Day 15. One, five. Fuck.
I’ve been reading a lot about loneliness and the ways in which we westerners understand it and it’s making me lonely. I have to do it, I know. Apparently if you want to have a well rounded argument you actually have to consider other people’s points of view. This open-mindedness makes for good social skills too I’ve heard, but for the love of pearl is it necessary to write about loneliness as if there were a jagged thorn perpetually being shoved in and out and across your urethra. I honestly would rather watch a million Tim Horton’s commercials (you know the one: the old father sits with his adult son to watch the grandson play hockey and it’s all tension-ridden and familial because the son hates but really loves the old man, and I cry like a moron as they make up for years of abandonment and cheers to their double-double) than read another passage about how loneliness feels like “drowning” in a sea of (insert various descriptions of suffocating crap here). Props to one guy who in the very least got creative when he compared his loneliness to a broken vibrator: “even that doesn’t love me anymore.” That’s funny!
Ok, so while it pisses down rain and I am cozy in this tiny cafe, I’ll share my horoscope:
Horoscope for Sagittarius for September 23, 2011
Today remember that there’s no rule that says only fast-paced lives can be interesting. Just because your phone isn’t ringing off the hook or your email inbox isn’t filled near capacity on an hourly basis doesn’t mean that you don’t have it going on. You must stop looking for outside verification of your value. If you want to know if you matter, ask the people whom you want to matter to — and those who matter to you. They’ll let you know that great things are happening, and you’re a big part of them.
This reads like a motivational speech made by a guru who was once a Hollywood lawyer and now lives on a hill in an 8 000 000$ tree-fort with his dog Messiah. Why is my horoscope so hell-bent on ensuring I’m happy. Christ, it’s nauseating in a way, as though my horoscope is that poor friend who’s stuck telling me, the pathetic girl in the corner in high school, over and over again that I really am good at basketball even though I never make a basket, that I really am excellent at Physics even though 2 terms of it, that I really am pretty even though I have zits all over my face and fang teeth. Ok, enough! Here’s a fact: I wasn’t good at basketball, I sucked at Physics, and I was not pretty, I was 14 and going through my entitled stage of fucking-ugly-awkward-vampire look. Why do we need to be told we’re perfect all of the time? Lied to? Told about my authentic self and how I need to massage her esteem? That’s gross.
Speaking of motivators, liars and lawyers, let me turn to Emily White and her book Lonely: Learning to Live With Solitude.
What comes to mind when I think about this book? Sharp nails in my eyes. It’s not that it’s poorly written, or that White is a mean person. I’m sure she’s lovely and could even make a damned tasty martini without olives. But the popularity of her book, and the message it spreads like herpes, is terrifying to me as I try to drudge up this mountain of pessimism surrounding loneliness, calling out, “no, really, loneliness can be good! Pleasurable even,” as stoney medications, ECT machines, and Yoga Retreat pamphlets tumble into my face.
I will have many things to say about Emily White’s book in the upcoming months but for now, I’ll introduce her. To be fair, she’s cute and Canadian. And a lesbian I think. And maybe even tall. So what’s not to like? It’s her words and the weight they carry in a moment when we’re filled with our own self-importance that makes me cry myself to sleep. Not really. Only Tim Horton can accomplish that these days, but what I think we don’t need in a world where everyone is scrambling to find out what’s wrong with their lives and why they aren’t happy, happy, happy is yet another book professing to be able to diagnose feelings away. Getting rid of feelings, blood letting them out, didn’t work when we called them “demons” in the 5th century and I am sure as shit it won’t work today.
Here’s how White describes loneliness when her therapist asks her to conceptualize it in words. Attempting to materialize her loneliness in her quest to capture it and exterminate it, she explains: “‘Me, myself, & I,’ I doodled. Always, always me. Why, why, why?’ [my loneliness is] like a wind,’ [. . .] its color is white. It feels rough, like sandpaper, and big, like a blanket spread out. Its edges are jagged. Sometimes it feels like something pressed up against my mouth and nose, as though it were trying to suffocate me.”
So let me get this straight: loneliness feels both like nothingness (a white, ghostly wind), and a beast with sharp teeth, who, like a fumblingly bad or overtly aggressive lover is trying to give you an awful french kiss and who may or may not be trying to murder you in your sleep. Empowered with intention and a consciousness, White’s loneliness is “not a feeling, not a transient mood, but a real object” that becomes for her an “affliction”, “a significant psychological problem” and the reason she can’t sustain any “form of self-nourishment.”
Having just looked loneliness up on a variety of online dictionaries I am being informed that loneliness is also a “sadness because one has no friends or company,” a feeling of being “forsaken and abandoned,” a feeling of a “strong sense of emptiness,” and, my favorite, the condition of being “unfrequented.” What a delicious thought. “Sorry, can’t come out tonight Bub, I’m feeling too unfrequented.”
What White’s and these definitions of loneliness suggest to me is an overall notion that to be lonely is to be stuck somewhere not useful and completely self-absorbed. This will take ironing out but I, at this early stage, think this understanding of loneliness is easy, safe, and conservative. And it makes me crave Tim Horton’s donuts.