I've been infected with loneliness lately.
It happens to me periodically. It happens to us all. It’s like a mental itch I can’t scratch. And the feeling of it, the desire to exit my life, the desire for change from this uneasy, uncomfortable, completely groundless feeling is so very terrifying. It’s the same feeling I get when I’m on top of a cliff. I’m so afraid I might accidentally jump off. I don’t trust myself. And I want anything that will ease my discomfort. I want pain or sex or sleep or escape. I want it to stop. I want the clawing at my brain to just shut the fuck up. I don’t want to be alone in here, inside my existence.
It has taken me awhile to figure out what was going on.
When these bouts of unease creep up on me, I have the tendency to deny them because they feel and seem like monsters. I ignore the signs. I eat candy and watch TV and try to fill every blessed minute with something other than silence. But, when it gets really bad, the dreams start. I dream of exits. I dream of alternatives. I dream of relief. I wake up longing. And then I can’t pretend it away. I have to name it. Because the dreams are scary too, the solutions my brain arrives at left to its own devices, they are unhealthy, unsatisfying, unclean. I blame the wrong things.
Every so often, the isolation of individual consciousness weakens and saddens me. The struggle to find the fear inside, to form that into words, and then to find the courage to share those words (all filled with my own muck), it’s just, sometimes, so terrifying and exhausting. Because sometimes that monster is scary to the other person too. Or sometimes I use the wrong words. It doesn’t go well. I have to try again, to go back into myself, to reform the fear into new words, weakly pull them out. I wish I could just BE KNOWN.
This is when one might turn to faith. This is when the story of Almighty Grace, Eternal Love, Omniscient Being becomes so very appealing. I get it. I get why people believe it. The restlessness of existence, the sitting here in the scariest of places within my own mind, is horrific. I want a friend in here.
But that’s not how it works. The belief in the friend, the god, the company, it’s all just part of the same me. Perhaps the imagined companion could be more gentle, more loving, less afraid. But in my heart I know it’s still just me pretending I’m not alone. So, I guess I’m going to have to trust my own experience. I know I’ve felt this way before. I know space-time continues on without me (or the delusion of such is deceiving enough). I know I won’t combust. Even though I feel all of the energy, all of the potential for explosion, all of the insanity of violence, I know that they’re just thoughts. I know they don’t control me. I know I can sit here long enough, feel this clawing and scratching feeling, this desire to kick in the door, this craving for relief, for satisfaction, this thirst for the ultimate. And I’ll still be here and nothing will have happened. I can handle it. I can make it. I don’t have to satisfy the itch. It’s not going to kill me.
“Let everything happen to you
Beauty and terror
Just keep going
No feeling is final”
-- Rainer Maria Rilke
Marco says that total mental intimacy wouldn’t be very interesting. He thinks the difficulty is what makes existence fascinating and fun. He’s right. I know that. And the separation, the solitude, is what makes beauty and art and writing and music all possible. We’re all trying to sing out our solitude, paint our existence for the world to see.
We had a reading at our wedding, and they are words I continue to go back to nine years later. I recognized their truth then, but I had not yet experienced it. Now these words resonate all the more in marriage and in all my relationships.
“The point of marriage is not to create a quick commonality by tearing down all the boundaries; on the contrary, a good marriage is one in which each partner appoints the other to be the guardian of his solitude, and thus they show each other the greatest possible trust. A merging of two people is an impossibility, and where it seems to exist, it is a hemming-in, a mutual consent that robs one party or both parties of their fullest freedom and development. But once the realization is accepted that even between the closest people infinite distances continue to exist, a marvelous living side-by-side can grow up for them, if they succeed in loving the expanse between them, which gives them the possibility of always seeing each other as a whole and before an immense sky.”
-- Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
But sometimes, I just get so damn tired of being alone in here. I don’t always love the expanse between me and others.
But I’m going to trust in the passage of time, in the rotation of the earth, in the cycle of the moon. I’m going to trust that going deeper, getting sicker, allowing myself to be burned by this longing will create in me a resilience and a new strength. I really, really don’t want to, but I’m going to try. I don't have much choice, do I?
“Only to the extent that we expose ourselves over and over to annihilation can that which is indestructible in us be found.”
-- Pema Chödrön