Tag Archives: loneliness

Oh, Mr. Neville…


05103c84733200777408f3c80b5eb4da4e65deOne of the blessings of my enforced by MS flare-up idleness is that I have been able to plunge myself into a myriad of books, to wallow in lives not my own, to lay on my patented “chaise short” (an antique chaise with the merit of being less than 5 feet long and thus fitting both me and my apartment) and read the hours away.

It’s been wonderful, but I see that I have chosen the last three books unwisely. The first mistake was Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. This book tells of a man who loved a woman so much he followed her around, through her marriage and children, at a distance,  until her husband dies. Then he asks for her hand. She accepts, and he tells her he had remained a virgin for her, all those 60 years. She says, simply, “liar!”, and they go to sleep. Meanwhile, he had been keeping track of the conquests he had to relieve his suffering for her love. He had arrived at 650 or more.

I adored this book, both for the love over the years and for the practical approach to it. It’s a grown up book, with grown up affection. And lasting love. And badness, concupiscence, and humour.

The next mistake was another of Marquez’s  – All My Melancholy Whores, an amazing and surprisingly sweet book. A ninety-year-old man desires to bed a virgin to celebrate his birthday – (at first a horrific thought.) He goes to a whorehouse that he used to frequent when younger – of course, it has aged, too. The madam obtains the virgin, but the girl is nervous so she is drugged, asleep when he meets her. The man finds he prefers to simply look at her, and sleep beside her.

Over a number of visits, he falls in love with her, and she with him. The romance is chaste and both sad and joyful in turns. I loved it.  Again, a twist on the usual story, and characters with deep, serious emotions. I suspect Marquez of being one of those men who truly loves women. There aren’t so many of them about…

images-10Third mistake – The charming, witty, and ultimately motivational Hotel Du Lac by Anita Brookner – winner of the Booker Prize, and I can see why she won. It’s brilliant.

Edith, the protagonist, is a writer who has been sent to the Hotel du Lac as punishment for something awful she’s done. She has not been a “good woman”. The hotel is almost closed down for the season – it’s fall, and it is not in a fashionable ski resort. The weather is generally glum and foggy, as is Edith’s poor mind. She’s trying to write another novel, but she is emotionally fraught.

We don’t learn why until halfway through the book. She is in love with a man, David, but scheduled to marry another. David is married to a Very Perfect Wife, and thus available only upon his whim. The man who is to marry her is a bit too commanding for my liking, and also for Edith’s. She stands him up at the altar. The author is wise to put the “reveal” in the middle of the book – by this time we’ve grown to quite love Edith and her quick wit and desperate kindness, her loneliness and her resilience. So, of course, we cheer when she tosses the bossy man into the drink.

The other characters at the hotel and the employees are all charmant, all interesting in different ways, all dealing with their own issues. The rampant consumerism of some females is hauled out and mocked; Edith is made to feel inadequate in dress. (It’s a common enough thread amongst women – I’ve felt it myself. Edith and I favour comfort and giant sweaters. We may, at times, look sloppy. Just saying. ) There is a very thin woman with a tiny dog, a fat older woman and her clingy but oddly sensuous daughter, a deaf woman who smiles or grimaces on occasion, and a mysterious man, Mr. Neville, who seems to like Edith.

He proposes to her and offers her his companionship because he wants someone “steady” to help him rebuild his status after having his wife leave him. He says cheerily that he doesn’t love her, that he will have affairs and she can, too. I identified so much with Edith, I found myself saying ‘NO!” out loud when she decides to accept him.

But she rallies. And I am left cheering, and, oddly, with the desire to write.*

So what is the problem with reading these three all together? They all three deal with solitude and loneliness, with the interweaving between the desire for contact and the desire for silence, with connections made and severed.

It’s too close to my reality to be completely comfortable.

And, they are all filled with discussions of passionate love – not the “grab and smooch” kind my cousin and I used to giggle over in “the soaps”.

bb0daba08d0cc572acfe66e4a94d018c--forever-alone-quotes-being-alone-quotesThe sort of love that lasts through hardship and challenge, the kind that comes unexpectedly, but is fulfilling even if incomplete.

The kind of love that fills in the spaces around one’s life, enriching it.

The kind I would still like to find.

So the three in sequence makes me feel a bit sad, a bit lonely. I feel an ache. It’s not painful, just a bit of a gap.

Which is what makes me want to write.

 

*Of Anita Brookner, Wikipedia has this to say: “Her novels explore themes of emotional loss and difficulties associated with fitting into society, and typically depict intellectual, middle-class women, who suffer isolation and disappointments in love.” Hmmmmm. I think I may have found a kindred spirit.

Single and okay with it…


ImageIt’s still not approved of. Especially for women, but I’ve got to admit I’ve been guilty of it, too. When I see a profile on a dating site that says the guy is 50 or older and never been married, I have to admit it gives me pause.

Because, if we aren’t totally horrid, someone must’ve wanted us enough at one time to marry us, right?

If you get to age 50 and no one has, you must have mighty carbuncles or a secret axe-murderer personality or some wild collection of ephemera – or maybe you don’t believe in showering or doing laundry or you’ve been in the pen for the last 20 years…

Right?

As my single time lengthens, though, I realize that single-hood is, in fact, rather lovely. I don’t sit at home patting my 50 cats. I have good friends that I can see without feeling guilty that I’ve left someone at home, pining for my totally glittering company. I have hobbies that I can indulge without having to clear them away every time someone comes home. I can SLEEP IN. I can make a dinner of vine leaves and artichokes and love it.

If I’m having a bad day, I can sit about in my jammies all day and watch movies where I take out my essential angst or joy or sorrow on the screen without having to think about getting meals and having a discussion. Sometimes it’s good to be in my head.

And if I want to take off on an explore, I can just up and do so. I can go to movies about one thing with one set of friends, go with a date to another, go alone if I want.

It’s all pretty good.  I have the occasional lonely afternoon, but that’s only because I’ve momentarily run out of things to occupy myself. I can usually find something. And being comfortable with solitude is a true life skill.

There’s only this one problem – it has to do with my perceived availability/wantonness by others. Married women seem to think I am after their man. It’s pretty funny, that one, since usually I’ve learned about their man from them and know it’d have to be a cold day in hell before I took them on. Seriously, though, the thought of breaking up a marriage or encouraging cheating makes me totally uncomfortable. I remember going absolutely crazy when my ex came back from a deployment suddenly liking Shania Twain just because he had fallen for his driver. He never did anything other than enjoy her presence rather too much, and make the terrible error of sharing that with me. I was shattered.

I couldn’t do that to another woman.

The other supposition is that I must sleep around. I’m a cheery nurse who doesn’t know enough to keep her mouth shut, so most people know I’m not a tightly sewn gal – seen too much to not talk shockingly at times…besides, I’m a natural flirt, and love it, so people see the sparkle in my eyes and think its due to more than an enjoyment of the parry of conversation.

As Jessica Rabbit would say, “I’m not bad, I’m just drawn that way…”

I suppose it’s natural to try and figure people out when you meet them, but it’s a bit offensive these days to assume that a woman is single solely because no one wanted her. Or because too many did.

For a great article on this subject, check out Melanie Notkin’s “Single and Childless: I know what you’re thinking”

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So, who defines you?


I had someone ask me today what I would tell a younger version of myself, if I had it to do over again.
I told her I would tell myself to not let other people define me.
We are all socialized from such a young age to be that person others want to see in us – this girl is “sweet”, that boy is “active”, this girl is “angry and uncooperative”, that boy is “sullen” or “shy”. We get told what we like to do, what we should be when we grow up, who we should like and not like, how we should behave.
Sure, a lot of this is part of being civilized from our basic uncivilized monster ways as children. A lot of it, though, is being made into a vision of what someone else wants.
I used to want to be a vet, but was talked out of that, a career that would have made me happy. I wanted to be a scientist, but got talked out of that. I wanted to have a lifelong career, but got thrust out of that. Now I write stories that inevitably turn out murderous or sad, yet I’m a happy, cheerful person. People tell me I should write funny stuff. I can’t. I feel badly for disappointing them.
Others tell me I should do this or that and even here, in my 50’s, and knowing better, I find myself trying to meet their requests. Or feeling badly when I cannot.
Why?
My whole life I’ve been a bit of an outlier, always a bit on the side of oddness. Doesn’t help that I’m unusually short and a bit round, have a twisted sense of humour, and dress for comfort, not speed. Not your average girl, I spent a lot of my time on the side of dance floors and waiting out events. I learned to push myself hard, but I cheated myself out of so many adventures after the years of being outside, for fear of being totally alone.
If I could talk to younger me, I’d say – hey, fitting in doesn’t really matter. It’ll kill you in the end. Be who you are and people will gather around you –
if only to point and laugh.
But you’ll still be the centre.
Lately, my MS has forced me to make changes in my life, changes that seem odd or unpredictable or outright strange to others. One person told me I made choices out of fear; another that I made choices out of optimism. I of course prefer the latter view. I like to think that I choose paths based on overly optimistic views of my capabilities and then have to readjust them as my disease intrudes, dang it.
The fact remains that I make choices, I change the things I don’t like, I cut away dead branches, I fertilize growing ones. There may not seem to be a plan, but I’m planning around earthquakes. I have to be flexible.
And I guess I need to say, though I talk about my plans, unless I ask for your advice, I don’t want it. We are all trying to define ourselves within our realities, and I’ll respect your choices if you respect mine. I just can’t waste any more time being defined by others.
Fair warning: I plan to become eccentric. Stand back.

Autumn Leaves


I love this time of year. I love the winds, the walking in the woods, the sight of leaves spiralling down to the ground like the snowflakes that alas must follow. Took Chutney for a walk through out ravine this morning and the beech leaves were floating around in circles, dancing with delight. We really are so fortunate to live where there are four seasons. Chutney loves it, too. His open wallowing in the enjoyment of it all, even the drenching rains, helps me see the good things.

I’ve been having a contemplative time of late. It must be the fall. Or the wind, which I always find thought-provoking. Like my own restless spirit, it pushes past, busily on its way, little looking back to see where it came from, little looking ahead to see where it goes. But, with the help of some thinking and guidance, I’m beginning to see some patterns of my life, some things I want to put right.

I’ve realized that certain relationships have done me lasting harm. That I’ve spent my life thinking I was not worthy to be called a friend, that I had nothing to offer except my hard work and sense of humour and perhaps some other attributes that shall go unnamed here to bring to a relationship. So I ended up in the position of supplicant. In my marriage, which had its good points, I must add, I was last on the totem pole a lot of the time. I ran into a colleague of my ex’s recently who told me he hadn’t realized he was married during the time they worked together. Ouch. We had even had our second child at that time, and I guess the ex didn’t mention that either. Hurtful, that. Perhaps I was embarrassing. Perhaps I was something to be ashamed of. But I don’t think so. Most of the time. Although I do know I have my moments.

I have other “friends” who treat me as a bother, too. They screen my calls, they refuse any suggestion I make for getting together, yet they call me their friend. It hurts like hell. I feel confused, and the sore bits left over from the rare evenings when my ex would curl up on the couch with me watching TV only to stand up and say, “Another evening wasted!” get pounded again.

It’s not that I’m needy. I’m busy with my own life, I have multiple interests, I enjoy solitude as well as company. But approach/avoidance love is too hurtful for me to take now. I’m going to have to stop trying to make contact.

Of course, it’s been eye-opening, realizing this. Like the typical abused person, I’ve passed on my experience to others, doing the “I’m in control” treatment to people who really don’t deserve it. Instead of dealing with things face on, I do the push away treatment. I’ve been just as guilty as my friends. Fortunately, some people have put up with me as I come to terms with the lifelong damage I’ve had from always being not quite good enough. Ever. (Maybe if I’d just grown another 2 inches? Been skinnier? Knew more? Been more polite? Listened better? Ate less chocolate? Dated less?)

I love my gang, I do. I know that some people just have to be in charge of the parameters of the relationship for their own reasons, and I am working to be good with that. It’s part of loving someone to accept their being the way they are. But maybe, like the autumn leaves, I should enjoy just watching them as they blow by on their own course, and not seek to hold their beauty in my hand.