Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Aloneness

I went to London again this past weekend; the short trips seem to be the most fun. However, I always seem to return with odd injuries, as though I’ve been beaten by an invisible hand on the way in or out. This time, I came home to find a tremendous bruise on my left leg, just below and slightly behind my knee. Add that to my black and blue finger (managed to slam it in the iron basement door—ouch!), and the intense pain in my left arm from my allergy shot, and I’m just a mess this morning. Fortunately, this has not dampened my mood at all.

I went to Karborn’s exhibit on Marshall St. in London, and ended up buying one of his pieces, which he’s going to send to me at the end of next week. It’s really a magnificent piece, but it’s rather large, and it’s a canvas frame rather than a print under glass, so I have to find a good location for it in the house. “Good location” means not only that’s it’s visible and fits in with its surroundings, but also out of reach of kitty cats. Cats do not appreciate art, and would view a canvas frame as an extra scratching post.

This morning, I contemplated the fact that next week I am switching dashas. If you don’t know what a “dasha” is (and why would you, unless you’re from India), there is an explanation here that is less technical than anything else I have seen. In short, it’s a Vedic astrological measure that divides your dashas (cycles of years) into segments reflecting certain qualities. The dasha I am leaving behind is called Ketu dasha. It is characterized by a need to be alone and self-reflective, among other things. Which is a pretty fair characterization of the years since I left my husband (interestingly, at the start of my Ketu dasha). Like any astrological system, I take it with a grain of salt, though I must admit the Vedic system is pretty uncanny in its accuracy. But that is for another post.

Still being self-reflective for another week, I thought about the whole cycle of aloneness and where it started. It actually started in September 2001, just 12 days after the September 11 disaster in New York. I remembered being at work on 9/11, the gradual sense of awareness that something was really wrong in the city 25 miles away. No one did any work the rest of the day; most people wandered around in a daze, many were worried about spouses or children working in the city that day. I went outside with my assistant, and we looked up to see dark smoke billowing in over the otherwise wonderfully clear autumn day. Walking up the hill on the other side of the street, you could see the New York skyline, and the black smoke belching its way up into the city sky, slowly expanding into the space around it. In the aftermath, many folks commented that this kind of thing happens in war-torn countries all the time, and that the U.S. has been sheltered from such tragedies. While that is a true statement, I don’t think you can compare it exactly to what happened in New York.

New York is a very dense city, not only in terms of population, but in terms of occupied space. It’s not like any other city in the world. Skyscrapers loom at you from every city block, perhaps with the exception of places like Lincoln Center or Central Park. I didn’t really spend time in the WTC towers, though I had been there in the 1980s with my brother. I am afraid of heights, so the building was absolutely terrifying to me. Photos of people flinging themselves from the tower windows, reports of people playing pranks on family members desperately looking for their relatives working in the towers—the whole thing was just gruesome and disturbing on a level that is difficult to verbalize. After the catastrophe, the air quality was dreadful—it was at least a month before one could really walk around Manhattan below 14th Street without worrying about breathing in something carcinogenic.

After all of this, the city was quite empty for awhile. Attendance at shows and concerts in the city went way down, as people were now too traumatized to go into Manhattan. I have to admit I was deeply disturbed by 9/11, but I didn’t really think the solution was to run away from New York. In fact, I went quite regularly—3 times a week at that point. It was an interesting time. I would get on the 7 train to Queens, and all sorts of people riding the train with you—businessmen, students, gang members—would actually make eye contact and say, “There’s some crazy shit going on in this world, isn’t there?” I had to agree.

2 weeks after September 11, my husband moved out. After he walked out the door and drove away, I remember feeling a huge void in the house, like some big presence had occupied it, and it was now gone. As much as I love my space, this void felt more like a black hole—like you could be sucked in by it and destroyed. But I quickly realized that this was more of a reaction to an Unknown, and had nothing to do with my husband. I had never lived alone in my life. I responded to the feeling by taking control of the house—cleaning, moving things around, getting packed for my own move. The following night I went out for drinks with some friends. They asked if I missed my husband. Without a second thought I said, “Hell no!” I preferred being alone to having that tension in the house.

This is all a rather roundabout way of suggesting that aloneness is not necessarily a negative. I would bet money that one of the biggest challenges facing any individual is the ability to be alone. We like all kinds of distractions and chatter around us, surround ourselves with people—but we just can’t bear to be alone. We think strange thoughts, get depressed, need something to distract ourselves. Aloneness forces you to confront the uncomfortable things in your life amid the silence.

It did not take me long to get used to living alone—the sense of joy that I felt when I moved into my first apartment without my husband was exhilarating. I did not have to worry about tiptoeing around another human being—I could make my own schedule, get up at any hour of the day or night, and be answerable to no one. I’ve learned a lot about myself being alone, that I never would have discovered if I had to be distracted by the concerns I had throughout my marriage.

Aloneness did not mean that I didn’t have a social life. I had boyfriends, and went out a lot with friends. But I liked to spend large chunks of time away from people—this is how I developed the habit of not answering my phone, which drives some people absolutely crazy.

The next “dasha” that is supposed to start next week is Shukra (Venus) dasha. Supposedly this brings an end to aloneness, and brings prosperity. I hope that’s true. I could easily handle 20 years of that.

1 comment:

Lilla said...

wow...why is that every time I'm thinking of something, you write something similar to what I was thinking? Strange...:)