change · community · connection · courage · fear · isolation · persistence · recovery

Nasty Jenga Partners.

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I wanted to be a botanist. In 8th grade, I decided that if I
were a botanist, I could live in a tree, far away from people. It had little to
do with botany.
It’s funny to see that what I wanted most, isolation, is
what I’ve actually been fighting against most of my life, into the present. For
someone who purports the necessity of community, and told my interviewers that
what underlines all of the work I want
to do in my life is a passion for bringing people together – they sure do scare
the crap out of me most of the time.
Not surprising. Not unique. But funny to have a primary
motivation in my life be the thing that is also hardest for me to let in, let
percolate. I suppose it’s that way for most people. Or not.
I told my therapist the other day that I want to strive
without questioning/battering myself at every step. I asked her if that was
possible, if “normal” people can actually do this? She said, Yes.
I told her that I’d once admitted to a mentor that I was
scared I was too analytical to be happy. I told her I still have that fear. If
at every turn in your life, you hound yourself, where is there room for
happiness, satisfaction, self-acceptance?
Where is there time?
Because time continues to be a mindfuck for me too. I’ve
been typing up this woman’s life stories she’s compiling at a workshop where I
work. The one that’s sticking with me is entitled, “Turning
80.” At 60, her family brought all her old friends from her home town whom she
hadn’t seen in years, and had a big party. At 70, she got together with the
close friends she’d met while living here in the “new” iteration of her life.
What will she do at 80? How will she celebrate? What’s
important?
I was driving my boss’s dad to and from dialysis in San
Francisco several years ago a few days a week for a few months. He was probably
about 80, too, and I asked him the key to life, as he seemed happy and
satisfied enough. He answered, Do what you love, and Travel.
Simple enough… if you’re not also standing at your own heel
questioning the importance and wisdom of all your moves, like a crappy Jenga
partner.
But, my therapist seems to think it’s possible. No. She knows it’s possible for people to go through their lives,
interesting, interested, engaged, without the “itty bitty shitty committee.”
I’ve said that I don’t think that committee ever actually
“goes away;” I just think the volume gets turned down. On good days, it does.
And certainly, I can admit with fervor
that my own self-doubt is light-years (light-decibels?) quieter than it had been.
Because it is those voices – those nagging thoughts to be
better, wiser, travel more, act more, play music more, paint more, engage more,
be friends more, be available more – that serve to do the exact opposite. Leave
me the fuck alone, voices!
And the lie is
that being alone is the antidote, is the cure, for those voices. That isolation is the cure for
loneliness.
The lie is that isolation is the cure for loneliness.
Of course I’m not meant to live in a tree, or observe the
apes, or tick away hours in a lab, or in front of Netflix. My primary
motivation for living is to engage with
people, connect with them and help them connect with each other. I am the diplomat incarnate.
“Did you meet so and so? They make jewelry, and you make hand puppets, maybe
you should talk.” “I know someone who just did what you’re looking to do, I’ll
give you their number.” “You’re both writers, bakers, candle-stick makers, let
me help you connect.”
Bringing people together means that I have to be willing to get together with them. I know
my hesitations, I know my underlying reasons and history, I know all the “justifiable” reasons not to. And I know how that looks like me abandoning
relationships, abandoning hobbies, abandoning myself.
But this path has become boring. Not to mention lonely. And
if I’m such an intrepid world/life traveler, then (my breathing becomes shallow as I
even contemplate this) I will have to allow myself to try this other
route, this one called Sustained Human Connection and hope the voices get bored
of me not listening, and fade out.

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