Sorrow and solitude
I felt no need to speak to anyone ever again. It was enough to stay inside, to read his notebooks and look through his drawings, and to write down everything I could remember about our time together.
—Richard Powers, Bewilderment
Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts.
—Rachel Carson (quote found at the beginning of Bewilderment)
It’s been several months since I last sent out one of these newsletters. I’ve been dying to write again, but lots of “big stuff” has happened lately. They kept piling up, making me feel more and more hesitant to share.
I seem to have an aversion to laying heavy news on people, yet I find it impossible to speak when I can’t be completely honest.
Hence, the silence.
But I hate not writing. I love this newsletter and what it could transform into too much to let it rot away from misuse. So it’s time to rip the bandaid off.
In July 2021 I discovered I was on the spectrum with autism. In September 2021 my sweet little brother Zach left this earth. In November 2021 my dear friend and writing accountability partner of seven years, Dylan, was crushed by a semi truck and had to be revived back to life at the scene.
The world as I’ve known it has shattered.
It probably seems overwhelming and callous to lump these three things together, to bullet list them, to not even give them their own paragraph. Of course they deserve more attention than these short sentences.
But it’ll take me months and months to slowly work and write through these things properly, find the right words, the memories, the emotions—and I don’t want to be silent in the meantime.
Although, I have been increasingly silent “locally.” Avoided the people I know in town, stopped reaching out to my long distance friends as much, even got ghosted by someone I had a mad crush on and felt relieved. Being a recluse feels comfortable.
Some people assumed I’d fall into a deep depression following my little brother’s death. I can’t even talk to the one friend I had who actually knew him and had memories of him—because it’s Dylan, the friend who was severely injured by the semi truck and is hospitalized and on a ventilator. I had another friend who knew my brother—my brother was actually friends with him first—but he’s the guy I was “talking to” and got ghosted by. I miss talking to all three of these guys, mostly Zach. There’s been a lot of silence.
But I’m not depressed, even though I’m dealing with several traumatic events, even though my instinct has been to isolate. In fact, I feel more filled with life than I ever have before. Death puts life into stark contrast.
I’ve been avoiding people, not because I’m overwhelmed by tragedy and pain, not because I find death too tricky a topic to navigate in conversations—but because I feel like I’m changing too rapidly.
I feel myself changing in like an all-encompassing DNA kind of way. I’ve become extremely sensitive to alcohol, that favored social lubricant. Even the smallest mildest glass gives me a wicked headache and stomachache. I’ve fallen out of resonance with most, if not all, my friends. Not that they did anything wrong or I love them any less, but I feel more and more restricted by verbal conversations, by social excursions. I’m at a loss for words most of the time, or my voice is trembling trying to express this new growth inside me. Or I find my vision blurring and my ability to focus on the conversation completely non-existent, I stare off into space more and more when I’m around people. The normal foods I used to eat don’t feel right anymore. I can hardly listen to music or watch any media. Leaving my house has become exhausting.
I realize those sound like a cocktail of trauma responses.
But I know that’s not what’s happening. At the risk of sounding “extra,” I just have a deep knowing that all of this means I’m evolving into the person I’m supposed to be. Like full blown metamorphosis, melting into goo inside my cocoon and turning into a different creature—one that was already inside of me from conception.
I’ve been writing like a mad woman and I can’t keep up with myself. Pages and pages are filled each day, ideas are implemented, problems are solved, creativity is bursting.
And it is from reclusively and solitude, listening, feeling, writing, that I experience my deepest joy and contentment.
Last summer I sent out a newsletter called “my Emily Dickinson year” but it feels like that sentiment has expanded and amplified into “my Emily Dickinson life.” The more I live like her, the happier I feel.
People think it’s such a curious mystery that Emily Dickinson secluded herself more and more as she grew older, eventually reaching a point where she hardly left her room at all. Not to be “not like other girls” but I understand her completely. It’s more isolating to be around people who don’t understand you than it is to live a life of solitude with the one person who gets you completely. Not to say people didn’t appreciate or relate to her poems, but I’m sure very few understood how she arrived to them. What she saw and how she thought. Plus it’s suspected she was on the spectrum, so I’m sure the clattering and clammering of life outside her room was a lot to take in. She was witty and brave and willing to face death and new ideas, but she was a sensitive soul.
When you have that much awareness, it doesn’t take much external stimulation to fill you up.
This book I just finished reading, Bewilderment, is about a young boy suspected of autism who is beginning to have intensified struggles with regulating his emotions. His father doesn’t want to put him on medication, so he volunteers him for experimental emotional therapy treatment, which basically trains his mind to be more open, calm, and empathetic.
This boy’s awareness expands so much that he realizes he’s both “up there” looking down on the experiment and “in here” experiencing the experiment.
Holding still and looking had become his favorite activity in all the world.
—Richard Powers, Bewilderment.
The longer I meditate, the less I feel I need to do. I could sit in the backyard for hours on end, in the sun, watching a trail of ants, or the woodpecker hammering a hole into the side of the neighbor’s palm tree, or the hummingbird who I swear has a little crush on me, or wondering at the tufts of grass that suddenly sprang up out of our random backyard dirt pile. Grass! In the desert! In a dusty dirt pile!
Solitude makes me incredibly happy. Not to say other humans don’t also thrill and delight me. But I feel like at some point I must have traded my authenticity and writing ability for charisma and social skills. If it’s a trade-off then I’ll gladly give those up to get myself back. I know it sounds dramatic but I want to withdraw from society in many ways. I want to regain my solitude and skill as a writer.
Plus my human design type is manifesting generator which is the least collaborative type. I abhor being in groups unless I have some sort of leader power (but I don’t really like that dynamic so I’d rather not be in a group in the first place). I’m just uninterested in three legged races when I can run so much faster on my own. Which is probably why, still, as an almost 27-year old, the longest relationship I’ve ever been in was three and a half months. Seven years ago. And that was even with weeks of putting off the breakup. lol.
I don’t want to isolate in an unhealthy way, a snarling wounded animal way. I just want to connect in a meaningful way. I don’t want to sit around talking about how sorry, how sad, with people who don’t know. I honestly just want to talk about my brother with my sister, because she’s the best person to reminisce with. We have the same mind when we think about him.
But for others I want to write. Writing is the best way to connect outside of myself because it’s easier to be honest, to explain myself, to resonate on different ideas and feelings.
And like the Rachel Carson quote at the top, nature has been my reserve of strength. Nature and solitude, meditation, words, the sun, the earth. And myself. I am my own solace.
Everything feels so different and wrong, yet so right and completely me at the same time. I don’t know who I’ll be when I emerge from the cocoon, but I do know that no longer will I munch on leaves for sustenance, but instead I’ll feast on nectar.
And I want to translate that taste into words.