In My Secret Life

Monday came and pushed out the sunshine. Echoes of the weekend’s intimacy faded into weekday anomie, and, by nightfall, I was lonely once more.

It was past the hour for a proper meal. I had queried every flavor in the pantry and none had stood up and danced for me. Resigned to the discontent that travels in the wake of unlimited choice, I pecked at fresh fruit and cheese and flipped on the TV. My dog, seeing no potential for scrumptious handouts, gave up completely and called it an early night. And, after a couple episodes of “Six Feet Under” and a dose of righteous melancholy, I too succumbed to the barometric pressure and headed for bed.

Shucking off my clothes, I shoved my hand into my jeans pockets and found an engraved, silver heart–a memento left there to remind me that I’m loved, even if only by an unseen force. I smiled and rubbed its smooth edges and measured its small heft in my palm, fascinated by how some things can be so real and yet so intangible.

Still, the bed felt too big and the empty spaces too confining, crowding me with insecurities on all sides. And, by the time I woke, my beloved had visited and slipped off again. Teetering on the edge of morning consciousness, between the worlds of the sacred and the profane, I tried to stitch together the opposites of my life and, like so many mornings before, my thoughts unraveled into confusion. Yet, standing later at the kitchen counter, stirring the breakfast bowl, I was struck by an image of myself as a character on a movie screen, frozen in time, listening forever intently, as if for her own wistful soundtrack, hoping that the camera won’t pan away just yet because it is this one pose, this one peculiar mood that links her pigtails and ribbons, her worn-out shoes, her mothballed prom dresses, her passport stamps, her degrees on the wall, her proud, grey hairs, and every well-meaning act of generosity scattered amongst friends and family to the thing that’s about to happen.

In the background, Leonard Cohen sings

I saw you this morning.
You were moving so fast.
Can’t seem to loosen my grip
On the past.
And I miss you so much.
There’s no one in sight.
And we’re still making love
In my secret life.
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Loneliness: Wanna Play Along?

As most of you know, I intend to spend the next month and then some immersed in the subject of loneliness and longing and come out on the other side with a Master’s thesis on the subject, followed shortly thereafter by a degree in depth psychology (the psychology of the unconscious). I’ve done a lot of reading the subject. I’ve read the religious perspectives, the psychological perspective, the mythological perspective, the physiological perspective, and the poetic perspective. And now I’m going to put it all into a vessel and place it over a fire and let it cook. But y’all could help me get the spark going to light the stove.

If you would be willing to share it, I’d love to hear in your words what the qualitative experience of loneliness has been for you? In moments of loneliness, what’s your first thought about what it is that you need? No judging it. Make it long or short. Messy or well-constructed. It could be a litany of adjectives, a story (fact or fiction), a comparison of the meanings of loneliness and solitude, a review of the role of longing in your life, or just stream of consciousness writing. Anonymous posts are welcome.

If it helps you to read another’s first. You can peruse mine here. Or you can try some of these words and phrases on for size … Continue reading

Thesis

[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.