Surprise Packages

memory and loss

Taking a cue from R, on the idea that emotions can come in surprise packages, often at untimely moments. I hesitantly consider surprise loneliness. Not that I have ever claimed to be able to wrap my emotions up and tie them off with beautiful shiny bows. However, their ability to catch me off guard, especially during the holidays, never ceases to amaze me. To contextualize this, somewhat public, account of emotions, I must preface it with my nature as a community-centered person, who attempts to stay close to friends that at this point in life scatter the globe. In a typical extrovert fashion, I draw my energy from engaging with the incredible people in my life. However, the flip side of this is what a close [introverted] friend refers to as “the extrovert’s dilemma.” At times, I find loneliness lurking in the corners when I am physically alone. While most of us don’t fit neatly into the categories described by these buzz words---the bottom line is that since I was a little girl I have attempted to develop my introverted side. Goal lists spot my travel mole-skins; “become comfortable with spending time alone” is scribbled on the top of each one. I long to not wage battle against the lurking loneliness.

Loneliness: the creeping sensation in my gut---throwing me off kilter in a simple moment, invoking memories---both joyful and sad; nostalgia for distant places and faraway people, people I will never see again, moments that cannot be reproduced. It zaps my [fairly] romanticized view of the world---the snowy, almost timeless, afternoon, drinking a picture-perfect latte in a café, lazily reading, and it drags me back to a different form of reality, where I am huddled in a corner pouring over my text book, sucking down coffee in a manner that is far from relaxed. Its creeping nature takes the color out of every day moments and the tranquility from the serene present.

Off-center. The word that encompasses my general attitude towards the holidays, especially in the current version of my current life where it feels increasingly important to cement one’s notion of home and family based on where you spend the holidays and who you spend them with. Latent in these often gleeful conversations, loneliness plans its sneak-attack, filling me with unease. Last week it snuck in. At the end of a night of guitar-filled singing, surrounded by incredible friends, warmth, and love, I found myself cleaning up wine classes, the sign of a thoroughly enjoyed celebration. I felt the creeping sensation, tears welling behind my eyes, as my mind struggled to stay in the present---searching for past moments of contentment as well as loss. Where did this sneak attack come from?

Today a new friend remarked, he already felt nostalgic for today. The day, or rather the moment, had not yet ended---how can that happen? Perhaps, it is a cue from loneliness, itself, that the moment is good, hold on to it.

It consists of its own category: loneliness, with an element of surprise. It’s not grief, nor loss---it’s not fear, nor anxiety---it is a reminder of the present, anchoring me to the feeling of being alive, on a continual search for a sense of home, community, and place. And yet, even when I have found these, for me, being completely un-lonely, means situating myself in the present, letting go of the other places, peoples, and moments I am nostalgic for. So for this holiday season, with a sense of unease, I am retreating to a café, ordering what I hope is a perfect latte, to watch the snowfall and sit with a sense of loneliness, knowing that it anchors me to my present life.