The Interior of Loneliness (Today’s Daily Remembrance)

It feels like my life is somewhat imploding currently, mostly due to ongoing problems at my job. I’ve written about feeling as though I can’t avoid the inevitable collapse of my defenses and strategies for avoiding a breakdown. Today, I went to my primary care doctor and spent half the time crying about the state of affairs in which I find myself. Where I ended up at was articulating how little social capital I feel that I possess–how few people and related resources I have when the chips are down. I’m both lonely and alone.

My loneliness is not rooted in feeling a lack of feeling deeply connected, rather, it is more foundational to what it means to be a “social animal” as humans are. In other lives, I would have been cast out of the tribe or burned as a witch or left without a defender when the enemy arrived. I’m an outsider not the 80’s teen movie version where the outsiders join up and rebel, but in a way that leaves me truly isolated. In my weakest moments, I wish I’d been born with less capacity for insight and self-reflection, because I think my ability to recognize how differently others hold intimacy as compared to how I do makes what I lack all the more painful. I’m missing both the ability to feel safeness within closeness as well as the ability to receive what others offer in terms of intimacy.

Today, I have no solutions and no advice to myself or anyone like me. I don’t know how to fix it and I felt insulted and misunderstood when my doctor pushed medicine to “reduce stress.” As far as I’m concerned, there isn’t a pill to allow a person to love and be loved; it’s rooted in attachment and hard to change. I guess as we approach a day of which I’m not very found, I will have to content myself in knowing that my loneliness and alienation are real, they have consequences in my life and that all I can offer myself is compassion in sitting with the difficulty of those emotions. Do you relate to any of the thoughts and feelings I’ve shared? If so, what has helped you feel compassion for yourself in this space?

A large christmas tree outdoors covered in red balls and large white snowflakes.

Visiting the Zoo on Christmas (Today’s Simple Pleasure)

Christmas (along with my birthday) is one of the most difficult holidays to manage emotionally as someone who is estranged from their family and who struggles to connect in relationships. I’ve been invited at times to friend’s houses for the holidays, but have found being around an intact family stirs up more pain than it soothes. I’ve also tried staying home and telling myself it is just a day like any other day, which tends to lead to binge-eating and/or wasting money on online shopping. This is the first year that I chose to engage in an activity on my own.

I visited a local zoo and was greeted more times than I can count with a “Merry Christmas!” Each time I heard it, I felt a little less like I was missing out on something and a little more like I was present experiencing something. None of the other zoo-goers were particularly festive, although I did see one child gifting another a pale-stripped candy cane. The zoo itself was decorated in holiday themes galore and the cafeteria offered a special holiday menu.

I’d only ever been to low-budget “zoos” growing up, the kind where some crank gathered together animals in questionable housing and in which their distress was palpable. I have mixed feelings about even the highest-quality places as keeping animals locked up feels against their nature. As I visited the zoo near where I live now (which is much better than the ones I had growing up), I felt an internal clash of recognition that the animals were safer than they’d be in the wild and that they were serving as “ambassadors” for their habitats, but also that they weren’t free to live life on their own terms.

A polar bear diving into water.
A polar bear diving into water.

The animal that pulled at my heartstrings the most was the polar bear. I got to the zoo right as it opened and walked fast enough that I was able to see the bear alone. I was very upset when I first saw it as it was pacing back and forth in a small area and looked agitated. It was scratching its sides against the enclosure in a frantic rather than soothing way. As I stood watching it and willing it to calm, it looked at me more and more directly with each pass. Finally, it jumped off the small ledge on which it was standing and swam right up to where I was standing! I felt immensely connected to it and an overwhelming feeling of sadness to which I could not put words overtook me. I’m sure my emotional reaction had little to do with what the bear itself was feeling, but, in that moment, I believed that something more than two beings staring at each other was happening. I could barely bring myself to leave the exhibit.

A small deer-like creature peering through a wire fence.
A small deer-like creature peering through a wire fence.

The animal that delighted me the most was a small deer-like creature (I did not pay much attention to the information on the signs). When I first approached the enclosure, I only saw one deer and it ran away from me. I looked to my right and there was this little one only a few feet from me, gazing at me with amused eyes. It kept regurgitating and chewing cud (or something like that) which was not the most pleasant eating practice to watch, but I felt joy and a sense of adventure in its perkiness.

The zoo is very large and I’ve purchased a year’s membership, so I left several exhibits unexplored, waiting to be visited next year. On the whole, it felt so good to do something aside from spending money on useless trinkets or stuffing my face with junk food on a day on which my sense of alone-ness in the world tends to peak. Holidays are not necessarily a choice, for those of us with difficult family issues, between spending time with people who have harmed us, crashing parties that heighten our distress or curling up alone crying. We can make whatever we want out of it. Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays!).

Unsolidified: My Self-Definition

I knew my reason for existence before I knew who I was as a person. I’m here to aid in the soul-recovery mission of reconnection lost, buried and disowned parts of self with Self. I’m a shame-eater; someone who lives as unabashedly authentically as possible in order to provide space for others to do the same.

Coming to know one’s self when all you have to go on is chips of cracked porcelain takes patience and reconstruction skills. Nothing feels permanent to me about who I am; the projected image fills in and reshapes faster than I can process at times. I work often from the outside in; I alter my external surroundings, my appearance, my relationships and suddenly another motif of identity is emblazoned on the wall of my being.

Above all, I am fluid. Every pot I shape that bears my image solidifies only so far as I shield myself from the kilns of predictability and unity of self. I gaze with envy at those who know themselves, not simply as well as I know my pieces, but who know themselves whole and as one. I can tell you the story of how I move but not where I’m located; my being resists roots, resists entombment, resists place.

This is for survival, this ability to reshape and reform at a moment’s notice. Quick, gather the shards and make haste at any sign of danger. Present as battle-worn and shield or as open and tender, whatever works in the moment. But others take my façade as being; the true cracks are too well hidden and the visible fissures their “aha, weakness” distraction lines. They see me as I want to be seen, as I need to be seen, not as I am.

I go piece by piece, holding each up to light, notating its edges aloud, and still I without witness. My dog, truthfully, can ferret out my lost selves better than any, which somehow makes it worse. Lacking community, I must be mirror and container and wall and ground for myself.

Many of my margins break from center. I am nonbinary. Panromantic. Asexual. A sexual abuse survivor. A person with dissociative identity disorder, multiple anxiety disorders, depression, PTSD, chronic pain and on and on. A person without family, home, deep cultural ties or social support. I am paradox: rigid, brittle and yet able to bend and restructure myself instantly.

I know why I’m here and what my task is. I know why I was shattered beyond recognition early on. The unfairness of it is irrelevant; my purpose is fixed. I find myself and know myself and super-glue myself as I live it out. I know joy in simplicity and hope through endurance. Little that I have has come easily. Nothing makes me prouder than being present as a cracked and worn piece of self is cupped in palms with delicacy and honor. Even flecks of glass catch the rain.