releasing the alone-ness

graffiti of the words "You are not alone," in a circle, around a group of birds, flying together

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It’s wet and grey here, and I’ve been listening to the foghorns all morning. What’s it like where you are?


This Saturday, March 19, is Writing the Flood! Come on and write with us!


This morning, I am thinking about alone-ness. I don’t mean the fact of being by myself, but rather isolation: that sense that I am — what? — without companioning, without the possibility of companioning. Deeply without anyone to help or be with me.

I’m having a hard time with this post today. I started it more than four hours ago, and have found everything else to do instead of write it: read email, make a difficult phone call, respond to messages that have been waiting for a month, post on Facebook, make some actual breakfast, read blog posts … it’s all easier than this writing.

We many of us know about the tactics that abusers use on on their prey — a major one involves secrecy and isolation. Tell no one, and, too, no one is here to help you. No one can save you, protect you, fix this. There’s a way that we learn to root in our own selves, a sense that we are all we have to count on (Well, we can count on the abuser, too, can’t we? We know who they are and what they’ll do, even if what we know is that they’ll act in unpredictable and abysmal ways): we take into our bodies… am I using the we again when I  should use the I? — I take into my body the understanding, the knowing, that I’m alone in this life, in this survival, this experience. Other people aren’t trustworthy, they don’t show up, and you can’t be honest with them if they do.

This takes a long time to unlearn, as it turns out. Like, decades, for some of us. Others might get it into their cells more quickly; I haven’t. It’s hard to let go of pieces like this, that may have become core parts of our identities.

In this process that I’ve taken into my hands (in some ways, quite literally) to allow myself to be more fully embodied in 2011, I have had a sense of “sinking” into old and painful ways of feeling (it’s difficult to write about this stuff, because the body is outside of language in so many (of its) senses): the familiar numbness rises after an intense session in therapy, and that numbness has a recursive effect, both assisting isolation (it’s difficult to connect through the numb) and furthering it.

What I want to tell you is that yesterday I was surprised with a houseful of people who gathered to celebrate my birthday. I’m overwhelmed by this, still; still wanting to let it all the way into my skin, into my organs, into my breath: it matters to these folks that I am alive; it matters to me that they are alive. This isn’t about reaching for complements, about some emo-y place (maybe a little emo-y), but more about that teenage girl who wasn’t allowed to spend time with friends, who didn’t learn how to *be* a friend, who has grown up into someone who had to do that learning later, with much effort and scarring.

I don’t like writing about the alone-ness, the thing inside that says, there will never be anyone to meet you here in your humanness. Who believed that the man who raped me was the only one who could ever know me as flawed and smart and complicated– who decided, there will be no one, then, if he’s the only option. Isn’t that a terrible thing to believe? How many of us still live there?

I am still peeking into the bright light of outside, the fresh, fierce light of other faces who are also imperfect and brilliant and human, these friends who hold space for me to go away from and return to.

The isolation is a hard thing to release, let go of, let fall from my skin. I have grown to trust it implicitly, and can still be uncomfortable and raw in this connecting with others. So I could not be more grateful for the people who are willing to be patient, be present, be human with me as I learn to accept my own human skin and self and body. We are radiant in that complicated self — I can say that to you. Can I let it be in me, too?

There’s more about this; there’s always more: like, what happens when we don’t have to be perfect, when we quit expecting perfection from those around us, from our communities, our friends and lovers? But for now, I’m holding a concentrated and throbby thank you right at the base of my diaphragm, deep inside, where tears start (ok, a little emo-y), and I am just grateful.

Thank you for all the ways you have saved yourself, and, too, for the ways that you have allowed others to reach into the locked and messy stuff that is your full and brilliant heart, and the ways you haven’t turned away from the beauty in you that only they could reveal to you. Thank you for your gorgeous and daring words.

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