8th November 2015
There are two things – besides sex – that aren’t much fun doing alone: crying and laughing. My darling Joel has been gone nearly 2 weeks and right now it feels like an eternity. We Skype everyday, one of the rewards of the digital era, and it’s wonderful to ‘see’ each other and share a chuckle or a tear. But once you hit the hang-up button it’s as lonely as a post-masturbation orgasm.
It’s summer here today, mid 70’s and as still as a photograph. I sit outside with my morning coffee and enjoy the heat of the sun on my face until I notice that it is so hot the clover is drying out. There are new buds on all the roses and the recently pruned shrubs and hedges, which now should be lying dormant, are sprouting new growth. Even the new grass is pushing its way toward the sun.
I’d like to lie dormant for a while. How lovely it would be to stay still, to surrender to an internal winter and not have to produce or achieve anything. But between allergy and getting the novel between covers, I am unable to sit still and instead, veer being panic and trust. I eat a piece of bread and realize half way through, that it contains walnuts. For an hour I check my body every few minutes to see if it’s erupting. Already on high anxiety, I receive an email from the typesetter who, good soul that she is, is working literally around the clock for me. She writes that I must fill out 7 pages for Ingram; the publisher. You know how that goes…pages of online forms complete with their own secret formulae and no one to talk with. I take a break and go back outside.
When did we become so isolated? I’m not talking about the kind of isolation I sometimes experience living here alone. This type of isolation, as overwhelming as it can be, nevertheless brings gifts unadorned by fancy wrapping; the gift of feeling infinitesimally small, which we are, an experience both ego-deflating and liberating; the gift of having no one to blame – which has the instant ability to act as a magnifying mirror, reflecting not the lines and sags of aging, but the deeper defects of character; the gift of silence in which one can hear the endless spin of futile thought and the jumble of minutae that the mind constantly recycles in the vain attempt at controlling the future.
These aspects of solitary life, when faced head-on, may cause one to whimper for a while, but eventually lead to discovering new possibilities: like having time to practice piano again, re-booting twice a day meditation, and framing a drawing from my Vessel series, to add to what we call our ‘pitcher wall.’
The other kind of isolation is far more frightening, I think: millions of us alone with our little screens, thumbing our way to non-existent connection, only to hit send or next or continue, and be rewarded with the loneliest sound in contemporary life: the universal digital raspberry of rejection, informing us that something we have done is wrong. This nasty little dictatorial ding carries no generosity. It doesn’t inform us of ‘what’ we did wrong, or if it does, rarely explains how to remedy it. No, we’re on our own out here in cyberspace, pinging and dinging our way to extinction.
I received quite a few ‘dings’ this morning trying to fill out those forms, but I eventually outsmarted the passive aggressive ding bastard. It took me 3 hours, but I did it. Then I went up the hill to Gianni and Luana’s for a lunch of soup, chicken stuffed with ham, sautéed vegetables and, joy of joys, a whole lot of laughter. Now I’m back home, sitting at the outside table. Once in a while I gaze down to the far field and see the cows munching and mooing. It’s me and them….
Tomorrow I will journey to Provence to spend a week with my dear friends, Scout and Geesum; friends with whom I can collapse without guilt; friends who will take care of me and with whom I can cry and laugh without hearing the digital ding of failure.