In the past few months, I’ve been rekindling a friendship with an old companion I had previously ignored for some time. Sitting in front of a blank page is my refuge, I cannot wait to return. My solitary friendship–writing prose, preferably alone, sometimes in silence other times with carefully curated playlists, allows me to feel safe. I feel like a lone caterpillar. In this bubble I create my own stories, words and characters. Nobody bothers me, makes me feel nervous, or paranoid. I don’t have to “figure anyone out.” I can make things up, or not. I can quote what I like, say what I need. I get some feedback from others, that is necessary, I know. I can chop away dead wood. There is no pressure to perform. This friend is what I make of it and we can be happy, angry, laugh or cry together. I kind of want nothing else right now. A solitary cabin in the woods for a month is seriously calling me, even to be away from loved ones would be bearable for a short time. (Yes, I am bookmarking every writer’s retreat known, I just need more time to build some chops).
Enjoying this type of solitude is very new to me, in the past I have always thought I enjoyed having tons of people around. I was a typical extrovert, dying for validation. I was told (but partly believed) I had good “people skills”. I could strike up a conversation with anyone, I knew how to “work the room” with ease. Friends, people, co-workers were abound, almost everywhere I turned it seemed. But I don’t enjoy this “skill” as much, figuring out interactions with humans beings is exhausting work and my amazing talent may have been overblown. Lately, I have failed miserably in the human interaction game. I admit, right now I am raw. I feel a bit ravaged by monitoring, creating, assessing, understanding, analyzing, caring, loving and fostering relationships with people. I also want to protect my energy. I can easily get lost, pouring myself into friendships, adjusting to co-workers, figuring out how to deal with family. I want this energy to myself, right now I need it to fuel my writing. Its not to give away to others.
So I sound like a grumpy ole hermit, this is true and I am cool with it. But the people that have stayed in my life don’t cause me this angst. We can always pick up from where we left off, I can ask for help, laugh and enjoy the world in their company. I have been mourning the loss of a few key people, some family that was close, but for now I see no path to reconciliation. Making space for my writing keeps my mind from wandering into the trap of conversation with the difficult people in my life. Then there are all the interactions that trouble me the greatest, artificial group dynamics at work, school and society. Here is where I really get into trouble and usually falter. My daughter’s school has been in full swing, almost nearing the end and its taken me this long to barely start connecting with other parents. Part of it had been my busy schedule, but the other part has been my own nervousness and lack of skill dealing with what I call the “adult world.” I am still treading lightly, hooking onto families whose children play closely with my daughter, luckily they have all been easy and outgoing. I see the close bonds other parents have made with each other, asking about family members and jobs and I am nowhere near this level of commitment. But I can’t strive to fit in right now. I know it will grow, she is on to kindergarten with many of the same kids, so friendships will come together naturally. But the intense pressure this world puts on community, friends, being outgoing, being involved is so distracting to me these days.
Again, its about energy consumption, I am not willing to let go of my valuable time right now. I have learned this lesson from the past, my large network of acquaintances simply provided a very fun distraction. Obviously I was not willing to focus on writing anyhow. When I did try, I felt so antsy, fidgeting my way through a paragraph or a half a sheet of journal paper, finally relenting and running out to play. Living in a city, where adult playgrounds are concentrated in rows of bars, clubs and restaurants made it tremendously easy to lose track of time and place. In fact, it didn’t even matter if I went into a bar alone, I would always find a “friend” in a moment’s notice, talking about almost anything, thinking to myself “ah this would make a great story” but never actually writing anything down. (Thank goodness so much of this time is still rattling around in my somewhat mushy brain).
I still enjoy going out, down to about once a month from 6-7 days a week. I try to avoid new conversation with strangers, I get my quarterly run down of my friend’s lives, we complain and reminisce. I don’t need much more than this. A date night with my husband is a time we don’t want to spend with others. Just the two of us, it happens so rarely, its an unstated rule that we don’t want to share.
All I am noticing, is that I like to be alone. Really figuring out people takes too much energy for me to enjoy any longer. An obvious exception to this is anyone in my inner circle, particularly my husband and daughter and very close friends. I expect harmony from friendships and family, not constant struggle. I abhor drama. Conflict tears me apart and my idealistic and overly optimistic viewpoint (yes I am an eager optimist despite my hermity ways) always lead to intense heartache. Then I lose time feeling sad. The other day, I laughed to myself thinking that I simply had a people problem, nothing more.
I enjoy letting my imagination roam. In my little apartment alone, I find warmth and camaraderie that I can trust. Even when my inner critic tries to rage inside, screaming about the lunacy of writing, I know how to shut her up. I just start typing. I re-read a draft, write down ideas, sift through pictures, take more pictures, walk to a coffee shop and write in my journal.
Where I find little trust is with others. I know it may serve me well to gather like minded souls, luckily I already have a few in my life, but perhaps a conclave of writers could be a useful source of energy. I am working to build this group, slowly, with a discerning eye. Negative people, distractions, enabling buddies are not needed at this time. And here is the thing, I don’t need much right now, except to focus on writing stories. Learning the tricks of writing is filled with enough challenge and reward to keep me going for a long time, I am sure. Writing is a solitary world that is unconfined to time and space. I have only recently stumbled upon this energy. It can thrust you into a world without your control. In this world, I can be dark and moody. I can go where I need, explore a topic, choose my art as I see fit. This is not filtering content or writing just to fill a word count, I do this for almost no particular reason except to fulfill my need to write.
The only pang of regret I carry in this moment is not starting this journey sooner. I mean really writing in earnest, not prancing around the edges. The get your hands dirty–in gerunds and adverbs, imagery, adjectives, poetry and words, narrative and tone and mood and space–type of writing. The fun stuff. All alone in my expansive imagination.