Seventeen weeks post hysterectomy, sixty days sober. Lots of crazy shit has been running through my mind. I feel like I’m trying to cross a busy one-way street in Boston, at night, only I can’t find a break in the traffic pattern. Headlights are coming at me, (those blinding, blue annoying-as-fuck ones), horns are honking, streetlights are changing rapidly, and stop signs are practically ignored.
It feels like there’s so much to do in a world that won’t stop, a world that hardly stops for a pandemic. If I could just take a step back and breathe, if it felt like that was allowed right now, if I could just get my lockdown back and collect myself…ah, peace. Quiet. Solitude. Sexy, sexy solitude.
Solitude or Isolation?
The world feels like it’s back in full throttle; I’m back to hand-flapping at the Shire’s claim-to-fame university. Yet, the thing that’s been keeping me grounded in this traffic jam is reading. I’ve read, like, a book a week and it’s been pure heaven. I love borrowing from our public library (Oscar Foss, you’re the shit!) like a mad woman with months left to live.
I read Brene Brown (took me years to get around to her), books on addiction and alcoholism, self-help books, memoirs, books on harnessing creativity, and some fun fiction. One thing I read (don’t ask me which book, cuz I don’t remember) successfully distinguished solitude and isolation for me. Now, this may have been something many of you smart people already knew, but for me, it was mind-blowing.
I always thought I isolated myself too much. Or, rather, people told me I isolated too much; I’ve been called anti-social. Nah. What I am is soul-social and, what’s more, I long for solitude. Not isolation. Oh! I just remembered, it was an addiction memoir where I learned this (makes sense, yes? Isolation-connection=addiction).
What I learned is that isolation feels like separation wrapped in suffering. Solitude feels more like a quiet morning at the lake with coffee–peaceful, tranquil. Now if you look up either of these in the dictionary or a thesaurus, they come off as one in the same. But I don’t see it that way.
I see solitude as a way to check in with myself; to see that my gears, gadgets, and thing-a-ma-bobs are securely intact and know that I’m running on all cylinders. In my solitude, I barely respond to emails, texts, and I recently deleted all social media apps from my phone. I need to feel me again, without the influence of a world that can’t stop sharing, talking, or doing for five goddamn minutes. I just want to be.
Know what? It’s fucking glorious.
Life in Real-Time
Sometimes, I have coffee dates with my husband and sometimes solo at Crescent (Half-moon) Lake right by our little, woodsy cottage. I sit listening to the loons wail (sometimes it sounds like they’re laughing), and watch them skid across the lake, teasing their prey. We watch them dive underwater and not surface for minutes. I journal. I read. We recently renovated the upstairs of our house and now we have a gorgeous, cozy, inviting bedroom. I’m taking in the life that is happening around me rather than the life I can see from my phone’s tiny screen.
As a result of not reading between blurred lines on social media, one thing I did read (clearly) was It Didn’t Start With You; a self-help book on the fascinating topic of epigenetics and intergenerational trauma. I was drawn to this book somewhere around day thirty-three of teetotaling, and I admit I was more interested in the science of generational trauma, cellular memory, and noncoding DNA. Yet surprisingly, somewhere around writing exercise number eight, I had a major, holy-fucking-shit moment.
My first “holy shit” moment came when I described my mother and what I blamed her for. Then second, when I described my father and what I blamed him for. I couldn’t think of much to blame either of them for. Sure, if you’ve read Train Gone, I had some reasons and anyone in my position might be able to think of ten more. Yet, I couldn’t think of too many because I’ve since forgiven all that shit. Holding onto it is just a lame waste of time. Also, it feels like another me, another life. Especially after writing it and then reading about it myself.
The third moment is what fucked with me. When I described my husband and what I blamed him for. His description was as if I took my mother and my father and molded them into one person. Whoa. Then! When I had written what I blamed the poor guy for it was everything that would have fit perfectly in the “I blame Mom and Dad” puzzle. I won’t bore you with the details of what I blamed on who, but what a mind-fuck!
Would I have have read ten books, and inadvertently stumbled upon this one, in the last three months if I didn’t opt for solitude? Probably not. Before you ask, “Didn’t you have a bunch of time off post surgery?” I’ll tell you no. No, I did not. I had three weeks off. That was it, and I’m still healing. See, I’m self-employed and my boss didn’t have diddly squat set aside for disability or leave of absence. I mean, who knew I’d need major surgery? Plus this is America. What’s time off? What’s self care? More importantly, what’s solitude?
I hope you make the time to find out. It’s delicious.