We have the tendency to want to tell people what to do, to avoid the discomfort of uncertainty.
“You cannot possibly want to go to ____,” I was told, and although I know this is not how it was meant, I received it as a judgment that I was not able to know my own mind.
(This, coming from me, a steady source of unsolicited advice.)
What it presumes (or can) is that I know something more about you than you know about own heart, your own mind. It does not always come from a place of presumption, but more often, I think, a genuine place of concern. And certainly, there is a case to be made for the perspective offered from outside oneself.
It is difficult to watch someone else struggle. One way to respond to this struggle is through distance. The advice, perhaps, becomes part of that. See, I am unlike you, so much so that I know how to handle this situation, and here I will tell you. Telling you what actions to take, how to think about something puts distance between you and me. I have addressed your suffering with my own sound advice, and now I can return to my own life, unaltered.
What if observing the struggle in others was an opportunity to interrogate the self?
Is it even possible, after all, to leave an encounter with another person unaltered? Even if only in the smallest of ways, barely discernible? After all, particles react to collision.
(How appallingly I am reducing the principles of physics and motion to suit my own purposes!)
In the mornings, I find myself immobilized by inarticulate anxiety.
To answer the question: What’s next? As if something has to be next. But also, I cannot bring myself fully to say – nor would it be accurate to say – “Nothing.”
Nothing: Death, the void, absence.
(Ugh, what does Harry Mathews know, anyway?)
The other night, I ran into someone I had been, at one time, quite close with. I leaned in to hug her and she stood there, stiffly. I was too far into the action – this hug of greeting – to not complete it, but she in no way returned the gesture, and so in that moment, I was compelled to carry out an embrace of her unresponsive form. (A kind of collision in which one particle was deflected off another?)
Initially, I took this encounter as mine to rectify. I would contact her later, ask whether I had done something wrong, to upset her? But now, after a couple days’ distance, I am not really that interested in pursuing it. In the weeks and months since I had seen her last, she could have – had she been hurt, or angry, or offended by something I had done or said – tried to express verbally whatever it was she was expressing bodily. She chose not to.
A promise to myself: I will carry less blame.
Being alone is not the same as loneliness and although one might experience both states simultaneously or sequentially, they are not causally correlated.
Longing can be experienced throughout and is causally correlated with living.
Once when a friend was experiencing great pain over one relationship seemingly ending and another in its complicated middle, she texted me from the side of the road where she had pulled her car over, to weep. What is wrong with me, she said. I said, Nothing is wrong with you. You are just trying to live.
It was the only way, at that moment, I was able to express that I saw her. To attempt to communicate to her that I affirmed her place in the world, that I recognized her – not by the many roles she played in relation to other people, not as the methods through which other goals were accomplished, but simply as existing. A being in the world. Carrying all the burdens of existence. Trying to live.