A Lone

I sometimes reflect on my life thus far as if it were a single event playing out across a spectrum of time. That viewpoint allows me to contemplate the experience from an unusual perspective; as if I were watching it take place on a graph, with the X axis showing time and the Y axis emotion. If I were better-equipped to present the examination in the form of a graph, I would draw it; a graph might better illustrate my thoughts than my words will do.

When I view the graph in my head, close-up, I see a  line marked by a series of sharp, jagged upward bursts followed by precipitous declines into deeply negative territory. Seen in expanded form, as if viewed from a distance, the line is relatively smooth; a gently rolling pattern on an oscilloscope. Close up, though, the line is more like the EKG of a patient suffering from an extreme incidence of left ventricular hypertrophy. These views are similes of me. More serene, calmer, and more pleasing to the eye from a distance; frantic, frenetic, and unsettling in close proximity.

We cause our own loneliness, sometimes. Loneliness is symptomatic of a lack of emotional and perhaps even physical intimacy. And a lack of intimacy is symptomatic of a lack of…something. I don’t quite know. But I can see when I look at the X and Y axes of that chart that something periodically goes missing. I think that missing element may be a willingness to reveal both weaknesses and needs or desires; that unwillingness to open up is a response to a fear of unfavorable evaluation or mockery or some other form of judgmental assessment. Fear. That’s the root of loneliness, isn’t it? Fear of outright rejection or, from another angle, fear of being dismissed or rebuffed.

The raw ingredients of fear are worry, anticipation, and lack of control. So where does that leave us in the Times of Pestilence? I can almost laugh at the thought process that led to the creation of this post. But not quite. We are expected to voluntarily create empty spaces around us, spaces that discourage intimacy and encourage lone experiences. Lone. Solitary. Sole. Alone. Deserted. Secluded. Isolated. All those sharp, downward spikes on the Y axis. From the distance created by time, they may be just rolling patterns of the oscilloscope. Close-up, though, they suggest severe myocardial infarction.

Is that my life I’m looking at? Or is that the collective lives of all of humanity? They’re one in the same, aren’t they? They are, indeed, for all of us. We’re all lonely creatures, practicing loneliness in different ways.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes "Intimacy is never wrong. It can be awkward, it can be unsettling, it can feel dangerous, it can seem out of place, but it’s never wrong."― John Swinburn
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