I wanted to pour myself into you again to be sipped, and savored, and understood but there's too much sediment inside now to become a cohesive solution The liquid tide lapping at my shores no longer responds to that distant moon left to hover in languishing stillness piercing, punishing, silent sea inside I'm still waiting for that feeling to manifest but this time it doesn't feel like fate it feels like the frantic refusal of a flame afraid of being snuffed out It used to feel so easy to empty my heart into the perfect, protective basin of your being finding out the core of all that I am is forever cut off from everyone, even you
I resent the need for community the suffocation that settles over the soul after prolonged periods of being utterly alone I'm not presumptuous enough to suppose that other people could ever value me I wouldn't ask for what I don't deserve The human condition is being put in the position to require some amount of social support that I am unwillingly compelled to pursue I won't pray for things I haven't earned, that I am unfit for all I ask is to be spared the pain of possessing a basic need that always aches, but cannot be fulfilled Please let the empty spaces satiate fill me up with the silence beneath everything make this loneliness enough for me
The Awakening *Spoilers*
I first began reading classic novels in college. I loved to read something that had stood the test of time, something that I felt I would gain some intellectual benefit from apart from simple enjoyment. It was exciting to catch quick references to characters or plots from stories in other content I consumed that before would have just slipped by unnoticed. I’ve found the classics add a lot of depth and context to many other aspects of life and art.
The Awakening is a very short novel by Kate Chopin I read nearly a decade ago. I wish I knew exactly what year. I hardly remembered the story at all. I just retained the vague feeling that I had not been too impressed by it. Someone suggested this book to me recently, and I was proud to say I had already read it. Although, I was a little embarrassed I didn’t remember more about it. Realizing this, I decided it was a good time to reread it, especially knowing, at only 157 pages, it wouldn’t take me more than a day or two to casually flip through. I was excited to see how ten years of further life experiences would alter my perception of the story.
It was fascinating to go over the text with the double vision of reading it for the second time. I could recall my original thoughts, while also experiencing it as if for the first time. There is something indescribably poignant and sad about seeing how much I’ve grown through revisiting a story like this. When I was younger, I remember being rather bored in the beginning of the novel, and utterly frustrated and perplexed at the ending. Now… well now, I felt my soul gripped by every word, every thought and experience Edna Pontellier had. Ironically enough, I am now the same age as she was in the book.
When I was younger, everything seemed so much simpler and straightforward. If Edna loved Robert and not her husband, and Robert loved her back, then what was the dilemma? Just leave your husband. Nothing is more important than love, especially a love that is within your reach. I found it hard to understand why Robert left for Mexico. It angered and confused me. When he finally came back, my naïve heart truly believed they would finally be together in the end. Even when Edna left to go tend to her friend, I felt no uneasiness about Robert waiting for her to return. Of course he would.
This time, as soon as the inevitably ending began it’s slow approach, I felt my chest getting tighter. Despite not remembering the book, I knew immediately Robert would not be there when Edna returned. Some part of me thinks that even Edna knew as she sat on the porch for a few minutes before going back in, as if to prolong the happy delusion for just a few moments longer. This time, I also knew in my very bones why Edna appeared by the seashore of their happy island summer homes. I knew she would not be returning to have dinner with Victor. As a teenager, I was dumbfounded about what was happening all the way up to the point where she stripped all of her clothes off in front of the ocean waves. I remained in disbelief even at the very end.
Revisiting this story after so much has happened in my own life was profound. It ached in all the best and worst ways. It swallowed me up completely. It held a mirror up to my very soul and cradled my crumpled form as I wept inconsolably. There is something about youth that fills us with crisp simplicity and happy illusions about life and love. The painful pull of life that drags us along into the future adds such complexity and depth to concepts and convictions that once appeared so crystal clear and unchangeable. Sometimes things cannot have a happy ending. Even love is not enough in many instances. Certain decisions cannot be taken back or rectified regardless of how wretched we feel about them later. One word spoken too soon, a poor choice of phrase spat out in a moment of high emotion, can change the course of a life forever. Even small stones, carelessly thrown into the still pond of life create irrevocable ripples that spread out in ways we couldn’t have possibly imagined.
Despite this, there is such agonizing, undulating beauty to be found within deep, unalterable grief and regret. Books like these, characters like Edna, are a haven for the innermost broken-winged birds of my soul. They are a reminder that while I may not be able to change the course my life has already taken or the decisions left open to me because of that course, I am not alone in my sorrow. Others have experienced the complex emotions I often feel incapable of expressing for myself, and even more will experience them in the future. I’ll leave you will a quote from my favorite artist that sums up this sentiment nicely:
You’re not alone in anything. You’re not alone in trying to be.The Ladder Song – Bright Eyes
I've never mastered the mercy of letting something die fear compels me to keep a cold corpse animated with artificial light Clinging to a casket ensures I won't ever come to learn what else life has to offer but I feel too unworthy to ask for anything more There is no energy left inside for seeking rising suns settling for a soft hand to hold as the darkness of night descends seems all I can manage Still that hot ember inside remains more and more often sparking into flame threatening to devour any illusion I may choose to cling to for small comfort whipped up by the wind of all that's ingenuine Searching for deeper answers beneath the one that keeps surfacing unable to decide my own suffering a life spent floating restlessly down-river when will the ocean finally come?
Different Shades of Loneliness
I don't know which is worse to be truly and utterly alone or to be alone with someone who doesn't even see you Is it really better to have a warm body that can never bare witness to your soul than to be emotionally and physically on your own in this over-populated, under-connected world there is a sickening angst that curdles inside bitterness and resentment grow in the shadows where the light of being known never touches sometimes disregard stings worse than rejection A fiery desperation to be acknowledged the falling sensation of a love without foundation an inner self left writhing under skin-crawling falsity rising in rebellion against half-hearted affection Disgust and denial say this cannot be salvaged but fear leaves me lingering in the decaying doorway memories of what I once thought this might become daggers that flare up passion in a desolate heart Nothing could be worse than the violence of indifference stepping out from a shelter that blocks all possibility of sun to submit myself to the endlessly overcast, unprotected sky not knowing if storms will come or the sun will rise
Yesterday morning, my internet went out for a few hours. This isn’t the first time it’s happened. I live in a very rural area and when my internet goes out, it’s out. I can’t just use my phone data or walk to a restaurant or library with free wi-fi. I’m left in utter silence, cut off from the virtual world I’ve become so dependent on.
In these instances, it is really apparent how much I rely on the internet for everything. There isn’t a moment of my existence now that isn’t supplemented in some way by this technology. I am absolutely panic stricken when I see that little wi-fi symbol go dark. I am disturbed by how much it disturbs me. I feel an overwhelming wave of desperation as I try to think of some way to get back online. My mind races with thoughts of how I’ll make it through the next hour, the next day, god forbid the next week. Whenever this happens it is a huge wake-up call. I am unable to avoid the terrible truth that I have become horrified of being truly alone with myself.
Yesterday, I managed to avoid my usual meltdown and just get really curious about my fear. What was I so afraid of? Was I really incapable of getting through a day without lo-fi hip hop playing in the background and YouTube videos to watch while I go about my daily tasks? I tried to remember what my life was like before I even had access to a computer. I’m so grateful I at least had that experience for a good portion of my life. Otherwise I might not have believed it was possible to go without.
Even though my connection came back after only around four hours, I really feel that forced time apart from the world wide web was a blessing. I always say I’m going to try to take a break from screens and the internet for a day, but quickly come to find it nearly impossible to do. The only way I ever seem to manage it is when I have no other option. Being forced to face the eerie discomfort is truly a gift. It may sound silly, but I’m proud of myself for getting through it. I was submerged in the silence I’ve grown to fear, and I made it out unscathed. In fact I was even calmer and more grateful the rest of the day because of that quiet time of uncomfortable reflection.
How do you feel when you don’t have access to the internet? Does that even happen to people much at all anymore? How do you think this dependence on something so easily lost is going to affect humanity, especially the younger generations that have never known a time without it? I’d love to know if this is just a personal problem or something all of us have come to rely on to an unhealthy extent.
The fear of not being worthy of what my torn and bleeding heart so longed to do was the most frightening fear of all.David Copperfield – Charles Dickens
Mental healthy is a slippery thing. One day I’ll feel like I’m doing great things, living a beautiful life, surrounded by love and opportunity. Then next I’m silently screaming in the shower as my body crumples convulsively in on itself in an attempt to disappear. The thought that grips me most violently in these moments is that I am alone. I am so alone. I’ve always been alone. I will always be alone.
My mind scrambles searching for the people that I love. Where are they? Where have they gone? They dissolve into floating masks, colorful fictions. A door slams in the face of my heart. It feels like these people never knew me, don’t like me, don’t care for me at all. Worst of all, I can’t convince myself that this is not true. Even on my good days this feeling is there, I just don’t look at it closely so it doesn’t hurt as much.
Depression and anxiety play tricks on you. Tag teaming tormentors of the soul. They twist and contort the world around you until it becomes unbearable and grotesque. They block out the light and tell you you’ve always been in darkness. Pinholes poked through a shrouded sky reveal only the most painful parts of your reality. Suffocating. All consuming. Looming large on a jet black horizon that seems to be closing in faster and faster.
When I find myself in this desperate state, my already poor social ability breaks down even further. A drowning man violently grasping and grabbing, trying to pull everyone around down with them in a blind attempt at salvation. When my clawing hand is pushed away, it is a confirmation that I’m not worthy of the oxygen I need. The world becomes a funhouse mirror. I can’t bear to look.
I’ve often heard people saying “it’s not you, it’s me” is just a line, a cop out. That no one really means this when they break up with someone. I’ve never felt so sure of that. I’ve felt the truth of these words in my own throat. It is because I love the people in my life that I feel compelled to sever all ties with them. I am nothing but a burden, a leaden weight pulling them underwater with me. I’m a chore, an annoyance, something they would be happier and better off without. When someone ends their own life, everyone gasps, “How could they do that to their family?” Not realizing they probably did it for their family.
I’ve felt unworthy since the moment I conceptualized that was something one could feel. I’m sure other people feel this way, but I wonder if they feel it in the same sense that I do. I wonder if they hold it up to the light of justice and feel these pangs with that additional intensity. The added weight of taking what is not yours, of doing something vile and criminal, something sickeningly selfish.
All the bonds in my life feel tinged with injustice. I don’t deserve to be loved. I couldn’t possibly be loved. I am doing a disservice to everyone I meet by allowing them to pretend for the sake of my own neediness, to dissuade my heavy sense of self pity. The melodrama is thick, but it’s genuine. This is how I feel. When I push someone away, there is never even a moment’s consideration of whether that has hurt them, whether they are sad, whether they might miss me or want me in their life. These questions seem ridiculous to me. I’m clearly not worthy of remembrance or tenderness. You don’t miss a rock that has finally tumbled out of your shoe when you shake it.
When I begin to feel better, when my agitated state of mind starts to settle, I still don’t believe these things to be any less true. I never feel worthy of love. I just feel less guilty about receiving it. I never lose that sense of being utterly alone. Being alone just doesn’t seem to hurt as badly. I’m left with only a sense of embarrassment and shame for showing the world my suffering. For being selfish and conceited enough to think that anyone else should or would care, for bothering everyone by asking them to, for being so ungrateful when I already have so much more than I’ve ever deserved.
I’m just left wondering: How can you move forward, how can you be happy, find love, love yourself, when you feel so certain that you are unworthy of all of it? When you feel guilty for even wanting to?
Distance Makes the Heart Grow Fonder
A few days ago, my new boyfriend had to move over five hours away from me for a new job. When I first found out he’d be moving, I thought there was no way things could work between us. Then after we started dating and I began liking him more and more, I started to think it might not be so bad after all. Now that he’s actually gone, I’m back to wondering if this long distance relationship is even possible. My mind and heart keep oscillating back and forth between these opposing thoughts.
Once I considered the fact that I haven’t dated anyone in around five years, I thought maybe it would be good for me to have a long distance relationship at first. I have developed quite a few embarrassing bad habits in my time living alone, especially during quarantine. It would end up being quite stressful having him coming over all the time and possibly moving in. After becoming accustomed to being alone, I’m not sure I’m ready to have someone constantly by my side and in my business. With him being far away now, I figured I’d get a lot of the emotional benefits of having a boyfriend without having to worry about the close proximity. Now I’ll have some time to get my shit together a little bit before things get more serious between us.
Despite these benefits, I’m starting to worry once again. You see, neither one of us is very good at texting. We’re both busy with our own things and only end up sending a couple of messages back and forth each day. We’ve already talked over Facetime once and we do plan on writing each other letters, but I worry that won’t be enough. I already miss him so much. And that’s me, someone who wasn’t sure they could ever even love again. I can’t imagine how he must be feeling given that he is a very affectionate, relationship focused person.
I’m terrified I am going to lose him already. I’m definitely willing to wait for as long as it takes and do everything I can to make this long distance relationship work, but I’m worried he’ll change his mind about that. I wouldn’t blame him. He seems like he’s much more capable of finding partners than I am. I’m sure there are plenty of new vegan girls that he’ll find closer to him. I keep feeling my heart contract with fear, dreading the day when he texts me that he can’t do this anymore. I’m afraid I won’t even have the opportunity to hold him again before that happens.
Even though I’m open to polyamory, I’m not sure if he is or if that would ultimately help or hurt the situation. I’ve thought about breeching the subject with him, but am too afraid of scaring him off. Especially considering that he was cheated on by his fiance a few years ago. The proposal for an open relationship might send him running for the hills. It wouldn’t even be for my benefit though. I doubt I’d even utilize the opportunity were our relationship to be open. I would just hope that should he find someone else, he wouldn’t completely abandon and forget about me. He would be able to be with both of us. The new girl wouldn’t feel threatened because I’m so far away, and I would have the peace of mind of knowing that my baby is happy and being taken care of by someone. Maybe I would even fancy this girl and we could all become a happy little thruple someday.
Although, in that scenario, would we even really still be dating? He would have even less time to talk to me and would easily grow much closer to his new girlfriend while our relationship withers away in the background. I think I’ll stay quiet about that option for now and just hope he is able to manage the distance as well as me. Not that I’m fairing super well at the moment either though. There has always been a constant push and pull inside my heart. One moment I want to never leave his side and the next I’m relieved I won’t have to make time to hangout. At least there are those moments when the distance suits me.
I know that everything is about perspective in the end. I will just have to focus on all the good aspects of having a long distance relationship. At times it does seem rather perfect for someone like me. Although part of me still holds out hope that he’ll absolutely hate this new job and decide to come back home. I know that’s cruel and selfish, but I can’t help it. Maybe I’ll start writing my first letter to him tomorrow. Hopefully that will let me feel closer to him again. It’s so strange to think that only a few months ago I had no idea who this person was. I was even still pathetically pining over my ex. Now I actually haven’t given him a single thought in quite a while. Finally I’ve found someone who is truly a much better, healthier match for me. I hope that despite this distance, we will continue to grow and improve together and find ways to feel close to one another. I’m terrified of getting hurt again and I find myself struggling with it already, but he is more than worth all of the fear and the effort.
Happiness & Relationships
There is a lot of research that suggests having meaningful relationships with others and frequently interacting with other people is associated with a higher level of happiness and wellbeing. I doubt anyone would be surprised by this data. It seems like common sense. It stands to reason that a social species like human beings would gain comfort and pleasure from our relationships.
However, correlation cannot prove causation. Having more interpersonal relationships could be leading to increased happiness. Or it could be that happy people are more likely to form close bonds and socialize more. It could even be an unmeasured third factor that is contributing to this phenomenon.
Despite this data not necessarily meaning you need these relationships to be happy, it still troubles me. Maybe a lot of my unhappiness is due to my tenuous relationships and social ineptitude. The pandemic has allowed me to notice a drastic difference which I did not expect. I thought I would rather always be home alone than go to work every day, but surprisingly I felt much happier and less anxious on the days I went in to the office. And it did seem like my life was more vibrant and interesting when I had a “friend group” I would hangout with frequently, if not daily.
I genuinely miss being in school. It aided me greatly to be corralled together with my peers on a fixed schedule. I find it quite difficult to maintain close, regular contact with people on my own. Apart from family, there is really only one person left in my life that I would consider a close friend. And we go weeks without even sending texts usually.
I don’t mind being on my own for the most part. I keep myself busy and enjoy many solitary activities. I’ve always been an introvert, and find social gatherings quite draining and stressful. Yet I fear because of all of these factors I will inevitably end up all alone in life.
As I watch my social life dwindling with age, I am scared. But I have no idea how to change. Even when I do make plans to be more social, my anxiety prevents me from following through. I don’t feel like I am necessarily unhappy because I am lonely. But maybe the link is just not apparent. Maybe my mental health would improve if I had more friends. It does stand to reason that a species which evolved to depend on being part of a larger group would suffer some type of mental or physical effects from being alone.
I am the youngest person in my family. My one true friend considers moving out of the area someday. Will I be strong enough to survive on my own? Will I be brave enough to form any new bonds? Ultimately I feel helpless to improve my position. And it makes me uncomfortable knowing I have to depend on other people. I sincerely hope that I am the outlier in the population that can manage to find happiness without the love and support of others. Because I really don’t see myself becoming close with anyone new. I’m lucky I’ve been able to find acceptance from the few people I do have in my life. I can at least be grateful for them right now, and try to let go of the rest.