The sun is out this morning after a frigid cold snap, the day warming quickly from below zero temperatures where even Rosie came inside willingly, shaking beneath her thick coat. The days are longer now and there are whispers of spring in the air, and even though the winter has been unusually mild, it feels relieving. The sun is a reminder that just like the weather, my mind - somedays dark - can also grow light with the dawning of a new day.
This winter has been tough. Farm life has been lonely, the tiny house constraining, icy roads uninviting. A lack of friends, or an actual kitchen in which to cultivate new ones, has felt like a daily challenge, a bit like training for a race where you simply have to attend to your own fitness, even when practicing sucks.
And I write about it here, not to ask for sympathy or have people write to me how they hope I am feeling better, but to share reality. This is the anti-facebook where actual loneliness exists and is not an embarrassing admission. To talk about an “affliction” that impacts everyone, everywhere, even if it is only occasional or mild.
They say there is now an “epidemic” of loneliness in this country, as if loneliness is a new thing brought on by video games and cell phones. But haven’t we always been lonely? Isn’t the reality that, no matter where you live and with whom you surround yourself, in the end, we are all alone?
As a kid I thought about this often, even after spending the day with close friends or family, once home and in bed, I was by myself. Alone. It did not matter how much I loved or was cared about, I was separated by my own skin from others. It surprised me that although I could be standing next to my best friend, my brain would be thinking its own thoughts, forever divided from hers.
Often, this reality hurt. I wanted the superpower to be able to crawl into someone else’s body and hang out, to sit cross legged with them in the deep recesses of a sort of combined soul (around a campfire too), the intimate camaraderie – I imagined – comforting in a way wholly unimaginable to me. In my darkest times, I’ve felt the acute ache of not being understood fully, of not appreciating others, of feeling like I was destined to always be in my own shell of thick skin. (What a strange expression – “thick skin” – as if dividing yourself off further would hurt less.)
And so this winter, loneliness visited with me again. This time not so much an ache as a rush in my heart, adrenaline sitting in the pit of my stomach and throat, the ancient desire to flee palpable. Each day I hoped it would ease its tension, and slowly, instead of running away, I began to embrace it. I meditated, not to try to pretend it wasn’t there, but to give my body practice in relaxing. To tell my mind this was not a tiger in front of me, but my own shit come back around again to haunt me.
In large part it has worked - breathing actually does reset our bodies and minds. There is no quick fix for moving to a new state - geographically, emotionally, or socially. But I can also think of it as a challenge, instead of a plague.
The woman teaching the yoga class I went to today shared this poem and I think it is a great one to end with today. Thanks for reading.
Love After Love – by Derek Walcott
The time will come,
when, with elation
you will greet yourself arriving
at your own door, in your own mirror
and each will smile at the other’s
and say, sit here. Eat.
You will love again the stranger who was
Give wine. Give bread. Give back your
to itself, to the stranger who has loved you
all your life, whom you ignored
for another, who knows you by heart.
Take down the love letters from the
the photographs, the desperate notes,
peel your own image from the mirror
Sit. Feast on your life.