Monday, September 17, 2007

I Am An Island

I've been worn out since I got home. Spending four days 'on the road' and interacting with lots of people have been hard on me. I'm used to solitude: I like it.
My psychiatrist recently encouraged me to focus on rekindling various friendships and family relationships. He quoted John Donne's well-worn line, "No man is an island".
Unfortunately, I disagree – with both Donne and him. Just as there are islands in a geography dominated by continents, there are people whose nature imposes a need to be alone and apart from the mass of, well, others. Mine is a curious, friendly, communicative but introspective, insular personality. If I connect with people at all, it is almost always through my art.
The one exception is my boyfriend, whom I would describe as another island. Luckily, we share a vast ocean of the mind and heart, something I once thought impossible.
In the past couple of months, I've tried to spend time with different people from my past. I have invited them to stay at my house or I've arranged for them to fly somewhere to join me. I can't say that I've enjoyed it. All have been visibly discomforted by the restless, seven-day-a-week busy-ness of my life and work – which are pretty much indistinguishable – and the degree of what they obviously regard as 'privilege' I've earned from it. All have been unable(or unwilling) to bridge the chasm between the woman they once knew and the woman I am now. I end up feeling drained and frustrated. Maybe they do too.
My psychiatrist has argued for the importance of friends as a network of support. Frankly, I would rather pay people to support me, just as I pay him to help me care for my mental health. I pay a cleaner to come to my house once a fortnight. I pay a business manager to handle my financial affairs. I pay a driver to take me to and from airports and hotels. I have good relationships with all these people but I would not call them friendships. As far as I'm concerned, they're more efficient and hell of a lot easier.


Lauren said...

But where is the love and joy in solitude?

As the same type of personality I've started to learn that without love, we are nothing. No one is perfect, you'll never find another person who will understand you perfectly. The joy in life is loving other people regardless of their differences and accepting them (and yourself) for who they are. Warts and all.

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drips of paint said...

the question is how to be fulfilled even though we want to be on an island where sharing with another being is mininal.....the search for that will be an on going journey ... I guess psychiatrist mistakenly thought there is a prescription for that.

bhollweevil said...

its very very hard to produce the really good work, or get there as artist, in any art without going down the solitude road.
Whether you like it or not is pretty irrelevant.

sue beyer said...

I can totally relate to what you are saying.

Zed said...

I can relate to what you are saying here, as I totally love my solitude: but the reasons for needing solitude are not that I enjoy solitude for its own sake. It's because I simply have a VERY hard time finding another person with whom I can spend time and not be frustrated.
I think that if I could afford to get out into the wide world more, to travel and to make myself known, I might be able to cultivate friendships with folk I can tolerate. I had to put an ad stating I was an intellectual on Craigslist before I could find a roommate I could bare to live with.
At any rate, I envy you your financial stability and ability : if it were me I'd be paying people to find me some tolerable friends, eh.

capturedcastle said...

Have you read Rainer Maria Rilke's "Letters To A Young Poet?"

Also, Leonard Cohen's beautiful poem "If I could help you" ends with these lines:

You always wanted to be brave and true
So breathe deeply now
and begin your great adventure
with crushing solitude.

Kirsty Hall said...

I can relate & I think many artists do need a large amount of solitude to make their work. I enjoy seeing people but I need a certain amount of 'alone time' every day or I start to get extremely overwhelmed and unhappy. And a day without making art always feels like a wasted day to me.

C. k. Agathocleous said...

I understand and agree completely. Have you read "Party of One: The Loners' Manifesto" by Anneli Rufus? I've been defending the idea since childhood and always get flack about it.

Uncle Kokoe said...

Not clear why your psychiatrist would think that friends from the past, with whom there has been some discontinuity, would be relevant now.

All people, as they age, become more individuated. The longer you live, the more unique life experience you have; the more differentiated you have become.

This also true for the people in your past with whom you no longer share regular contact, for whatever reason. They also grow more and more different from what they once were.

Rekindling is therefore, often, inappropriate. Both of you have become sufficiently differentiated, that the overlapping space within which friendship once existed, is no longer present. You two have not drifted apart; you have grown apart.

But isolation is not the only endgame from this growth. The discovery of new kindred souls is also a clear possibility.