Liz Gilbert had a journey to countries that started with I’s. Cheryl Strayed had a 1,000 mile walk. Helen Macdonald tamed a hawk, kinda. I sit on social media cheerleading the stories of everyone else’s life, when I can catch them. Thanks to the algorithms and analysts (I can say that; I’m an analyst) it takes a lot of detective work to find your stories, read you all like a puddle of tea leaves, wonder what I can do to help, to connect…
It appears I can’t connect.
Not right now, actually.
On a repeated collection of not right now’s, actually.
The majority of my days are spent watching everyone else’s life like a stalker or a cat-lady in hair rollers with her “stories” on the tv, or picking up the phone and pressing the power button to see if folks who don’t remember me miss me, or hoping to make my life hip enough one day a week (yeah, Instagram, that day is Saturday and you know it), or finding a way to bond with yet more technology that will be passé tomorrow to everyone but me. Why? Is it just a dry spell? Or is this nature’s/God’s/the muses’ little way of saying, “Quick, while no one is watching, let’s go kill some time until they return.”
There’s something that doesn’t settle well in that, though.
When I was at Missouri State and minoring in history my women’s history professor assigned us some unconventional activities in addition to the stacks of books we had to read. We had to attend a political event in the city, and at one point we had to write a paper about a female community leader that inspired us. The leader could be dead or alive, but the assignment required sitting down and interviewing someone who was or knew about that person, so that we didn’t keep our heads stuck in books.
I chose my mother. She was influential in her community, and she inspired me. I carefully formulated some questions and new a couple of them would be controversial: Mom’s family (including me) was never enthusiastic about her having a business out of her home. We touched on that (that’s for another blog), but there was one answer to another question that blind-sighted me and I didn’t expect it to. I asked my mother why she started her business; was it because she loved people and/or loved farming so much?
She started her business because she didn’t want to be one of those moms that guilts their kids to come home or visit more often, and the business would be where she could put all of that passion. (My father should have come up with a similar plan, just saying.) I stopped short when she gave me that answer, and I think of that answer when I feel alienated in my life, wondering if the lonely times are a good time to walk away from what the rest of the world thinks is brilliant so that I can have a place to put my passion, too. Problem is, that approach only solves half the problem. What about the next friend or lover that walks into my life? Do I just wait for them to leave? Is it the life of a monk or recluse that I have no choice but to have?
Last year a friend of mine pointed out to me that the things I like tend to feed my loneliness. “You have to admit that writing and reading are group stuff.” And when they are group stuff, they have disappointed, with some rare but not consistent exceptions. Here’s the rub: give up the reading and writing for bars, coffee shops, parties, clubs if you want to avoid being lonely. Find friends. Seek out group stuff to do.
I try. And then I realize that it ain’t me, babe, and I’m lonely in a room full of people. I’m lonely wanting someone to read with, cozy up with on the phone or on a couch: “Listen to this” and no one wants to do that. I’m lonelier at parties. I’m an introvert: one person at a time, please. I’m an introvert that tried to grow and include a bunch of people in my life and now have to heal when none of them want to talk.
I thought social media would cure that.
It’s made it worse.
And going back to writing to kill time until either the previous crowd returns or a new crowd shows up is slowly killing me. I keep coming up with plans for social media to play nice, but then I realize the playing nice is to make the rest of the world more comfortable and hopefully draw them to me.
The plan shouldn’t be “in the meantime.” The plan shouldn’t be a “fix.” The plan should be to remember who I am, to remember the people and passions I love, without apology. The world is too cool for that. The world doesn’t stare at its phone waiting for text messages, notifications, Snaps. The world has a life. I don’t have one of those.
I have things that I love and people that I love but I don’t have a life.
Pardon me, then, if I put the phone away. Pardon me for posting less…we, you and I, have hit an impasse where I’m sure a show that’s streaming on Netflix or a term that I don’t understand on a hashtag is better than my re-tweet or share. I’m fine with that. You have your passions and I have watched them and had them too for a while and now I have to go back to mine…not until you remember me, but permanently. I need to read a book without guilt, and I need to write a book and about 50 short stories that I have ideas for just to see if they are viable. I need to stop pressing the power button on my phone in hopes of seeing something besides the lock wallpaper:
I’m not curling up in a cave somewhere. I’m not closing my accounts, or ignoring communication. But there’ll be less checking. I’m connecting in the way that I had hoped I would. I just wanted connection. I’m going to try reading a while, now, on sites like GoodReads and WordPress and magazines. If you want to talk, I still have that fancy email feature all the kids rave about, and if you’re lucky enough to have my cell number and it’s an emergency, call me and leave a voice mail. If it’s not, text. Comment. Message. I’ll still check all of this stuff, but not nearly as often as folks have grown accustomed to or…enjoyed. I gotta have a break if you’re gonna take one from me. I love you all, but I gotta find me again, so I stop losing myself to keep people who don’t stay.
Be well, and find your passion. ❤️ I will see you here again as soon progress is made.