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Traveling and Loneliness

Loneliness has been on my mind a lot lately. Actually, it’s been on my mind forever, I think. And you’ll likely see a good deal from me about loneliness in the future. I have a dear husband and a delightful daughter. I have a project team with which I get along well, and I have many friends with whom I keep in touch – usually online. It is interesting, though, despite all that interaction, how lonely I can be. At work, I have to maintain a certain level of distance and professionalism, and at home, well, I’m just at home. It’s comfortable, but not always particularly, I dunno, social.

I’ve just returned from a business trip with one very quiet woman I’ve always admired but haven’t ever known well, and one garrulous fellow with whom I have an odd amount in common, given that he’s older than my dad. Even though I had a migraine I thought might kill me, I had a rather successful and enjoyable trip… good food, good drinks, and company, which was quite entertaining. By contrast, it reminded me of how lonely I can get.

From 3/19/08:
An excess of solitude breeds, perhaps, an excess of introspection. In the absence of dialogue, there is monologue.

There is a certain rhythm, or cadence, to human conversation. A natural ebb and flow. It is like a dance, or a song learned on an instrument. Without practice, although you remember the steps, or the notes, it seems a little “off.”

I have a few friends who were reared in other countries, or who were reared in families from other countries. While they speak perfectly clear American English (usually with better grammar than their native peers), there are idioms that are new to them, even after being here for 30 years or more. Idioms that are “background noise” to the rest of us. When you use one of those idioms, they look at you like you suddenly slipped into a different language entirely. If you’re out of practice with banter, it feels like you’re getting that look from everybody you encounter.

An excess of introspection makes one, as it might be predicted, extremely self-conscious. If I say this, or do that, or write this, etc… it would look like this, or that, and that would make me seem such, or so. I am my whole world, or a third of it, raising my estimation of my importance to the rest of the world.

Regret is concern about past events, wishing that they had been different. Worry is concern about future events, hoping that they won’t be regrettable. With a life full of concerns for the present, almost regardless of what those concerns are, one hasn’t the time for worry or regret. With an excess of solitude, there is ample time for the past, and the future, in this very moment.

And then there is the “pet peeve.” In addition to having excess mental energy for introspection, there is the excess energy for “extrospection.” Fun word, huh? It is absolutely beyond my control if this public personage says so-and-so, or that writer can’t distinguish between “its” and “it’s”. And the lovely thing is that the pet peeve also feeds that self-consciousness that comes from introspection. “Wow, the constant melancholy of his/her writing can grow really tiresome… Oh, crap, that means mine probably has annoyed the hell out of everybody! Crap… now I want to write about that, but it’ll just look like yet another melancholy post from BL. Crap… you’re doing it again.” etc… etc… etc…

Funny thing is, I’m not complaining about the solitude. I’m kind of enjoying life right now, mostly, one day at a time. I’m reading again, work is great, and I’ve gotten used to living in an old jalopy of a body. I’m just reflecting on some of the more bizarre consequences of so little dialogue.

From 6/14/07:
I have seawater drying on my jeans and sand in my shoes. There’s a very lovely crane or egret or something hopping around in front of the hotel. I saw cranes with blood-red beaks and blood-red legs at the beach this morning. And a row of some other sort of birds flying in perfect formation, interrupted by another bird flying in the opposite direction.

I discovered something today. I’ve felt sort of vague and foggy today, like everything’s unreal. I don’t feel bad or anything – just vague. Driving back from the beach, I figured out why it’s sort of surreal to be traveling alone. You’re here, with nobody you know, and there’s nobody to see it with you – to confirm that you were here and you saw what you saw. It makes it less real. Like you’re just making it all up. I guess it’s not just traveling – I’ve also noticed that I’m more aware of things when there are other people around at home, too. As though I’m sort-of seeing things through their eyes.

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