A Better Way to Be Alone

Strasbourg, France 2013

Strasbourg, France 2013

28 November 2013
4:09 pm
Edinburgh

T. —

The desert island story: A few years ago, I would have called myself a private person — not a loner, but not someone who let people in easily. Despite that, I surrounded myself with people, and couldn’t really stand to be alone for very long. If I think back to that time, my desert island story would have been very different. A tale of myself being left to myself used to be quite destructive: either over-working or playing too hard. Ruining things. Letting things go to ruin. The self-absorbed bubble that is the early-twenties, and a very narrow picture of the world. If I had to be alone with myself for long back then, I think I would either lose my sanity or my virtues.

These days, the desert island story is very different. I think I’m now  a very open and honest person, but actually spend more time alone naturally. I still feel surrounded by people, but in a supportive way, not in terms of co-dependence. There’s a lot of acceptance, for myself, for others, for life, for situations. A tale of myself being left to myself is a lot more efficient, and productive, and sometimes necessary. Books, and tea, and letters, and music. Meditation. Just space, and time to think. A desert island is a good way to catch up with yourself. My alone time is pretty sacrosanct. I don’t know what I would do without it now.

I know I quoted it a few days ago, but it’s far more relevant today:

A Postmortem Guide
Stephen Dunn

For my eulogist, in advance

Do not praise me for my exceptional serenity.
Can’t you see I’ve turned away
from the large excitements,
and have accepted all the troubles?

Go down to the old cemetery; you’ll see
there’s nothing definitive to be said.
The dead once were all kinds–
boundary breakers and scalawags,
martyrs of the flesh, and so many
dumb bunnies of duty, unbearably nice.

I’ve been a little of each.

And, please, resist the temptation
of speaking about virtue.
The seldom-tempted are too fond
of that word, the small-
spirited, the unburdened.
Know that I’ve admired in others
only the fraught straining
to be good.

Adam’s my man and Eve’s not to blame.
He bit in; it made no sense to stop.

Still, for accuracy’s sake you might say
I often stoppped,
that I rarely went as far as I dreamed.

And since you know my hardships,
understand they’re mere bump and setback
against history’s horror.
Remind those seated, perhaps weeping,
how obscene it is
for some of us to complain.

Tell them I had second chances.
I knew joy.
I was burned by books early
and kept sidling up to the flame.

Tell them that at the end I had no need
for God, who’d become just a story
I once loved, one of many
with concealments and late-night rescues,
high sentence and pomp. The truth is
I learned to live without hope
as well as I could, almost happily,
in the despoiled and radiant snow.

You who are one of them, say that I loved
my companions most of all.
In all sincerity, say they provided
a better way to be alone.

*

Good morning, good night. Happy Thanksgiving =).

M.

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