(No, you’re home early on a Saturday night listening to Carole King and reading Rilke and pondering your place in the world.)
To speak of solitude again, it becomes always clearer that this is at bottom not something that one can take or leave. We are solitary. We may delude ourselves and act as though this were not so. That is all. But how much better it is to realize that we are so, yes, even to begin by assuming it. We shall indeed turn dizzy then; for all points upon which our eye has been accustomed to rest are taken from us, there is nothing near any more and everything far is infinitely far. A person removed from his own room, almost without preparation and transition, and set upon the height of a great mountain range, would feel something of the sort: an unparalleled insecurity, an abandonment to something inexpressible would almost annihilate him. He would think himself falling or hurled out into space, or exploded into a thousand pieces. What a monstrous lie his brain would have to invent to catch up with and explain the state of his senses!
So for him who becomes solitary all distances, all measures change; of these changes many take place suddenly, and then, as with the man on the mountaintop, extraordinary imaginings and singular sensations arise that seem to grow out beyond all bearing. But it is necessary for us to experience that too. We must assume our existence as broadly as we in any way can; everything, even the unheard-of, must be possible in it. That is at bottom the only courage that is demanded of us: to have courage for the most strange, the most singular, and the most inexplicable that we may encounter. That mankind has in this sense been cowardly has done his life endless harm; the experiences that are called visions, the whole spirit world, death, all those things that are so closely akin to us, have by daily parrying been so crowded out of life that the senses with which we could have grasped them are atrophied. To say nothing of God.
[…] For if we think of this existence of the individual as a larger or smaller room, it appears evident that most people learn to know only a corner of their room, a place by the window, a strip of floor on which they walk up and down. Thus they have a certain security. And yet that dangerous insecurity is so much more human which drives the prisoners in Poe’s stories to feel out the shapes of their horrible dungeons and not be strangers to the unspeakable terrors of their abode.
We, however, are not prisoners. No traps or snares are set about us, and there is nothing which should intimidate or worry us. We are set down in life as in the element to which we best correspond, and over and above this we have through thousands of years of accommodation become so like this life, that when we hold still we are, through a happy mimicry, scarcely to be distinguished from all that surrounds us. Has it terrors, they are our terrors; has it abysses, those abysses belong to us; are dangers at hand, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life according to the principle which counsels us that we must always hold to the difficult, then that which now still seems to us the most alien will become what we most trust and find most faithful. How should we be able to forget those ancient myths that are at the beginning of all peoples, the myths about dragons that at the last moment turn into princesses; perhaps all the dragons of our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us once beautiful and brave.
paradigm shift. swimming in a sea of records, all jangly pianos and sweet harmonies and tiny flowers. love notes in the compost bin. second page, second row, camera lens, red boots: I’ve always had something to hide behind. not anymore. it’s better just to love you. reverberations of church chanting in the dark. the world is my cheerleader today, following me around and singing me songs and bathing me in clean sunshine. the hurt moves through like daytime light reflecting off of cars driving past a room. I woke up less heavy today. it’s better just to love you. scaling buildings with a leap, a radiating heart, a fearlessness. maybe it’s the tenderness I found myself steeped in last night. maybe it’s you. it’s you. it’s you and it’s everything and my new favorite thrift store dress and the rain and the absence of rain. the strangest beauty, swells of birds spooling out over the ocean, locks broken open, the wandering up to the record store after acupuncture and how I talk to everyone I meet. the best kind of being lost. no rules. no schedule. these same windows every morning, a metamorphosis inside these glass walls, from winter to now and we’re not even done yet. we haven’t even started. one morning at a time, one page at a time. I’m learning; it’s better just to love you. things that sound warm, quiet truths, infinity time ahead for all the drives yet taken, my kingdom to reach over and have you in the passenger seat. how I’d walk to the ends of the earth to study your hands. the everything and the nothing at all. release the grip, drop that lottery ticket out onto the breeze blowing past my balcony, hope exploding like a shower of endless glittering gems pouring down the stairs. shimmery, tiny lights plugged in to the center of my chest. see if it finds a way back. sing through it. sing to me until you see me again.
sleep as long as you need to. wake up and get clean. start with the shower. wash your hair, and soap that part of your collarbone where his mouth touched you like fireworks in the summertime until you can’t feel it anymore. keep scrubbing. when it fades, wash away the imprint of him from the side of your face. get soap in your eyes and let the sting burn away having found heaven at that space that lives just above the top button of his shirt. make the water so hot that you can barely stand it. use a rough brush on your fingertips until they’re tender; wash away those absentminded moments where you twirled his hair in your hands, when it was just sunset behind the olympics on the couch and nothing else mattered. let the soap sit in all your cuts and try to rinse those halos out of your eyes. breathe deep. this will work. bleach the tub when you’re done.
stand in the steam with a towel afterward and realize nothing works, and that there are no answers here.
get dressed in yesterday’s clothes and put the kitchen back together. scrape the dishes from last night and rinse the laughter and the kisses down the drain. wipe all those moments off the table and the countertop, throw away that light that came through the slats like crumbs, toss the way those seascape eyes that couldn’t see anything but you. go into the living room next and put away the records, shelving the heartswells that matched the meter of the songs spinning on the turntable. keep doing this throughout all the rooms until there is no trace of last night and nothing is out of place.
stand in front of the stereo when you’re done with the power off. hear the hum of the traffic and the distinct sound of radio silence, and realize none of it has made a shred of difference.
From a double-exposure film project I did with a woman in Canada last year, through the mail. This is how today feels.
in which our painfully open-hearted heroine learns a new thing from the great bell hooks:
To truly love we must learn to mix various ingredients — care, affection, recognition, respect, commitment and trust, as well as honest and open communication. Learning faulty definitions of love when we are quite young makes it difficult to be loving as we grow older. We start out committed to the right path but go in the wrong direction. Most of us learn early on to think of love as a feeling. When we feel deeply drawn to someone, we cathect with them; that is, we invest feelings or emotion in them. That process of investment wherein a loved one becomes important to us is called “cathexis.” In his book Peck rightly emphasizes that most of us “confuse cathecting with loving.” We all know how often individuals feeling connected to someone through the process of cathecting insist that they love the other person even if they are hurting or neglecting them. Since their feeling is that of cathexis, they insist what they feel is love.
When we understand love as the will to nurture our own and another’s spiritual growth, it becomes clear that we cannot claim to love if we are hurtful and abusive. Love and abuse cannot coexist. Abuse and neglect are, by definition, the opposites of nurturance and care. Often we hear of a man who beats his children and wife and then goes to the corner bar and passionately proclaims how much he loves them. If you talk to the wife on a good day, she may also insist he loves her, despite his violence. An overwhelming majority of us come from dysfunctional families in which we were taught we were not okay, where we were shamed, verbally and/or physically abused, and emotionally neglected even as we were also taught to believe that we were loved. For most folks it is just too threatening to embrace a definition of love that would no longer enable us to see love as present in our families. Too many of us need to cling to a notion of love that either makes abuse acceptable or at least makes it seem that whatever happened was not that bad.