[OK, my mind is getting oriented for my writing retreat. I woke up this morning and had the idea that, at the front of each section of my thesis, I might like to write an autobiographical journal piece about the process of sequestering and writing this thesis. (For those of you that haven’t heard, I’m writing a big, ol’ piece on the transformative power of loneliness. So, here’s a first practice pass …. ]
Last night was the last night of meals on the run. The last night of status reports and water cooler conversations. The last night of commuting along the familiar groove in my psyche that shuttles me, 5 days a week, past the recycling dumpster, overflowing on Tuesday nights, through the welcome left turn light at the church, past the bakery whose early morning efforts make me breathe as if breaking the surface after a deep dive, and up the hill alongside students laboring on bikes, their breath forming twisted question marks in the cold, winter air behind them. My easy link from the comfort of cursory encounters with familiar faces and places to my solitary existence in this too big house has been cut.
With the sunset now a recent memory, the front door closed behind me, and yet I lingered there, just inside, with my hand on the knob, surveying the hallways and corners of my future. Protected from the unpredictability of the world outside, my momentary relief morphed into a low-grade dread. There was nothing here in this place either, except for more aloneness. It was as if the warm air around me, so briefly comforting, suddenly filled with dangerous smoke; my vision blurred, sounds disappeared behind walls of cotton balls, my legs itched with the urge to run for my life. I was choking on the quiet.
I reminded myself, “OK. It’s OK. You chose this, you chose this. There is nothing here that can surprise you.”
Today, I am writing to you from inside a jar. A jar I’ve borrowed for 40 days. I’ve been here before in this terrifyingly insipid hole. But this time I brought shelves full of books, a blank journal, open eyes, and the promise of an end. I am at the bottom of this empty beaker and I am writing my way out, filling it with my words until I become lighter and lighter and rise to the top like a buoy dancing on adverbs, similes, and past participles, until at last I am the one who is empty and my inner world has spilled over and washed me gently on to your lap.