a reality so familiar to me. If I saw you on the street right now (and I do hope you will take the advice above and get out for an occasional walk), I would bow to you.

  11. i hope the feelings you are currently having will pass quickly. My favorite time of year was summer. Specifically summers in NY. I hope you decide to take your writing outside, under a tree or near the Atlantic. Enjoy the summer breeze....

  12. I often feel lonely too, that life is passing me by. Other people's lives seem better. even knowing that we are all the same. I forget that we are all connected, not only to each other but to the earth. I think that's why I like the mountains so much, I feel connected there.

  13. You are living the writer's life. We are observers and chroniclers, and that entails a certain amount of living apart, of thinking and processing the details of others' lives. There's nothing wrong with that. We are needed, and in fact I think we are privileged, being able to live not just our own life but all the lives around us.

    I love that picture of you on the lake. Beautiful.

  14. That photograph of you is just amazing. Yes, we who write live in solitude. I admit that I am starved for it at this stage in my life, but I do see how too much of it could also feel like a burden. If your body is aching, it might be trying to tell you something. Perhaps there are emotions to be processed there.