I Am Selfish

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24I am selfish. I stand alone from the crowd and guard that aloneness and love for solitude with my very existence. I do this to preserve me, myself. Without it, a different me comes into being. A being that placates to the wishes and desires of others before my own. I know this other person as well as I know myself because he existed as a strong part of who I was for a long time. Like me, he is a good person too. Unlike me, he gives his precious time upon this earth freely to others. He does what they want him to do rather than doing what I want to do. 

People generally like him more than me because he goes along with the crowd. I on the other hand am only appreciated by a few, but those few are dear to me. Those, who like myself, thrive in their individual solitude. O’ we have friends but generally prefer our own company to that of others. These are the individuals I chose to share time with and can do so without a feeling of sacrifice. They understand my need for solitude. Others think of me as aloof and I am, but by choice, not circumstance.

When I let my guard down around the mote of my solitude and join the crowd in some undesired adventure, not always, but usually I end up resenting that decision. Resentment is a rather strong word because it is founded in the past and I cannot reclaim lost time. Time is only present, but if I am going to waste my time, I want to waste it doing something I want to do. Then it is not wasted time at all. It is creative time. When I sit at a window starring at the world, I am using this time creatively. There is always something going on inside this head on mine. For me, it is just as active an activity as going shopping at the local mall or on line is for the crowd.

Creative people use time differently than most, and our creativeness is best served by solitude. At least this is how it works for me. There are socially creative people who thrive in the center of the crowd and move along with it at the crowd’s pace. Those of us who love our solitude move along at our own pace. Time is a gift to be appreciated and not a commodity to be exhausted.

So there I am in a nutshell. I am selfish with my time because I so love my solitude, and I protect this gift for my creative existence in the same manner a mother of any species protects her young as best I can.

Acedia

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24There are times when I have not wanted to be of this planet. In truth, I have grown weary with the world, the politics, and the unending changelessness of things. A presidential campaign lasting for more than two years. The power and wealth of the few and the continued suppression of the many. The continuing wars in Afghanistan, Syria, and Iraq still mounting in their toll of innocent lives. World famine and financial greed all increasing at alarming rates even when the tools to bring about change exist but are not implemented. The return of once eradicated diseases like cholera, scarlet fever, yellow fever, and polio now indifferent to the drugs previously used in their demise.

I do not want to be with friends nor do I seek to engage in new friendships. Phone calls and emails go unanswered or unreturned. I get through each day as another day of life doing the things I love, but somehow doing these things brings a different kind of satisfaction. It feels as if a completion of life to this point is being made. I find myself waiting for activities of the day to end so I can enjoy the blissful solitude of my own surroundings and wait for nightfall without interruptions. The darkness somehow feels safer for me now. There is nowhere, except for here, where I have to venture. I fall into the void of sleep with no thoughts of waking until the morning sun forcefully opens my eyes.

I am on a journey. It is not unlike journeys I have taken before except for the absence of a fixed timetable but this journey is internal, not external. Whenever I take journeys out into the world, I always come back with stories and experiences to share with friends. Small tokens commemorating the places to which I traveled. Pictures, postcards, etc.  I always come back a different person than the one who started the adventure initially but this journey is proving to be much different from those  I have taken before.

At first I thought I might be in a state of depression except for the fact that my feelings are not out of hopelessness or inadequacy nor are they out of synchronization with the events taking place in the outside world. It is more of a transition. A transformation of sorts. A transformation which takes me to my depths, rattles my brain, and challenges all my beliefs once again. I could blame these feelings on my aging and the facing of my impending death but I think it is more than a sense of doom. It is in a word, “acedia.” I know acedia is defined as “spiritual or mental sloth; apathy” in today’s English dictionary, but I prefer the medieval Latin and more philosophical spelling and definition to the modern psychological one. In Latin, accidie, as it was spelled, is a state that inhibits pleasure and prompts the rejection of life.* Thomas Aquinas associated it with the turning of one’s back on things, a torpor of spirit. Acedia is often translated as sloth, which is actually quite different.

The conditions of such a journey make it difficult to share with friends. I cannot explain something I am in the middle of experiencing myself. I have no photographs of pristine mountains covered with glistening white snow and no stories to share from fellow travelers met along the way. What I can share is this. The journey of transformation is one to be taken on numerous occasions throughout our lives. As soon as you finish with one, another waits on the sidelines to grab you and wisps you away. This type of journey requires a strength of belief. Not in a religious sense, as in a god, but a belief in oneself. A strength you may not even know was possible until you experience it firsthand and like those journeys taken into the outside world, you will return a much different person than when you entered. You will return with a greater truth and belief in yourself and your place in the world. Your awareness, acceptance, and understanding of life will be enhanced by the discoveries you learn about yourself. There is no preparation you can make ahead of time. There is no gear to pack and no magic wand can assist you along this journey. One does not take such a journey with plans to return to where one started nor do you know where or when it will end.

This life, in the end, is but a preparation for our final journey toward death. I believe the real journey starts when our essence or spirit is free of this body. I have loved and I have been loved. I do not ask for anything more.

I wish you well.

 

*Blackburn, Simon. The Oxford Dictionary of Philosophy. Walton Street, Oxford, England OX2 6DP: Oxford University Press, 1994.

Loneliness And The Solitude Of Aging

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24Solitude is a choice, but loneliness creeps into your life like a dark storm cloud releasing its thunder and lightening into the essence of one’s being. It feels like bombs exploding overhead while depression and self pity sprinkle down in an endless shower of gloomy days and nights without any relief. I can have many friends and still experience solitude but loneliness is the absence of friends and family with whom one can communicate. Loneliness makes everything and everyone invisible. Nothing else exists outside its self contained bubble.

I have often written about solitude in these pages and how it fulfills my need for creative and private time, but I have only experienced loneliness three times in my life. First when I lost Kathleen. That was the most miserable time of my existence. I did not want to cope with life, nor did I know how to cope with a condition I had never experienced before. I spent many days without ever getting out of bed. All the plans and dreams we created died with her in the river that afternoon. For the eighteen months of our relationship we were inseparable. After her death, I was lost.

Many individuals came to my support, even people I did not know but I was still alone. They offered condolences, support groups, and the names of grief counselors. Grief and loneliness, I learned are often companions. My mother asked me to turn to god but god had already forsaken me. These recommendations were all possible methods for getting out of the deep well of funk I found myself in, but the loneliness was too demanding. It had taken over my life like a disease. No helping hands or rope were long enough to reach me. This feeling of being totally alone in the world lasted for almost a year before I was able to surface and breathe again.

The second time I experienced loneliness was when both my parents died within a few months of one another. Although the loss was devastating, the loneliness was not as deep nor as severe as before. We know our parents will one day die, but there is no way to prepare. The loneliness this time was different. It was centered on the realization that the number of people who have known me all my life was dwindling. The only living person remaining who had known me all my life was a brother with whom I have no connection other than blood.

The loneliness was short lived, maybe one or two months following my mother’s death. She had always been the rock of the family. She was the one I knew I could always turn to to sort out my confusion. I now had no one I could call at anytime of the day or night. There was no longer her voice of comfort, but she had prepared me for life as best she could. The lessons she taught me and my previous experience were what got me through this second period of loneliness.

And my third encounter with loneliness is right now. This current period of loneliness is different from the previous two in as much as there is no grief involved except for perhaps the grief over my own impending death if one can grieve for oneself. This loneliness is the loneliness of growing old and the ending of a blood line. The ending of the bloodline of my great grandfather’s name.

From a strictly biological perspective, our only true purpose in life is to reproduce our kind. Every life form on the planet does this during its allotted time between life and death. (Three days for the fruit fly, and some seventy odd years for humans) My brother and I both fulfilled that purpose. We both brought daughters into this world. The family name however will cease to exist when we are gone.

Until now I had never thought about this situation, but it does carry with it a certain weight of loneliness, although not the deep well of loss experienced after Kathleen’s death, nor the type of loneliness following the death of my parents. It is, however loneliness. It is the ending of my family’s history under my great-grandfather’s name.

My dear friend Karen recently shared her joy when the family welcomed their first male grandchild after five female grandchildren. As I read her announcement, the empty, hollow feeling of loneliness creeped into my being again. I realized the feeling almost immediately having experienced it twice before. Loneliness takes on many forms and appears on many different levels. I did not expect nor anticipate it would enter me in this manner.

For most of my life I have chosen solitude over the companionship of family and friends. I am, and have always been a loner. I have no regrets regarding this choice in my life.

The words of Albert Einstein perhaps describe my situation best.

I am a horse for single harness, not cut out for tandem or teamwork. I have never belonged wholeheartedly to country or state, to my circle of friends, or even to my family. These ties have always been accompanied by a vague aloofness and the wish to withdraw into myself increases with the years. Such isolation is bitter, but I do not regret being cut off from the understanding and sympathy of other men. I lose something by it to be sure, but I am compensated for it in being rendered independent of the customs, opinions and prejudices of others, and I am not tempted to rest my peace of mind upon such shifting foundations.

A rather harsh reality but true of my life. As I age and approach my own death, I find more easily the solitude I fought to have in my youth. This is perhaps because I have fewer friends and family members left on this floating sphere to influence my life in any way. I am not sure why, but solitude has always been my choice. I find with aging it becomes almost a natural element of my life on its own. At the same time that solitude has become my norm, I find myself consciously working to keep loneliness at bay.

My Best Friend—Solitude

B4C0A454-579E-47EC-B306-E76CD25BDF24Before living it, I learned about solitude from books. Two particular guides into this area of depth were Alice Koller in her soul searching quests written about in An Unknown Woman and A Station Of Solitude, and May Sarton in her books Journal Of A Solitude and The House By The Sea. These two authors changed my view of solitude from one of fear, ( “I do not know anyone who wants to be alone as much as you,” my mother used to say as if something was wrong in wanting to be alone. “Go outside and play with the other boys.”) into something I could wholeheartedly embrace as my own. This transformation into my love of solitude took a long time to root, but once rooted, could never be pulled from my soul. During my forties, I sent Sarton’s books to my mother. A few weeks later I received a letter.

June 16, 1995

Dear Son,

…I know we have not always seen eye to eye, but I always wished the best for you. You were different from the other boys in the neighborhood. You liked being alone. I worried when they teased you and called you “a mama’s boy,” but you have grown into a fine young man and a well loved human being…

I support you in your choice of solitude. My only hope is that it not take you too far away from me. Thank you for the books. They helped me to understand more about your choices. I will read whatever you send me…

Love, Mom

In her book “Quirkyalone,” Sasha Cagen says those who seek solitude are “distinct individuals, as complete and potentially happy alone as with our families and loves.” She defines “quirkalone” (kwun kee. uh. lohn) n. adj. as “a person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than date for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status.”

Solitude is a topic discussed before in my writings and a topic I choose to revisit in the form of my “Mystery Date.” A writing prompt. I usually treat myself well. I am attentive to my needs and conscious of my desires but I have always had a strong desire for solitude. Many confuse solitude with loneliness but they are very different. Loneliness, refers to a lack of companionship and is often associated with unhappiness. Solitude, on the other hand, is the state of being alone or cut off from all human contact. Think of the solitude of the long distance runner just in a more extended picture. You can be in the midst of a crowd of people and still experience loneliness, but not solitude, since you are not physically alone. Similarly, if you enjoy being alone, you can have solitude without loneliness.

You may ask — “What is it that I get from solitude that I don’t get in relationships?” The flames of my passion burn in solitude because I am living my life, the way I choose. In relationships I so try to make my lover’s dream my own, at which point the flames of my own passions begin to die.

I want to be in a relationship with another without losing my own path. When I love deeply, I give up me for the relationship. When I give my being to the relationship, I lose me. I feel completely lost. My soul is not at peace. It feel as if I’m trying to fit my life into some “normalcy” when nothing in my life has ever been “normal.” I tell myself, the me I am will still shine, but he doesn’t. My only salvation becomes time alone.

I strive to not bring harm to anyone, particularly those I love. Love is in its way a protection from harm as much as it is a tunnel into it. So how do I do something for myself without bringing harm in the form of personal pain to the ones I love? It’s not about “others” in any real way. It is about me being me. I can be no other. The me I know me to be. The me who is passionate about this life I so love. Solitude reconnects me with the me I believe in and love, and is therefore is my perfect date.

Source Credit: Cagen, Sasha. Quirkyalone—Manifesto For Uncompromising Romantics. Harper Press, San Francisco. 2004.

Date With Solitude

In her book Quirkyalone* Sasha Cagen says those who seek solitude are “distinct individuals, as complete and potentially happy alone as with our families and loves.” She defines quirkalone (kwun kee. uh. lohn) n. adj. as “a person who enjoys being single (but is not opposed to being in a relationship) and generally prefers to be alone rather than date for the sake of being in a couple. With unique traits and an optimistic spirit; a sensibility that transcends relationship status.”

Solitude. It is a topic discussed before in my writings and a topic I choose to revisit in the form of my “Mystery Date.” I usually treat myself well. I am attentive to my needs and conscious of my desires. Lately I have experienced a stronger desire for solitude. Many confuse solitude with loneliness but they are very different. Loneliness refers to a lack of companionship and is often associated with unhappiness. Solitude on the other hand is the state of being alone or cut off from all human contact. You can be in the midst of a crowd of people and still experience loneliness but not solitude since you are not physically alone. Similarly if you enjoy being alone you can have solitude without loneliness.

What is it that I get from solitude that I don’t get in relationships? The flames of my passion burn in solitude because I am living my life the way I choose. In relationships I try to make my lover’s dreams my own at which point the flames of my own passions begin to die.

I want to be in a relationship with another without losing my own path. When I love deeply, I give up me for the relationship. When I give my being to the relationship, I lose me. I feel completely lost. My soul is not at peace. I feel unnatural, as if I’ m trying to fit my life into some “normalcy” when nothing in my life has ever been normal. I tell myself, “The me I am will still shine,” but he doesn’t. My only salvation becomes time alone.

I strive to not bring harm to anyone, particularly those I love. Love is in its way a protection from harm as much as it is a tunnel into it. So how do I do something for myself without bringing harm in the form of personal pain to the ones I love? It’s not about “others” in any real way. It is about me being me. The me I know me to be. The me who is passionate about this life I so love. Solitude reconnects me with the me I believe in and love. It is a perfect date.

*Cagen, Sasha. Quirkyalone—Manifesto For Uncompromising Romantics. San Francisco: Harper, 2004.

Integrity

We join groups primarily for survival, strength in numbers, and because of similar language, and ideologies. Each time we join a group or organization we surrender some of our individual freedoms to that group whether it is a corporate structure, a political caucus, a religious organization, or a country. This is not necessarily a bad thing and I do not wish to paint it as such. We all have different needs but mostly we adapt to the rules and bylaws of the organization until they become our own. Organizations are designed to encourage conformity by their very nature. You either conform or you are removed. They strive to make you a corporate man/woman, to accept and adhere to the philosophy of the organization. That is how organizations survive, through the obedience of their employees or citizens. In exchange for your loyalty, you receive a paycheck, some benefits, two weeks vacation a year and the rights and benefits of being a citizen of a group or nation. You have a national identity which often over rules and over shadows your individual identity.

I know. I sold my soul to the structures of our enslavement because I too had bills to pay and a family to support. I bought into the whole American dream ideology because I knew no other life. We are programmed from early life to be successful, to bow to the almighty dollar. My mother aways told my brother and I that she wanted us to have a better life than she and dad. She worked her entire life even after retirement because she knew no other way to live. When I told her I was going to take early retirement, she discouraged me from doing so. “What will you do every day,” she asked. I thought she understood me, and she did more than most, but not completely. Very few do.

My entity, this body, mind, and soul, and my freedom are two of the things I value most in this life. It disappoints me to have to join any group outside of myself even the non-profit organization that carries these words to the world. “He who follows any man ceases to follow himself.” Whenever we join a group of more than one, as with marriage, we must to some degree compromise part of who we are for the survival of the relationship. We put the relationship before ourselves if it is to survive. I will not sacrifice any part of my freedom for anything, except for love. For love I would sacrifice everything and do it with a smile. Love fills a void as nothing else in this world is capable of doing, but that only last as long as the true love lasts. In my experience, my individual nature eventually feels trapped by relationships when the motivation is no longer love. I know how much my personal integrity means to my survival. I will not settle for less than I know is possible.

My New Perfect Roommate

Meet Simone, my new roommate, named after a  dream character who was always there but never in the way during a recent, somewhat traumatic time in my life. Oh, I have had some wonderful roommates during my existence on this planet, but I always felt as if I were somehow comprising my own life in order to accommodate theirs. Perhaps they felt the same. I do not know.

Compromise is necessary in a relationship and in shared accommodations, but at some point I made a conscious decision to live alone and have done so for most of my life. When I moved to Ecuador, I decided not to have anything for which I would be responsible other than myself. I did not want anything that would tie me down, infringe upon my solitude, or prevent me from traveling whenever I chose to do so. I wanted neither a partner, a pet, nor a plant. Nothing that would require time, attention, or care. I admit it. I am very selfish with my time and my life.

Well, as you can see, I have softened in my old age. I am not totally selfish I suppose, as now I have brought a plant into my home for which I am responsible. It was a difficult decision. I pondered many a long night over my choice, but when I saw Simone sitting quietly on the back of the sidewalk vendor’s booth surrounded by other brightly colored floral displays all vying for attention, I knew she would be the perfect roommate. Not as much fun as a puppy, and not as cuddly as a kitten but easy to care for. No twice a day walks and no litter box to empty. No chewed up slippers and no peeing in the corners. I was instantly smitten.

After almost a week together, my new roommate and I are getting along splendidly. Although she never seems to have much to say, she is a great listener. She listens to my ramblings all day with complete acceptance even when I practice my Spanish. What a woman! Tomorrow she gets her glass of water for the week. That is all she wants, and an occasional rain shower to clean her leaves. I would give her more but she says too much is harmful to her delicate system of roots. Maybe it is just because we are still in the honeymoon phase of our relationship. She might turn into a real bitch in a few months, and start demanding more sunshine, fertilizer, and who knows what? Maybe the removal of dead and dying leaves to maintain her youthful looks and trim figure, or a larger pot, but for now she is the perfect roommate. I could not ask for more.