Metaphors and Similes, the Ghosts of Language Lost, Live Like Gypsies

J’ai une âme solitaire. I listen to what I presume is an artificial voice—sounding like a woman’s voice—speak that French phrase. Google Translate is the source of the voice. The sound of her voice is matter-of-fact; inappropriately so, given the sad meaning those words convey. The rough English translation is “I have a lonely soul.”  I encountered that French phrase while reading a brief bit about the suicide of Boston lead singer, Brad Delp. Delp left a note with those words on it.

Something about that phrase resonates with me. In spite of the many good people in my life, I feel intensely lonely. I will not follow in Delp’s footsteps, but I think I understand how loneliness can consume a person the way it consumed him. What I do not entirely understand is why one can be so lonely while living a life awash in human relationships.

Loneliness is not about the number of people in one’s life, it is about one’s inability to communicate with other people in a way that feeds one’s sense of connection with them. The level of connection—the depth of communication and the degree to which it makes one feel connected to another person at one’s very core—is, perhaps, the key. Like everything else, in my way of looking at the world, connections exist on a spectrum. At one end, one feels so much a part of another person that the idea of surviving the loss of that connection is unthinkable. At the other, one honestly does not care if “the other” person lives or dies. In between, there are innumerable levels that bind people together like glue, ranging from a child’s paste to Elmer‘s to SuperGlue—the levels that feed the soul (to use a somewhat trite phrase) is apt to be the very strongest ones. They are the ones in which empathy and caring and simple interest are deep and unshakable. And they are the ones most difficult to achieve. I did not mean to go on and on about this; I suppose it just nicked a nerve, prompting me to use the keyboard to emote. Spreading feelings from my phalanges.  Enough of that. On to the next stream of consciousness rant. Loneliness, though self-imposed, can feel like external punishment. I won’t put you, the reader, through it. But, one last thing: Eric Andersen, a singer-songwriter for whom I have great respect and admiration, performed a song entitled Baby I’m Lonesome. He’s now 79 years old. He still may be performing. I saw a video in which he was singing that song. He looked like he was in a tiny folk club. I remember him, primarily, as one of the trio whose music I loved: Danko, Fjeld, and Andersen. They only recorded one album, I think. Shame. I would have bought many more from them.


A few days ago, I opened a post here with a selfie, showing the new me in a pair of glasses frames belonging to my sister-in-law. I posted the same photo to my Facebook page which is, judging from the number of comments and “likes,” considerably more interesting than this blog. Since then, several people—both online and in person—have suggested I should rid myself of my “normal” frames and replace them with a set similar to the one in the photo. The implication of the suggestions, I think, is either that I look “good” in the alternate frames or, at least, “better.” One comment in particular, though, struck a chord with me: “You look better than I’ve seen you in years! Have you had some “work” done??” The woman who left that comment is a friend and former co-worker from a brief stint I had as the “number two” executive of an association; she replaced me when I left after a year.

Hmm. So, the frames have that much of an impact? Or does my friend remember me (we haven’t seen each other facet-to-face in, probably, five years) as a wizened geezer in wire-rimmed glasses? Of course, I have to bear in mind the fact that my friend looks much younger than she is (I think she must be in her early sixties; she looks like she is in her forties). That may have an effect on her perception of me, looking younger than I do in my “normal” glasses. Regardless of whether my “looks” have improved over the years or the glasses have a much greater impact on my appearance than I would have thought, I think I might take the advice. Not right away, but when I have some free time to search for frames.


The buyer of my home submitted a list of requested repairs/changes last night. They are minor, though they will take some time to address. I plan to start dealing with them right away, with the hope I can complete them within a reasonable timeframe (before closing). I am not sure why, but I did not anticipate needing to set aside time in my calendar for this eventuality. That failing will cause my schedule to be rather cramped in the coming couple of weeks. Coinciding with the repairs, we have to finish packing and moving. We have arranged for the move to take place on the eighteenth, giving us a week and a half before closing to do a thorough cleaning and to handle any remaining repairs, if necessary. Though I’m sure we can get it all done, somehow, I already can feel mounting pressure to deal with it all. And, then, the final, final, final touch-up “stuff” at the new house.

I want a long, relaxing vacation.


Last night’s call, telling me the buyer of my house had submitted a list of requested repairs/changes, came while at dinner at the lakeside home of good friends. Sitting outside with them, having a wonderful dinner on their deck, was incredibly relaxing. We started the evening with a lemon-drop martini, which I would gladly do with some regularity. During a dinner of smoked ribs, deviled eggs, beans, and scalloped potatoes (I may have missed something…it was quite a spread), our conversations covered an array of diverse topics: boats; barbeque rubs; dealing with aging parents; the level of knowledge of organizational detail leaders need to lead; the indiscretions of youth; and a thousand others.

During our discussions, the thought came to my mind that wide-ranging conversations about unrelated topics begins to bring people together. Over time, topics that initially are discussed in superficial ways tend to be probed more deeply. As people become more comfortable with one another, they delve even deeper into issues. Matters of fact begin to give way to the way people feel about the facts. The closer people become, the more likely they are to not only express their feelings but to respond to the feelings expressed by others. Their emotional shields begin to be lowered, so that different perspectives can be examined without risk of offense.

All these thoughts raced through my mind while simultaneously talking about buyer repair requests and the utility of pickup trucks versus sedans or SUVs in the environment in which we live. Maybe the fact that my mind so often runs at full speed along parallel tracks, one purely practical and the other purely emotional, is what causes me to feel lonely. Very few people can make it across both tracks, to the source. Either few people can cross the tracks or, perhaps more likely, I permit only a limited number to try. Train tracks as a metaphor for instruments of loneliness. Metaphors and similes are necessary to understand what I am thinking; otherwise, it’s all an incoherent jumble.


I hear heavy rain pounding the roof. The weather forecast calls for cloudy skies in the morning, with thunderstorms developing in the afternoon. As much as I love the ready availability of what seems like a limitless supply of fresh water, I am ready for the rain to stop for a week or two at a time. And, as I typed that, the rain slowed to a light shower; on its way to becoming a mist and, then, just humidity.


I sold my queen-sized bed last night. Thus far, we’ve arranged for the disposition of the power recliner, the bed, my desk, and various other odds and ends. Someone expressed interest this morning, through a Facebook instant message, in mi novia’s Victrola. I wish I could convince myself to go all-in on minimalism. The idea of having the freedom to relocate at a moment’s notice, taking everyone I own in one knapsack I could carry over my shoulders, is appealing. Not that I plan on relocating anytime soon. But having the freedom to know I could is high on my wish-list. “Ownership” is a concept that deserves deep and serious consideration. Because with ownership comes obligation and with obligation comes restriction and with restriction comes constriction. Ownership is, ironically, a metaphor for slavery. Or vice versa.


If I were in a different place, I might go outside and dance naked in the street. No one would see me, so there would be no danger that reflections off my shiny white body would cause blindness in people unfortunate enough to be present. But I am in the same place. The same place in which I find myself every day. At my desk. Sitting. Typing. Thinking with my fingers. TWMF. I should get a vanity license plate that reads TWMF. People would be spellbound, wondering what the might mean? No one would correctly guess. Except you. Because you and I shared a secret here. I’m off for more coffee. In about two hours, for the first time in months, I will join a group of men from my church for breakfast and conversation. Though I enjoy the company of these guys, the conversation sometimes loses me: talk of golf and team sports leaves me cold; choking and gasping for breath as I try to find a source of oxygen (because, for me, golf and team sports sucks the oxygen out of the air).


If you’ve read this far, I love you. It must be painful, wading through the detritus of the though process of a madman. 😉 I just realized I used to use detritus almost as much as I used to use shard. But I am the one who noticed my over-reliance on detritus. My friend, Patty, informed me of my addiction to the use of shard. I’m a recovering Shardist. Maybe that will be on my vanity license plate. But mi novia wants my plate to read So-Zen, reflecting what she wishes would become my newly serene and deeply calm mental state. She’s a dreamer.


Even at 68 years old, I continue to believe my world-view and my personality belong to someone no older than 42, if that. And I’m willing to take the risks a 42-year-old might take. Like having a second cup of coffee.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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