While I rarely have conversations with people, I do have continuous conversations with myself. From the time I wake up, before I am even aware that I am doing it, the conversation has started. I don’t try to control it or direct it, there is nothing to win or lose, nor is there any chance of saying the wrong thing.
Having the freedom to talk with myself about what is important is one of the best parts of living alone. No one has to agree with me and no one argues with me. As I was watching a movie last night that was full of misogyny and violence, I thought about how lucky I am. I no longer have to put myself into situations where the opportunity for violence can arise.
The longer I live in solitude, the more I realize this experience has a lot to do with weaning myself from the idea that life is conflict. When two people come together, there is a third element present, which is the space between them. As I become more fully present with myself, I don’t seek out others to fill in the gaps.
Knowing everything I need is within me, I am more cautious about this ‘third element’ as a potential source of pain and disagreement. At my last condo complex, I got involved in the homeowner’s association and deeply regretted it. In my current condo, I have never attended an HOA meeting, nor have I signed up for committees. While there are many issues I would like to have a say on, I keep myself apart and this has been a wise choice.
In groups, I tend to come across as strong and assertive, but both of these behaviors are impossible to sustain. It’s not that I am inherently weak, but more that I lose interest. To effectively engage in conflict, one has to have a social nature. Conflict requires the establishment of ‘sides’ and the cultivation of allies. It’s a lot of work, and in my opinion, a futile activity. Once an issue gets fragmented into two sides, it is impossible to solve.
I recently read an interview with Noam Chomsky in which the interviewer was trying to present an end of the world scenario that only Chomsky’s ‘erudite wisdom’ could turn around. Chomsky said, “I don’t think the situation is that bleak.” As he went on to discuss some of the trends that he thought were promising, the interviewer kept wanting to revert back to his doomsday scare-mongering.
A few years ago, the phrase ‘It’s complicated’ became popular. When I was in the midst of my mother’s crisis a few months ago, I kept repeating to myself how difficult everything was. After the crisis ended, I had to admit that it had not been that difficult. Certain things needed to happen in order to transition her to assisted living. When the ‘emotionality’ of the situation dissipated, I saw that everything had been clear and straightforward.
During the past few weeks, I have been tired and lethargic. While shopping at a store the other day, I saw an acupunture clinic and made an appointment. The treatment was amazing. I am now alert and energetic. I found something that works for me. I am motivated to write more and proceed with a small remodeling project.
In her book, The Journal Keeper, Phyllis Theroux made this observation about aging, “The present becomes an empty antechamber where one sits thinking about what is on the other side of a locked door.” At 64, the way I think about my life is changing. I realize that whatever I do next will just become another thing I did, and that the things I did are nothing more than wrinkled leaves falling off a tree.
What is important, and most interesting, is who I have become. What did all of the choices, events, sorrows, mistakes, add up to? If I am in a fully realized state of being, I don’t have to think about doing. The fullness of my being is the doing. I spent my life trying to become a certain kind of person. If I don’t give myself time be this person, all my work will be in vain.
My future is not the next five years, but the next five minutes. It is choosing how to pleasurably spend my time until the end of the day. Do I want to have lunch at the bakery, is there a bill to pay, do I need to shower? My only responsibility is to keep this small, private life going.