The oddball

He heard colors.

He saw voices.

People told him he’d gotten it wrong when he said it like this, but he knew better. It took so much effort to tell anybody the truth of what he experienced that it didn’t matter if he told the whole truth, so help him, God.

God was the only one who could help him now, anyway.

The people recoiled when he told them about the voices. What little they knew about mental health warily shuffled to the fore at the word. Everyone knew that test, said quickly, almost as an aside, an afterthought.

“Do you hear voices”, as if that made sense.

“Of course I hear voices”, he wanted to scream. “How do you think I can hear you now? How does anybody hear voices? Don’t we all?”

But they never said the rest. It was assumed, unspoken, perhaps out of fear of raising the spirits. What they meant was “Do you hear voices of people who aren’t here?”

Ghosts perhaps.

Or demons.

They didn’t care. All they knew was it was bad.

But they conveniently forgot about the prophets, the real ones. They heard voices too. Well, to be precise they heard a Voice, the Voice. The prophets were respected. Sometimes ostracized, but respected.

He didn’t want to admit it wasn’t one, though. There were hundreds. He listened to audiobooks to drown them out. Sometimes the voices joined in. Sometimes he couldn’t tell which characters were real, but he didn’t let on about this. It was best not to alarm people more than they already were.

He was an oddball. Everybody knew. There was no denying he stuck out, and yet he was invisible too. He was so unusual in his manner and looks that everybody walked around him, not engaging him, in case he was wild, or dangerous, or both.

They didn’t know why he felt so odd to them. It was the kind of oddness that you didn’t even notice, like bad feng shui, or the house that is always abandoned, or the business that always fails on that one particular corner.

He was like that, ill-fated, no blame to it, but there you go. It doesn’t matter whether there is blame or not to a car accident, either. The damage is the same.

They didn’t realize that their abandonment only worsened the symptoms, only made him sicker and stranger. It was a snake eating its own tail. It was a feedback loop producing only more and more noise.

Perhaps this was why psychiatrists used to be called “alienists” not very long ago. That sense of otherness, of being alone and lonely, of not fitting in, reinforced over the years by unthinking others, made him feel like he was an alien from another country, or planet. Never welcomed, never included, never brought in from the cold to warm by the fire, he drifted, cold, heartless and loveless.

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Into the deep (part 4)

This layer was added this morning (3-29-16).

Additions –
bronze and gold gel pen
white chalk pen
decoupage glue
“abandoned coral” Distress stain
the broken tip of a key (found)
glitter gem

Top left
deepd1

top right

deepd2

bottom left (pleased to discover that the edge of the book page didn’t glue down well. I’ll add a red stamp here later)

deepd3

bottom right (The glue will go shiny and translucent when dried. The key tip reminds me of Noah’s ark.)

deepd4

Middle detail

deepd5

I’m reminded of the photographic idea of dodge and burn. I’m highlighting certain areas and downplaying others. I try to make it look like it is all planned, but I’m making it up as I go along. It is a voyage of discovery.

This is kind of like when I painted the bathroom by myself. It took four hours. I was alone with my own thoughts all that time, and it was a little intense. This is also part of why I partly dislike how I exercise – water aerobics. I can’t listen to an audiobook while I do it, and I can’t take down notes of ideas I have. I’m stuck with myself, and that is hard sometimes. But I do it because it is always important. If you can’t stand being by yourself, then who would want to spend time with you? Friendships need to be constructed of two equal people who can stand on their own, and work even stronger together. If one or both lean on the other too much, it is harmful.

Quotes about silence and solitude

“But I’ll tell you what hermits realize. If you go off into a far, far forest and get very quiet, you’ll come to understand that you’re connected with everything.” – Alan Watts

“How much better is silence; the coffee cup, the table. How much better to sit by myself like the solitary seabird that opens its wings on the steak. Let me sit here forever with bare things, this coffee cup, this knife, this fork, things in themselves, myself being myself.” – Virginia Woolf

“You talk when you cease to be at peace with your thoughts; and when you can no longer dwell in the solitude of your heart you live in your lips, and sound becomes diversion and a pastime.” – Kahlil Gibran

“All the unhappiness of men arises from one single fact, that they cannot stay quietly in their chamber.” – Blaise Pascal

“You rest now. Rest for longer than you are used to resting. Make a stillness around you, a field of peace. Your best work, the best time of your life will grow out of this peace.” – Peter Heller

“There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God.” – Rumi

“While I am looking for something large, bright, and unmistakably holy, God slips something small, dark, and apparently negligible in my pocket. How many other treasures have I walked right by because they did not meet my standards?” – Barbara Brown Taylor

“Silence is the language of God, all else is poor translation.” – Rumi

“I felt in need of a great pilgrimage, so I sat still for three days.” – Hafiz

“Prayer is sitting in the silence until it silences us, choosing gratitude until we are grateful, and praising God until we ourselves are an act of praise.” – Richard Rohr

“Silence is precious; by keeping silence and knowing how to listen to God, the soul grows in wisdom and God teaches it what it cannot learn from men.” – Blessed Anne of St. Bartholomew

Feeling lonely can be helpful.

“The first to help you up are the ones who know how it feels to fall down” – from the website “Soul Gazing”.

I often feel alone. I often feel as if I am by myself. Sometimes I really am by myself.

Sometimes I’m in a group of people and when we choose places to sit it turns out that there are three to a table and end I’m one to a table. It hurts. I didn’t choose to sit alone, but I am. It is like I lost at “musical chairs”.

Sometimes I overshare, and I’m a little hard to deal with. Sometimes being my full expression of myself is a bit too much for people. Sometimes that means I get excluded.

I’m starting to understand I’ve been made this way, this being different, this being separate. Because I’m different and separate, I can understand others who are different and separate.

It’s empathy, not sympathy.

Because I understand their exclusion I can include them.

I’ve come to realize that what I have to bring to the world requires that feeling, that sense of alone-ness, of alienation. That way I can “see” others who are also alone, and make a bridge.

It doesn’t make it easier, really. It is still hard. I’d love to feel like I was understood, that people “got” me.

I’m starting to feel that we all have that feeling every now and then. I’m starting to feel that many of us who are “in” are just faking it.

I’m tired of faking it. I’m tired of hiding who I am. I’m tired of conforming. The more I try to fit into someone else’s box, the more I stunt my own growth.

I think that when I’m honestly myself, my true self, I give other people the permission to be themselves too. It is my experiences of alienation and exclusion that have taught me this.

I could have felt forced to comply, to submit, to blend in. Instead, I’m going the other direction – and calling others to join me.

Alone again

Until very recently I used to make sure that I had plans for a day or a weekend off. I always had to be doing something outside of the house. Errands to run, people to meet – something needed to occupy my time. I just realized yesterday how excited I was to not have any plans to go anywhere for today. I thought this was a good sign.

But then I realized that I still had plans. Make hummus and pesto. Work on the condensed Gospel (still an active project). Make jewelry. Paint my toenails. Write. Cook supper. Organize the fridge.

I realized that I was still packing my day full of stuff. The only difference was that I wasn’t going anywhere.

I know some of my need to stay busy has to do with my awareness of time, and how little of it there is available to us in our lives. I know some of it is my realization that if I don’t keep up some level of activity then depression will sneak in and set up camp. But this need to stay busy busy busy is in itself a symptom of a deeper problem.

Being still is, at the heart of it all, being alone. Deep down, I don’t like to be alone. Thus, deep down, I’m not comfortable with myself.

This is hard to admit, and hard to live with.

It, in itself, isn’t a bad thing. Different ways of living are just as valid as having different hair colors or textures. Different isn’t bad or good. It is just different.

What matters is that I am conscious of it, and aware. Do I let this way of being rule my actions? Do I let it decide for me what I am going to do? Do I live my life by reflex, on autopilot? To unconsciously act, whether directed by a crowd or an unnoticed impulse, is the same. It is, at the heart, to not be fully alive but to have your actions taken out of your control.

My need to stay busy is a need to fill up my time and my head with stuff. It is a need to get away from myself, even if I am the only person in the room.

There is strength in being independent. I’ve gained a real sense of power from preparing food for myself and my husband. I’ve also learned valuable lessons about myself and about life from doing this.

But still, even in this lesson, I’ve not really been awake. It is still a method to stay busy, and thus ultimately stay distracted.

I’ve heard “Hell is other people.” Perhaps for me, right now, hell is myself.

I don’t hate myself, not at all. That isn’t it. I have a good life and I’m grateful for my many blessings. But if I still feel empty in the midst of busyness, then something is wrong. My plan for this past year or so has been to uncover, and recover. It has been to dig up and dig out. Simultaneously I have been reforming and recreating myself by becoming more aware and awake.

Some of this is teaching me to be more conscious, while some of this is teaching me to let go. Some of it is about living in the moment as completely as possible. Some of it is about seeing the path ahead and planning wisely. And some of it is just simply about learning to be me.

You’d think I’d know how to do this by now. I’ve had 45 years to practice. But not really. For many of those years I wasn’t really awake, and that isn’t even including the years I spent in a pot-cloud. Or grieving. Or both. I’ve spent a long time running away from myself. Now that I’m conscious, I feel I’ve got a lot of catching up to do.

And that is part of it too. Being patient with myself, in the middle, in the mess. Being patient, and knowing that this is where I need to be, and who I need to be right now.

alone

I haven’t been alone in a long time. I’m relearning how to do it.

When I moved to my house I planned on learning how to be alone. Then I met Scott and he moved in rather quickly. My planned life of spinsterhood was changed. I’ve not really been alone since, not for any real length of time.

Shortly after we got married he left for the weekend. Literally the weekend after we got back from or honeymoon he left. He drove all the way back to Grandfather Mountain. I cried myself to sleep. It was really hard and it seemed unfair. I’d just gotten him, and then he was going away.

He goes there for working weekends twice a year. It has taken me ten years to adapt to this, to not dread it. Now I’m starting to look forward to it because it means I have more time to work on my painting and writing. I have more time to work on me, instead of working on “us”. I find when we are together, we don’t do our own things. There are a lot of things I am learning I need to do on my own, and I can’t do them with him here. Writing is one. That isn’t a very social action.

Before, when I lived alone in my apartment, I’d be stoned. So I was alone, but not present. I didn’t like being by myself. These days I’m relearning how to be alone but not lonely.

He has to spend time at his parent’s house these days because they are feeble. They really need to go into assisted living. That is a decision for him and his brother. But in the meantime he isn’t around as much as usual. Recently he had to spend the night. I have a suspicion that this will become more and more frequent.

In the past that would have freaked me out. What would I eat? How would I sleep without him there? I’ve gotten very used to him, and I’m kind of using him like a crutch. The more I do that, the less I remember I can walk on my own.

The ability doesn’t leave, or get weaker. We just forget. Not knowing you can do something is more powerful than having a physical disability. If you think you can’t, you won’t even try.

Conversely, if you think you can, you can move mountains.

So I tried. Instead of getting fast food (which isn’t really food) I cooked some vegetables. I had a nice supper and I felt like I had invited myself to a party and the guest was me.

I like that feeling. I’m actually looking forward to him not being here again so I can treat myself again to my own cooking, and have time to craft or read whatever I want.

Single women

Why do we teach people, women especially, that if you don’t have somebody, you are nobody? What is it about being single that is so harmful? Is it that we are afraid of being alone?

Is this taught because that is what the parents were taught? Have they even tried to be alone? Is it automatic to teach that you have to find a spouse? Are they even conscious of this push?

Is there something dangerous to society about people being alone? It certainly isn’t that we need more population growth through people pairing off.

Or is there some basic issue in society in general with being alone? Being alone conveys independence. Is that what is terrifying to the culture at large?

Why are there so many books for women about how to find the perfect man, especially after 30? There aren’t books for men like this. Please note there is no “modern groom” magazine. The focus is on the woman finding the man, not the other way around.

The focus isn’t on the woman learning how to take care of herself – it teaches her that she has to be with someone else in order to be complete. This seems basically demeaning.

Why are there so many “romance” books for women, yet nothing of the sort for men? Both aren’t learning the same script.