A Super-Deep Reflection: Solitude

Yeah, right.  I’m going to start off with how I dropped my phone down my pants.

Tomorrow is pickup day, and I was hauling the bins to the alley.  I needed to carry my phone but had no pockets, so I stuck it in my waistband.  MacGyver, right?  I didn’t even make it the five or six feet to the bins before the phone worked its way out of my waistband and down my leg.  It’s been raining, and the ground is soaked, so I ended up trying to hold my leg out horizontally so I could remove the phone without drowning it.

Later, after dark, my elusive new neighbor or neighbors came in, and I heard a bin thunk.  The one I’ve met, whose name is Chase or Hunter or Chet or something, appears to have gotten separated from his fraternity herd, and I wasn’t counting on him to pick up a bin that he’d knocked over with his car.  By this time, it was raining again, so I stood at my back door, in my pajamas, holding a keychain flashlight (shaped like a pig, and yes, it does oink while illuminating), trying to pinpoint the location of the trash.

img_9070
What this has to do with solitude:  it makes you act like you were raised by wolves.  Or, more accurately, living alone causes you to lose your set of “is this normal?” checks and balances.  I suspect that even those living the contemplative life sometimes wear beanies indoors– who’s going to know?

I ended up going outside about 11 PM, in pajamas and Doc Martens.  It was a look, that’s for sure.

img_9061


There’s no need for an essay discussing pros and cons of being alone, and I hate pro-con lists anyway:  they tend to be paralyzing, unless you actually do know what you need to do but have to rationalize it.


I was considering cooking Minute Rice last night.  I got entirely hung up on the directions:  why does Minute Rice take five minutes to cook, five to solidify (or whatever)?

I had cheese and crackers.  The Minute Rice question was too fraught.

That’s an example of when having someone with me to say “shut up and cook the damn rice” might have been helpful.


The point I’m getting around to:

  • At what point do these quirks hit the irreversible Grey Gardens threshold?

Increasingly, I worry that I’m incapable of being around other humans for extended periods of time.  Yes, I know my personality is a factor.  Thanks for pointing that out.

But:  are the other oddities becoming embedded?  Am I becoming inflexible?  Does isolation feed on itself?

When did I develop my mother’s habit of flinging myself into this-place-has-to-look-decent mode before someone comes over?


I’m not broken over here, but is my crack showing?

itnormal

I am *killing* normal here.

Advertisements

Field Notes: Physical Therapy

Perhaps I’m stretching with this one.  [ka-ching, thank you, here all week]  I do spend enough time there to fill a post, though, so congratulations!  You can’t always get what you want, and I’m here to give you what you don’t need.

 


Physical therapy appears to be yet another person/adult thing I don’t know how to do; this probably comes as no surprise.  I was having problems before I even made it to the first session:  namely, I was shifting through t-shirts trying to figure out which ones didn’t essentially read “hi, my name is Weird!”  These days, making a good first impression apparently involves not wearing the shirt that says “I KILLED JENNY*.”

*Note lack of link.  You should know that.  And I also expect you to still be grieving for Mr. Piddles.


I think of science as something largely discovered by philosophers (Thales is still completely valid, right?), so our initial discussion of things involving a lot of Anatomical Terms went completely over my head.  Over time, I’ve learned to deal with this by responding to every remark of that type with, “so, is that good?”

Another conversational problem is that we don’t converse.  I spend a lot of time counting, and he spends a lot of time looking at something on his laptop.  When we attempt the forced small talk at the beginning of the session (he’s very nice, I should clarify), I’ve latched onto football as something I definitely know he likes.  Unfortunately, I’ve managed to screw up football as a topic of discussion constantly by getting enthusiastic about the wrong teams (usually, the only team I knew was playing), confusing winners and losers, and being extremely clueless about bowl games.  I brought up the championship game today (which I didn’t see, but I did check the score) and tried to break the ice by saying it must have been very exciting.  The look he gave me suggested he’s on to me.

itsports

A fairly accurate reenactment of my sports small talk.


 

 

In spite of my “everybody act normal!” efforts, he still seems to think I’m odd– again, as of the first appointment, when I brought a book.  I knew I’d have to wait, so this seemed perfectly logical.  Also, I always have a book with me.  As I’ve said before, there is always a possibility of a zombie apocalypse.  Do you not want to have a book with you when civilization crumbles?  I didn’t go into the zombie bit there, but I think I’d done enough already  without putting the undead icing on the cake.

I put off laundry a shameful amount of time at one point (it was cold!  exterior stairs!), and I did have to go to my Dr. Teeth and the Electric Mayhem t-shirt, which seemed okay:  nostalgia value, right?  Not so much.  It was a new experience to have someone who was pulling my ankles lose composure and crack up.  I’m adding to my résumé every day.

Today, he asked if my mismatched socks were a style statement.  I had to explain that, this time, they were just laundry-fatigue induced accidents.  I didn’t mention that I have worn mismatched socks before (on purpose) and that now he was giving me ideas.  Of course, I also now have an inverse pair of the ones I wore today, plus one odd one that I assume is a dryer casualty.  All sorts of possibilities!

itnormal

I am *killing* normal here.


 

Other things I’m learning:  I’m getting very, very good at counting.  Going up to 10, 15, and 30 are my specialities.  If you need help with that, let me know.  If it’s math more involved than that, call someone else; nothing’s changed with that one.

I am also in the gym portion eight minutes per session, where I have been seeing a show I think is called Meredith (?).  It’s what would happen if you took the 50s and told it to act hip and contemporary but to do a really, really bad job on purpose.  Perhaps you need to watch it for more than eight minutes at a time to get the full effect of it, and I’m misjudging.


I’ve also concluded that physical therapy should come with a masseuse to follow you home when all the actual aches and pains start up.  This has not been forthcoming.


In the meantime, if you’d like to come rub my back, I’m right here.  I’m also taking fashion tips and conversational bits of current sports trivia.

Until then, I will be reading, wearing clothes not suitable for physical therapy, wearing earplugs during Monday RAW/Thursday Smackdown/all football (apartments!), and avoiding daytime TV.

 

 

I Started Something I Couldn’t Finish

Sorry about the title.  The song lyrics don’t apply; I just picked it because of the title (and because the devil made me do it).

It’s the end of the year (or the world as we know it . . . sorry).  I don’t have any profound musings, so you can move along if you’re looking for those.  All I have are my now-customary non-resolutions:  as in, I’m not going to have any New Years’ resolutions.  I’m not going to start anything I can’t finish.


 

An anecdote:  the first book I didn’t finish was Little Women.  I can’t remember how old I was, but I was pretty young– so young that I didn’t realize it wasn’t okay not to finish a book.  I remember getting to some part about a glove (I think?) and being utterly fed up with every single person in the book.  I somehow knew that Beth died (probably the back of the book mentioned it), and I flipped ahead to that, hoping for something really good and gory (being a bloodthirsty monster, like so many children).  I haven’t picked up that book since, but I remember it being terrifically dull and involving the valley of the shadow of death.

I finally asked my mother if I could stop reading the book; I think she was probably surprised that I didn’t realize it was an option.  It’s only been in the past year or so, though, that I’ve really started to stick to the rule of fifty and just drop a book if I don’t like it.


 

Quitting everything doesn’t improve your quality of life.  However, quitting things that make your life really miserable does.


 

I could make some resolutions about Life Improvement at the New Year, but I don’t have any concrete ideas.  I’ve done some small things all during the past year, none of which I’d planned on as of January 1st:  they were all unexpected.

January 1st is a moment, but there’s also a year full of moments.  You can decide what to do, to be, or to change in any one of them.

Have a happy new year, or a succession of happy new moments.

IMG_4675

Alice is ready to ring in the New Year but more than a little ticked that this is ginger ale.

Can I Offer to Take out Anyone’s Garbage?

This one is about the care and handling of the feral holiday creature.  You know:  that person in your life who approaches the holiday season by hiding under the bed and screaming “resistance is futile!” as you try to drag them out by the leg (the one that’s kicking you).  Me, for instance.  And any of the rest of you who fit that description– or are bewildered by the person you know who does.


 

For some people, cold weather means a series of festive holidays:  decorations, celebrations, and community.

For people like me, it means looking up state statutes, trying to figure what precise crimes to commit that would result result in your unfortunate incarceration throughout the holiday period.

It would make RSVPs and no-shows a lot more interesting:  I’m sorry, but I didn’t qualify for good behavior (but I swear I didn’t start it!).  Or:  the warden and I have a prior engagement.

Yep.  Every year.  I have to.  

50th anniversary this year!  [recorded 1967–> 2 Thanksgivings ago –> 1965]


 

People like me will also tend to feel alone and isolated during this time.  Paradoxically, we will also hole up in our hobbit-holes and refuse to engage with the outside world.

The problem here– and what people tend not to understand– is that we don’t want to be alone, and we are not actually avoiding people.  What we’re avoiding is the mega-watt sensory overload that is October through December.  Spend time with a friend?  Sounds great.  Does this involve going to a mall (in traffic), having an anxiety attack while trying to park, fighting hordes of people, shouting over piped-in music, and hunkering down for limited real estate at a Starbucks?  Oh.  Never mind.  I suddenly have a cold, or perhaps bubonic plague.


 

I’ve lost count of how many times SAD has come up recently, as if I might not have noticed that this affects me.  Vitamins, sunshine, and special lights are popular solutions.  My favored solution is hibernating until I see daffodils.  The medical community does not endorse this.

IMG_1193

Signs of better days.


I’m fine with the idea that some people like to go all-out.  What I don’t like is feeling like Debbie Downer because this is not something I enjoy, and I start to consider a smoking habit just to have an excuse to step outside.  Somehow, I always end up being defensive or mocked.

All of that is somewhat painful, because it’s difficult to say, “I’d like to participate, BUT.”  The “but” tends to be where the misunderstanding (“failure to communicate”) begins.  It helps if you keep listening to what follows the “but,” because that part is going to be different for everybody. It’s the crucial information, though:  the part where someone is going to be honest and skip over any canned explanations about why they’re not going out (consumerism, whatever) and tell you what’s really up.


 

So here’s a fairly modest proposal:  this holiday season, find the person who has refused every invitation on grounds such as toenail fungus and brain fever.  Ask them if they’d like to get coffee somewhere small and quiet.  Talk and joke aimlessly.  Don’t tell them how they “should” spend the holidays or try to solve things.  No advice is necessary.  Just sit and talk.


 

Greta Garbo was frustrated by the ongoing misattribution of “I want to be alone!” as her own words.  She said (of herself):  “I never said, ‘I want to be alone.’ I only said, ‘I want to be let alone!’ There is all the difference.”

Most of us can’t quite deliver a Garbo performance, and we end up seeming aloof and indifferent.  But we don’t want to be alone; we just don’t want to be in the thick of things.

Probably we could explain better over a (quiet) cup of coffee.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

Cooking_&_Eating_a_la-Garbo-04

Garbo on a picnic– that’s the spirit!

image:  http://www.garboforever.com/Cooking_and_eating.htm

 

 

If You Have Any Questions or Concerns

Several medical practices now do their pre-recorded appointment confirmations in the evening, meaning my phone blasted at me at 7:32 PM to let me know I have an appointment Tuesday.  The voice cheerfully added that I could call during normal office hours if I had any “questions or concerns.”  You know, I have a ton of those at the moment– but I’m not sure the doctor can really help.


I don’t like fall and winter; they’re bleak, cold, and confining (physically and mentally, at least for me).  The weather is taking a turn for the worse (or what I call worse, I suppose) at just the time that I’m trying to turn a corner for the better– but, seriously, “turning a corner for the better” turns out to be more complex than an Escher drawing.

How do you actually get to better, what does better look like, and how long is this going to take?

Those are the questions to STOP asking, I think.


As I was getting out of the car today, an old New Year’s Eve concert was playing on the radio.  When I parked, it was only a few minutes to midnight, so I just sat it out to hear the New Year ’76 come in.  The band played right up to midnight, with Springsteen (of course) counting down the seconds.  I expected that to be the end of the concert: it was the New Year, so that’s the natural end, right?  Wrong.  Applause, yells, and they go into the the next song.  It’s a new year, but the concert goes on.

And that’s pretty much what you have to do when anything big or small occurs:  acknowledge it, celebrate it if it’s called for, play through it, and keep going.  You can’t just stop.

Yet another Vacation Failure (undated):  a sand Sisyphus.  WHAT?

Yet another Vacation Failure (undated): a sand Sisyphus. WHAT?


I’ve been getting the “celebrate your successes” talk a lot lately, which is a prepackaged deal with the “don’t compare” one.  My plan (cough) is usually to head A–>Z and to skip the intervening letters; I somehow always fail to notice that this really doesn’t work.  However, stopping and working through all the letters in between is frustrating in the extreme at times.

Not built in a day.  (Yes, I did just unearth some very, very old pictures.)

Not built in a day. (Yes, I did just unearth some very, very old pictures.)

One of my more frequent tantrums/complaints/refrains involves how aware I am of what the other people living around me are doing:  heading out to work, coming home, going out.  I also wonder what they must think of me:  after all, I look just fine (and nailing medical information to my front door à la Wittenberg is neither smart nor necessary).  I did lie to at least two people I can think of last week (not people who live here), that I can think of immediately, about having a job; it’s easier than trying to tell any sanitized version of the truth, not to mention a whole lot less embarrassing.


Forcing myself to slow down and say that something is “good” while I’m muttering in my head “not really” is migraine-inducing.  I end up writing this out daily, which turns out not to be a bad exercise:  if it’s the only way you can see your own context and therefore get an appropriate perspective, give it a try.

Every time you do compare your “bad” day to someone else’s perceived day (at your apartment, on social media), you’re building up a context that may or may not be real and really is probably largely you filling in the blanks based on a snapshot.  Everyone’s high tide and low tide marks are different (and I’m sure I’m telling you things you know, but I’m also journaling-as-therapy here).


Now is not where I want to be forever, and it’s hard to sit with “now” at the moment– a lot of the time.  There’s also not much point in making now completely insufferable, because it increases the chances that I’ll just draw this process out longer.  Things I’m doing now may seem like pointless distractions or silly things that just pass the time, but they’re filling in cracks that have been building up for years.  Until I fill those cracks, I can’t build anything else up.

If you’re working through something at the moment, or even just sitting inside being driven batty by dreary rain, now might be a good time to take a micro view of any cracks that need attending to.  Keep playing the concert through the winter; don’t hang it up now, don’t call it quits.


So I’m trying (not always successfully; the beginning of this week was rocky) to stop questioning when I’m going to turn this magic corner and to stop being so concerned with how whatever I’m doing measures up.  I can either do what works for me right now, or I can fall flat on my face.  Only one of these is a good option.  I can make this moment miserable by agonizing over what I could/should be doing, or I can sit with what I’ve got and can do and try to at least be at peace (or perhaps I should call it a truce).  Only one of these is a good option.

Happy fall, everyone.

Time:  it's a lava lamp, not a sandglass.

Time: it’s a lava lamp, not an hourglass.