I’ve been doing a lot of writing, thinking, and feeling around loneliness. It isn’t easy for someone like me to even recognize when I am lonely and, even if/when the feeling is identified, admitting to it is even more difficult. I’m introverted, independent, and creative by nature. My head is full of stories and ideas, the voices of characters, whispers of poems. I write a lot, I doodle, paint, and draw occasionally. I have wonderful friends, and a kid I not only love to the point of achey soft-underbelly vulnerability, but also like – enjoy – laugh with.
Bless the digital age, there is always an endless stream of movies, tv shows, and books with which to play and engage. I have also gotten incrementally better at allowing myself spaces of casual community which ensure I don’t go whole weeks (when my son is at his dad’s) without at least some basic, face-to-face, human contact. All of this to say that a combination of my personality with my life experience has taken me through a juggernaut of (albeit still very middle class) challenges that have left me reasonably comfortable in my mid-life, day-to-day solitude. Comfort, of course, is not always the same as wellness, nor is it the same as wholeness, so – as I said to start – I’ve been doing this work around loneliness.
Over the years, I have felt embarrassed to outright ashamed about the parts of me that get/are lonely and – more specifically – want some kind of life “partner.” Victim of the belief that in my cisgender, straight, independent woman’ness, it is weak to want a man in my life (head, heart, soul, bed), my actual experience of loneliness winds up at odds with things I have learned by strange, toxic, compound, cultural osmosis. There have also been times in my life when, without embarrassment or shame, I have become rabidly, reasonably, and sincerely irritated by the idea of ever sharing my day-to-day domestic life with someone ever again.
At those times I have been drained-biting-and-bitter tired of the feeling that somehow a “relationship” means it is my job to make life easy for other people while I feel as though no one has ever truly done that for me. Humbled over and over when I quit my self-involved snivelling and remember that what each person means by “easy” is distinct and deeply personal, I eventually ebb out of these moods and flow back into more gentle, honest places. Heaven knows there are people who would testify under oath that chunky parts of my personality and behaviour fail to make anything easy for anyone…
The truths at my core are made of creativity, of love and light, of collaboration and interdependence. The details may differ, but I believe those truths are things that live in the centre of us all. And not just interdependence with other humans. Urban girl though I am, I feel the powerful connections we have with all the creatures and rivers and plants… With the sky… With memory and space and time…
Indelibly bound to all and to each other.
Responsible for each other.
I like to remember we are animals still – mammals in general and primates specifically – despite all the fairly benighted and pernicious pretences we make to being particular definitions of “civilized.”
Primates need touch.
We need to sit around and pull bugs out of each other’s fur.
We are better when we solve problems together.
We are better when we remember we are connected to each other and the world around us.
We are better when we do not do everything alone.
And I am not alone in my bigger picture.
But, I largely am in the minutiae of my day-to-day.
The burdens of my adult daily life – the “adulting” if you will – fall primarily and almost exclusively to me.
Despite the good friends to whom I’ve already referred and the real reciprocity of our friendships that leave us all better able to solve problems and get certain things done, there is no one to pull bugs out of my fur.
Despite my genuinely loving and interesting child, there is no other adult with whom to share the day and pressures.
And, I’m tired of pretending I don’t wish there were, that I don’t wish I too could cozy down and do some bug-picking myself…
Even if it makes me some kind of failure to the large-shoulder-pad-1980s-feminism of my early years:
I own that sharing my life with someone who is a good fit for me, and I for them, would make my life richer, more interesting, easier in some ways, harder in others, and less periodically lonely.
I own that I would like to find that person even though it’s hard, at present, to imagine how I might find him or how he might find me.
I own that I am terrified I will choose the wrong person for me again which is, often, more terrifying than the idea of living the rest of my life alone…
It’s in the water supply of various spiritual and productivity practices, that we need intention to get ourselves to new places in our lives, to navigate our way to new achievements and experiences. And, I do find more connection with the idea of “mindful intention” than the other language out there about “goal-setting.” I have no trouble believing that part of mindful intention is to be soulfully and immersively clear about those intentions. Thus, the many practices out there of writing down the kind of “partner” you wish to have, often framed as a list of qualities, perhaps a collage of images/vision board of how you would like them to make you feel or the life you’d like to live with them.
Fine, I think, okay.
It makes sense to have some sort of concise vision to which one’s intentions can be bound.
However, as many of my friends can attest, I’m reaaaaaalllly not a “list maker” or a “box checker.” It’s not that I’ve never made and checked things off a list, it’s that the compartmentalized nature of those practices used for anything other than groceries or taming anxiety when it rises and demands structure, leaves me feeling empty and without roots.
Box and list-making, checking, filling, it often makes me angry.
Lists, for me, are life disembodied and simplified in ways that are just not always healthy. I am fully willing to accept they might be a healthier tool than I realize given how many people I respect use them all the time, and that my pendulum has perhaps swung too far in the opposite direction. I’m also pretty confident that bullet-points and some sort of glue stick plus old magazine and a glass-of-wine-pop-song montage of me making a man-of-my-dreams collage just won’t work for me relative to my nature or my particular flavour of periodic loneliness.
I’m a storyteller and a spherical thinker. One of my friends calls me a pathfinder, someone who helps others find their way. My joy is often born in the deep-end-of-the-pool where I can soak myself to the bone, to the marrow – to the space between my molecules, my atoms – in the richness and challenge of living.
So, I decided my intention to know – before I die – what it is like to share myself with someone in a way that truly has meaning for me needed to be made manifest through my favourite way to use my imagination: fiction.
A type of fiction because I know – as I suspect many fiction writers do – that fiction is chock-o-block full of truth and vulnerability.
I realized that I need to imagine a whole life with this person, not just create a list of their qualities or a collection of images that make me ‘feel’ a certain way… I need to imagine what it would be like to talk to him, to not always get along, to hiccup and flow and find with him. To want to share my life with him… To benefit from having him in my life and feel as though he benefits from my presence in his as well. He needs to live and breathe for me and the only way I know to do that when he isn’t actually in my life is to write him (in all the ways those last two words might be taken).
And so this series of imagined love letters.
Perhaps not traditionally romantic because I am not traditionally romantic myself, these letters are born of my experience, they imagine a future, articulate my acceptance of my natural human need for partnership and touch, and they share “out loud” my intention to find it even if I’m not yet quite sure about the “how.”