Craving Some Human Connection

Social media is both blessing and curse. Without it I’d have very little contact with people; I’d not have gotten to know some wonderful, supportive friends. I’d not have been contacted by my daughter. But unfortunately it can’t substitute for physical proximity, the joy of sharing some activity with another.

Sometimes when I’m feeling lonely, craving some human connection, I notice photos of people I know on Facebook out with their friends having a good time and it makes me melancholy, too aware of what I rarely experience. It’s not jealousy: I’m not envying their enjoyment. It just reminds me of the past.

There are only a couple of times in my life when I have had that kind of friendship. Hanging out together, going places and doing things–sometimes crazy things like running through Aldershot town center spraying silly string at each other, or driving halfway across the country just to see where a particular road would take us.

As I’ve written before friendship is something that I struggle with. I can talk to people and often enjoy socializing as long as the environment is something my senses can comfortably handle. But I’ve never understood how to progress from acquaintance to something more, to the point where I don’t feel the need to second-guess every interaction in case I say or do the wrong thing.

My experiences growing up taught me to be reserved and wary around others, to sit back and wait for them to initiate every interaction. Because when I tried I made mistake after mistake and suffered ridicule. I learned to hide how I felt in case it was used against me.

Another obstacle has always been the difficulty I have reading people. I never know how they feel about me which makes me tread carefully, unwilling to cause offense. By the time I feel I know someone well enough to feel confident opening up around them our relationship has settled into a routine casual acquaintance.

The number of people I’ve seen over the years, at university, in the workplace and in social settings, who have that magical self-confidence and the ability that allows them to rapidly construct friendships while I’m still stuck at the level of saying good morning and talking about the weather.

It can be painful sometimes when people I like move on and I regret that I never managed to build a degree of closeness with them, a platonic intimacy. When it hits me that I know so little about them. Ah, the mysterious arts of small talk and conversation about personal matters.

Handle With Care

Brittle tranquility, a fragile egg-shell existence from moment to moment. Trying not to think about the instant when it will shatter under the weight of my suppressed feelings.

At times I can go for hours, even days, with a happy, carefree cast of mind before the darkness encroaches again and I fall into the depths. It is so sudden, as if a switch were flicked to extinguish the light, that the onset is shocking in its abruptness. One minute I’m my “normal” self, the next I’m falling with an aching void where my heart used to be – such intense, painful loneliness.

At these times I feel the urge to curl up in a warm, dark sanctuary. To hold myself tightly, comfort myself in the most basic way. Tears prick at my eyes but will not flow even though I feel a need for that release – my inhibitions remain too strong. This frustrates me immensely.

All my worrying, anxiety, insecurity: it is little wonder that I have had trouble sleeping on and off recently. I feel mentally exhausted from the effort of keeping going. Reprising my role for endless curtain calls; no respite. I feel trapped by my responsibilities and face a strong temptation to run away but I know that any escape would be temporary. Not sure I could face crawling back to my old life after a hedonistic spree. Can’t face severing the ties that bind me to my current station. Trapped.

It is a leaden dullness that holds me to the ground when I yearn to fly, to shine. I sit in the midst of winter-gray concrete uniformity and dream of running through the woods and meadows of childhood’s infinite summer. Soap-bubble dreams that burst and disappear so easily: from weightless, iridescent beauty to oblivion in the blink of an eye. As fragile as my veneer of happiness.

Waving or Drowning?

I drifted far out from the shore
Without a thought nor any care
For where the wind and tide might draw
My broken heart: I turn to stare
Back on that place I left behind
With few regrets. What is there now
To hold me and where can I find
The peace I crave? I wonder how
To send my signal straight to you:
A cry for help, I’m sinking fast.
No longer knowing what to do,
I raise my arms and hope at last
That you will understand my plight
And reach out, offer me a hand
Before I drift beyond your sight,
A castaway from love and land.

Breakdown Timebomb

Handling strong emotions is extraordinarily difficult. Trying to keep them under control – rein them in – is like trying to close a suitcase packed with so many clothes that they threaten to burst out from every side.

I am caught in the currents of my feelings, one minute floating calmly and the next being pulled under by the rip tide or whirled around in a maelstrom of despair before sinking down in darkness. The illusion of control lies shattered around me as I huddle fetus-like in the middle of an barren landscape, no feature to break the monotonous emptiness fading to the horizon in every direction. Out here there is only loneliness. No sound. No breeze. Nothing moves, not even me. Yet within my mind nothing is still: huge, demanding thoughts and emotions slug it out in a battle for my attention while I struggle to avoid being overwhelmed.

And then, as softly sudden as the bursting of a soap bubble, the turmoil subsides and I experience a period of relative calm.

I feel the need to escape – a basic animal instinct to flee from threat. But there is no path to the place that draws me because it exists only in my memories, in the past. An illusory golden history, a carefree time of happiness. An amalgam of times and places synthesized into idyllic fantasy. Such a temptation!… to slip away into this perfect dream world.

A number of factors have likely contributed to my current state of mind but they all boil down to one thing: change. Too much has changed and is changing in too short a space of time and it all pushes me out of my comfortable routine existence into an unstable, unpredictable, disorientating state of uncertainty and confusion. I’ve not been sleeping well as a result, compounding the problem with tiredness – I feel tattered, ragged, frayed, worn out.

Please, somebody stop the world. I want to get off – I’ve had enough of this ride.

On The Edge

Unbroken path leads back
The way I came while on
Each side the land runs out
To fade in distant haze.

In front of me the void
Assures oblivion,
Patiently awaiting
That last small step of mine.

I don’t remember how
My feet conveyed me here,
Nor any of the turns:
Decisions lost in time.

On setting out the route
Lay wide and arrow-straight
As far as eyes could see;
We walked off hand in hand.

It matters not who first
Slipped from the other’s grip:
We each believed our paths
Led true. The distance grew

Until the day I found
We’d drifted out of touch:
I had never noticed
You straying from my side.

Glimpses offered hope that
Our paths would meet ahead:
I’ll wait for you forever,
Alone here on the edge.

Loneliness Redux

It was John Donne who wrote in 1624, “No man is an Iland, intire of it selfe”. Can’t say I disagree with this – the more I build protective walls around me, insulating myself from the world at large, the more lonely I feel. Humans are social animals and merely going through the motions, only interacting superficially, does not involve any connexion with others. I find I need some contact but I’m shut away.

The keep stands fast, ringed by its moat,
Secure, yet isolated.
Defending me from close approach;
Connexions subjugated.

All who try to find a portal,
Some water-gate unguarded,
Can only beat against stone walls
With which my self’s surrounded.

Fear builds these walls, fear of getting hurt, fear of censure or ridicule. These fears seem to feed on depression, growing stronger until they overwhelm me, forcing me to withdraw and take refuge behind the reinforced barriers of my mental “panic room”.

The trouble is that once those doors are closed, once the shutters come down, there is a coldness as my links to those around me are severed. Feelings are dulled and remote, like outside sounds heard through a closed door. In here I am safe from danger but also disconnected from positive influence – a dilemma.

Perfect isolation
Brings a deathlike stillness.
Colorless desert; expanse
Of infinite emptiness.

How to resolve this? It is paradoxical that in my loneliness I feel a need to be alone, to get away and be by myself for a while. To regain my balance, rebuild my strength and, hopefully, recover my happiness. Because at the moment I am down. Have been for some days or weeks now – not quite sure how long.

The blighted trees were once so green
But now stand gray and twisted.
My woodland haven, tranquil scene,
Destroyed, demolished, blasted.

I feel exhausted. There are reasons – I know what they are but not how to resolve them.

Solitary inmate; my prison
Is of my own making, no less
Secure for that. I hold no keys
That will unlock these cold steel bars.

Outside my cell the corridors
Are silent, no guards to patrol.
My small cell lost in this fastness.
I cry out; echoes fade to naught.

Trying to find some inner peace is difficult right now. I try to recall times of happiness and comfort such as walks in the countryside, views across lakes to distant hills and forests – but instead I find I am transported to exposed rocky slopes with the cold wind howling around me as the rain lashes down and thunder rumbles ominously in the distance. I am a long way from shelter and the day is rapidly drawing to an end to leave me on my own in the stormy night.

Trudging endlessly through the long night, the search for a place to rest seems a Sisyphean task. But I cling to the hope that the storm will abate, a new day will dawn and I will at last find a place to lay my head. To cast off my weariness and return to the light.

Let’s Talk About Me

Writing can only achieve so much. There are times when I feel I am holding in so many silent thoughts, so much unexpressed emotion that I get mentally exhausted. It’s difficult – if not impossible – to let go, to let it out. Like a locked door to which I do not possess the key. The pressure builds up behind the barriers and the strain makes me fractious.

Mental tension leads to physical tension, that characteristic tightening across the shoulders causing muscular discomfort, aches and pains. How can I relieve this stress? Get things off my mind?

It doesn’t help that I subconsciously avoid analyzing the causes of my feelings. As if afraid to confront them head-on I avoid letting my inner eye gaze long upon them. Must avoid eye contact, even in here. So these nebulous concerns accumulate while I refuse to reify them, to give them substance, because that would require that I acknowledge their presence and admit that I cannot handle them.

But admit to whom? To speak of such things to another would need such a degree of candor – such openness – that I would feel too exposed and vulnerable, succumbing in that instant to overwhelming fear, and hastily slam the shutters closed.

To what kind of person could I reveal the detailed depths of my inner turmoil? Whom could I trust implicitly to keep the secrets of my soul safe from the sight of others? It’s a puzzle, to be sure – I would have to know somebody well to feel comfortable enough to consider opening up, but having done so I could not subsequently feel comfortable around them. It would be as if I were laid bare. So I end up believing that exploiting such a level of trust would destroy it.

The end result is that I continue to accumulate the hurt and pain, trying to keep it locked away from my day-to-day thoughts. Trying to appear carefree, chasing distractions and amusements that will occupy my mind for a while and give me some respite. Until the darkness returns, as it inevitably will, since I cannot open my mind’s doors and let in the light. I am simply not able to talk about me.

Loneliness vs Solitude

Sometimes I feel lonely – I get the need for company. Other times I find other people hard to handle and need some time alone. This time of year – the holiday season – is making me unusually aware of this.

It has been a strange few days. I’ve spent a lot of time amongst friends, enjoying myself, and yet felt the need to take a break every now and again to be alone. I could feel myself becoming overwhelmed and needing just five or ten minutes of peace to recover. I don’t generally explain or even describe how I’m feeling – I just walk away for a spell, and come back afterwards feeling calmer and more at ease.

And now, in the small hours of the morning, I am sat at home. My wife is asleep in bed. For some reason I feel alone, even though I know she is only a few yards away – I can even hear her snoring gently. The feeling’s like an emptiness inside, different from sadness in that there is no pain. It’s almost an absence of feeling.

I want to share with somebody what the past few days have been like. The dislocation caused by a week’s forced vacation as work shut down for the holidays. The exhilaration of working the bar during a record-breaking day. The physical tiredness from successive late nights. The comfort I felt holding my wife on the dance-floor. Other events, other feelings, good and bad.

Writing this, sharing it here, has helped me. I have regained my balance, and now I shall retire to bed at ease.