It is 1:35 a.m., and here I am, wide awake. Attila has been working long, long hours for the last few weeks. He leaves before 6:00 a.m. and arrives home after 6:00 p.m. When he arrives home he is exhausted, and “peopled out”, after having dealt with other people, and the demands of careful, cheerful communication, all day long.
We eat, we chat for about a half an hour, Attila has a hot bath, we watch a program on Netflix for about a half hour, and then Attila begins to nod off. So off to bed he goes for his well earned rest.
And me? I am not peopled out, having had no contact with a live human between the hours of 6:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. I have occupied my time wisely for those twelve hours, and enjoy the brief contact with Attila.
From time to time though, the alone part of my life becomes overwhelming. Tonight is one of those times, a time when too-much-alone follows me like a shadow.
When I lived in the city the too-much-alone could be alleviated by walk-abouts. I would walk, for miles and miles and miles, observing people, occasionally speaking with a friendly soul along the way. I was a part of the crowd, a piece of the human mosaic, without having to fit in, wear the right uniform of clothing, speak the correct words, wear the correct smile, compete for attention, elbow my way to the front of things. I could belong because I was there, like a star in the night sky, a grain of sand on a sunny beach, a stalk of grass in a windy wave… And that was always enough for me, that kind of belonging. It seemed to be enough for the people with whom I shared the experience.
That feeling of connection with humanity has all but ceased to exist in my day-to-day life. Where we live the tribal mores and pretenses of the affluent are very strong; there are no organic human spaces, there is no live and let live energy, no human mosaic, no tolerance, no spark of recognition, no joy in diversity… no society of the genuine.
I miss the face-to-face in my day-to-day.
I guess I am still awake because a part of me is not yet willing to give up the day-to-day, without a little more seeking of the face-to-face.
And since there is no available face-to-face in my world at the moment, it seems I will be awake until exhaustion ends the search.
Date: 1:35 AM EDT Thursday 12 June 2014
Condition: Light Rain
Pressure: 101.0 kPa
Visibility: 16 km
Wind: SE 17 km/h
“The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.”
1844 – 1900
Maggie, I hope that you were able to sleep in due course. Too many people or too much time with them is exhausting, but it seems we need some of that to keep us in balance.
My life now is similar only I have close neighbors but don’t actually interact with them very often. A “hello” at the mailbox yesterday to Bob across the street as he put away his lawnmower, but for the most part, the dogs are my chatting companions… they do a lot of chatting by way of barking at cars, and I do a lot of chatting back by way of say “Be quiet you hooligans!!!”
Apartment living was like that, never saw anyone, but we could hear them shouting in the parking lot, as the bedroom window faced out onto it. It’s much better here, where we know our neighbors and there are occasional events at the clubhouse.
I hope you were able to get to sleep after a bit…
Wendy, I agree, we a bit of time alone and a bit of people time to remain balanced. Usually I manage during the five months of fine weather, but Attila has been working such long hours that suddenly the balance was tipped.
At about 3:00 a.m. I finally felt exhausted, my head hit the pillow, and it was sweet dreams from there.
Bex, I think it makes a big difference when the neighbours deign to speak to you when contact occurs.
It is not like that at our country house. There are two other couples living on our road, just two. In ten years I have not met the woman to the east of us, who fancies herself a member of an elite class, although we can see each other from our windows, and the husband has said less than 50 words to me the whole time we have lived here. The people to west of us are seldom seen, the husband friendly enough the two or three times we have spoken; the wife doesn’t respond to hello now that she is a real estate salesperson, which she obviously regards as providing her with very high status, moving directly from her previous job as a cashier at the local Canadian Tire store. The summer people do not interact with the “serving classes”, which is how they regard local residents. So… over the last ten years there have been about five friendly hellos in the neighbourhood, and countless incidences of nose-in-the-air drive-bys.
Someone who moved to such a location, and left after a few years, described living in such a social atmosphere as “rotting in paradise”, which I loved!
Joan, your present home sounds very socially comfortable. We have a similar experience and such great neighbours at the little house in the city, and at our camp, which we have only owned for a little more than a week! More people waved a friendly hello, and smiled as they drove by the camp, on our very first day there, than have done so in the last ten years at our country house.
I did eventually fall into a deep sleep, and got up just before 6:00 a.m., so that I could sit for ten minutes with Attila before left for work. There was no going back to sleep after Attila left, so Mist and I are communing… well, I am communing and Mist is snoring… does that count as communication, LOL!
I am laughing at myself! When I write a comment here an email is sent to my email address to let me know there is a comment. When my own comments generate an email message, and it arrives in my Inbox, I am pleasantly surprised, until I find that it is only me sending me a message, LOL!
Virtual isolation – I know the feeling. City life is not so much a protection against it as a series of endless distractions from it. Admittedly I would rather be lonely in the city. Something I feel, not all the time, but occasionally. Sending you the noise and bustle of beautiful downtown T-ville, in my thoughts at least, to keep you company.
Steve-Paul, how apt it is to describe the city as a “series of endless distractions!” I will say though, I had more contact with people who actually knew my name, and recognized my face, on the bustling streets of Toronto, than I do here in a village of only 600 people. And one of those people was you! I will be thinking of you, down there in the bustle of beautiful downtown T-ville, and those thoughts give me more than virtual pleasure!
I have never been a monk, but I understand they often seek time alone and time in community, a balance.
It’s not been until recently that I realized the language of our lives wasn’t all that different. Some of the connectivity occurred when I read of your requirement for thermostat controlled hearting. 🙂
I can’t write some blogs I’d like to write because I’d offend too many people who read my posts. I always write my truth, but so much of what I write is diluted and fit for all audiences.
For the past 8 years I’ve been *rotting in paradise*. The obscene amounts of loneliness I’ve experienced, has sucked so much joy out of my life and been damaging to my psyche. Sucked a lot of the good stuff right out of my soul, my tender heart. I’ve been trapped. It wouldn’t have been easy to relocate again.
It’s so hard to explain, to understand. And then my 29 year old son lived with me for 6 months before he was commissioned into the Army. He was appalled when the reality of my life started to unfurl before his very own eyes. Though he also saw how I am beloved in many ways, the shunning is palpable.
When I first moved to my rotting paradise, I entertained a lot. People coveted an invitation to my home. Then one day I realized… I could always find a place at my table for people, but there was no room for me at theirs.
My son was appalled. When he left the mountain, there were so many of my *close* friends that he deeply resented because he saw firsthand the shunning. He’s quieted his anger because he’s also seen firsthand how limited my choices are.
It was several years ago that I came up with the phrase, “A single man completes a table, a single woman threatens it.”
Oddly enough, people adore me, but they have never known what to do with me. Idiots.
I shouldn’t have been so surprised. My family feels the same way about me. My father would huff and puff, “Why can’t you just go on a nice relaxing vacation, perhaps a cruise – why do you have to go to Morocco to be with young cancer patients – or Nepal to help rebuild a Buddhist Monastery.” His weren’t rhetorical questions… but I didn’t know how to explain who I am without insulting who he is.
When my mother died, not one person came by the house. As I type these words, I’m still affected by revisited grief. I sat in my beautiful home surrounded by a beautiful woods, my paradise… and rotted. I just sat and prayed for the day to hasten and disappear into the shadows of nightfall. It’s a miracle I survived.
Since my son left last January, I’ve done well. As odd as it sounds, loneliness has become a preferred companion I now call solitude, or on especially good days, serenity. It’s not my nature at all, but I can go days without seeing another person, talking to another person. And now that I’m so very ill, it’s a moot point that I try to connect. I have several unfinished projects I want to try to complete.
Upon my diagnosis, I realized it was providential that I’d moved to a place so close to one of the country’s finest pulmonary clinics. I embrace the kismet.
The demographics on the mountain are quirky. There are mountain folk who are easy to profile, and then there are the university people with all their tweediness, so they’re easy to profile. Seasonally, there’s the Assembly – an extreme elitist group that established itself in the late 1800s – and is one of the few remaining Chautauquas. On paper, it reads like a fine institution, and I suppose there are many fine aspects, but when the Assembly season begins, the stink of wealth and entitlement assaults my senses. These fools sashay around our town of 1,300… gah. Then there are the people from my community comprised mostly of retirees with too much time on their hands and an equal sense of elitism.
May I boast for a moment? Most new people I encounter think I’m a mountain person. It’s nothing intentional that I do… I just am. I fly under the radar. It’s nice.
I LOVE the phrase Rotting in Paradise.
Maggie, thanks for letting me put these words down here. I will place them at JournalScape in a hidden file.
That balance is very difficult to achieve Tom. Balance, such a beautiful word.
Non sequitur : Your comment on balance brought something into focus for me! A friend on Facebook mentioned his dislike of the common use of the word awesome, and I mentioned in response my distaste for the word absolutely, also in common use. I agreed with him.
And I now understand why… it is the super-sized emotion of it, the unbalanced verbal response that words like awesome (an extreme), and absolutely (a dubious concept) imply. It sounds to me like the equivalent of “speed” (the drug) in spoken language. “Awesome” and “absolutely” replace thoughtful feedback in modern spoken language. There is something desperate about the common use of the words such as awesome and absolutely.
Reenie, your truths are welcome here. The prevalence of loneliness in North American society is a symptom of a much larger problem… the deterioration of families and communities, to the point where social survival mechanisms have failed, almost entirely. This is older and wider than North America of course, as it is reflected deep into the pool of human written history, even the victor written histories reflect it.
As Nietzsche pointed out, it is the brave soul who remains true to themselves, despite external pressures of a tribe. A tribe that seeks to destroy an individual’s loyalty to themselves, is an unhealthy tribe.
Wishing you much serenity Reenie, brave soul.
Maggie: I’ve been dashing about with errands and just noticed a wonderful typo in my earlier comments – heart instead of heat. I think both work! Thank you always and always for your kindness.