Thursday, June 22, 2023

aloneness vs. lonely | the introvert heart

First memories are always dodgy. Things are snippets that seem almost dreamlike, so much so they may have never happened unless you can confirm with someone else they did occur. Mine are an odd assortment.  The Mother Goose book I was obsessed with that was falling apart.  A wooden toybox and an assortment of toys and stuffed animals. The bad paneled walls and green shag of the trailer we lived in the first 4 years of my life. My dad bribing me with Rolos to learn and recite the ABCs. A neighbor who trimmed our poodle's nails and had a siamese I was constantly hunting every visit. A fire at the end of the road in the middle of the night demolished another trailer.   

There is definitely a divide--a marker--with the birth of my sister, around which I have several memories of staying with my grandmother while my mom was in the hospital. We also moved that year, shortly before she was born, into a small blue house in town and walking distance to the school I attended through grade 4. My maternal grandfather who died when I was two, for example, I have no memory of outside of photos and maybe a flicker of a moment. A plastic piggy bank with devil horns he set up for me and slipped silver dollars inside that I later claimed. But I remembered more the pig than the man who gave it to me  

One thing I do remember, and it was later confirmed by my mother, was that my favorite thing to do most afternoons was put a large beach towel or flat sheet over our long mid-century coffee table and hang out under there with my coloring books and toys. I'd spend hours there, sometimes with the end raised up so I could see the tv (Sesame Street and The Brady Bunch were early favorites.) I think as a child, you spend so much time with others obviously, but that little fort was my way of gaining a feeling of aloneness...of independence, of a secret life of my own that was outside of my mother, who at the time, stayed home with me all day. Or my dad who return mysteriously in the evening from an office job he would later lose to a computer. My grandmothers and cousins on weekends and camping trips and other outings. Compared to my adult self, I was a loud child, an opinionated child, possibly demonic. But I still was an introvert at heart from the beginning.

Of course, siblings change things, but then again, not really. I enlisted my sister regularly in my fort making, my outdoor play, but I still feel like, because I was older, I played more often on my own until she was out of the toddler stage. Spent more time with books in my bedroom, on the swingset with a pair of headphones, in my room dressing and undressing Barbie or "writing" scribbles in notebooks. Because it was the 80s I walked to school alone once I was 8--about three blocks. It felt brave, and exhilarating to be so free and independent (though I learned the lesson for dallying a second too long--my mother was furious at my lateness and convinced I was dead.)  Still, she sent me alone with money to the end of the street for tacos and donuts and sometimes as far as the Mcdonald's as long as I didn't have to cross any major streets. (she apparently feared not that I would be kidnapped or murdered but that I would get hit by a car. Her fears eased when I actually became a crossing guard assistant in grade 4 and was avoiding death with safety training.) 

After we moved to the country, to wilder territories with no sidewalks, I took the bus to and from school, but spent a considerable amount of time biking up and down the street, including my cousins and I's habit of careering down a steep curve at high speeds. I once took a launching header into the ditch and broke my bike chain.  Amazingly we survived--no cars were coming though they easily could have been. With no streetlights but one and no sidewalks, it was, and still is, a dangerous road.  We also had a huge yard--actually, three of them carved into land my grandparents owned--with free reign to fields and woods at the back that abutted the wall of the highway. Or we would walk to the end of the road and take the steep path down to the river. When I was 14, I would go with the neighbor girl who wore copious blue eyeshadow and was expelled from school more than she was in it. We'd climb up underneath the overpass of the highway and listen to the trucks rumble above, but I was too scared to go down there alone. There were possibly snakes and trucks full of boys who were uncertain bargains. I knew better than to tempt fate and what really to be afraid of. 

For all my time with others, I still feel I move about in the world alone--this is true when it comes to writing, to social things, to work, to love. Even in love, I am resistant to giving up parts of myself--my peace and privacy that only usually exists when no one else is in the room. It's never really loneliness, not in the moment, though I have been lonely. Acutely so after the death of my mother especially. Like a gaping hole of loneliness. Cosmologically lonely, if that makes sense. Absolutely lonely, though I was surrounded by family and friends and partners. It was like someone had torn a hole in the universe and all the air was bleeding out. Time closed it, but it still yawns and gapes every once in a while, though just as often in a group as alone. Sometimes more so in a group of people, especially ones where she should have been. My dad is different..a more acute and situation-specific kind of lonely, but still with shape edges. 

I frighten myself sometimes, with my love of being alone, which feels enjoyable yet wrong somehow. Articles crop up in my feed occasionally about the importance of being social animals. How much I relish my days alone and uninterrupted with nothing but cats for company. I enjoy the company of people, some exquisitely, some more than others, but I am most myself when alone. It's the baseline. The blank state to be returned to necessary for creativity and productivity. Which may be why introverts love midnights so much when it seems the entire world is sleeping but them.