Thoreau

WHY is it so hard to be me. I wonder this all the time. I halfway (quarter-way) long to be a light, easygoing person, what you see is what you get, only walking on the sunny side (ugh, no, I actually detest that, it would be my worst personal nightmare) — but I do wish on occasion to be an easier person. Most of the time I like the complexity of being who I am, but sometimes I wish I were easier.

this was NOT my poster, but the spirit is the same

In the spirit of my last two posts, I’m remembering that old poster I had on my bedroom wall as a near-teen — the image was so green, a deep forest with a shaft of light piercing through, and superimposed (these were the pre-meme days of the 1970s) was a quote, either Thoreau or the Desiderata, I don’t remember for sure, but I do also remember reading Walden and thinking how swell that would be to go into the wild and confront myself, to confront the bareness of life, to learn whatever that might teach me.

And here comes the complexity, the wish that I were a simpler person. I’m feeling that longing quite intensely, thinking about stepping off the earth, off the public presentation of self, and just being here. Just being here in the wild, lonely solitude of Heaventree… and yet I have to wonder and worry about that, because I know me and my history. Is this impulse a sign? Is this a withdrawing impulse that connects to something darker? I don’t think so, I don’t feel that at all, but I have to ask myself that question. I have to answer that question for people who love me. Are you OK, Lori? (How is mom? Have you talked to her? How are you, mama?) How is it inside you? Are you OK? Really?

That’s my post office. I live 1.5 miles up the road to the left, up the mountain. The white car is Brandon’s. Tammy delivers the mail, but not to me.

Marnie and I talked the other day, and I was telling her about the adjustment, about how inconvenient rural life can be. How Brandon is at the post office between 8 and 10, and then between 3 and 5, and that’s it. How I’d gone to the post office at 2 expecting no mail but just wanting to get out, and found a notice that I had a package, so I had to go home and then return at 3, and when I did, there was a handscrawled note: “In the bathroom, back in 5 minutes.” And so I waited in silence for Brandon, and when I saw him it was notable to be having a conversation with a person. (And I talk to Marc every day on the phone, and text my daughters throughout the days, but a real in-person conversation has become extremely rare.) I went to the Pine Hill library the other day to pick up my library card, and their website said they were open at 2 on that day of the week, but when I got there, a sign said, “Hey! We’ve changed our hours, now we open at 3. Join us for knitting the 1st and 3rd Thursday of the month, Tina will be here!” True rural life is solitary and inconvenient and dependent on how other people happen to be feeling, whether they’ll be there as advertised . . . or not. And so my one chance to talk to a living person is set aside for the next day. Maybe.

So I gradually become more accustomed to my own company, for days at a time — and I like my own company, thank heavens I learned that in Austin — and I begin to wonder what I might learn, left alone with my thoughts and with the forest. I wonder. I wonder the shape of my heart. I wonder the shape of my mind, my want, my need. When I am fully alone, in silence, whether walking or driving, I begin again to recognize my own mind. I have my own thoughts, my own imagery, my own landscape that’s just nearly unrecognizable, because it’s unlanguaged. And I am so very, very languaged.

Social psychology, my own subdiscipline, takes as its starting point that our very SELVES are social even if the ‘other’ is only implied and not present. That without others, there simply is no self. And so I think about that, not just from an academic perspective but from within my own solitary self, here on the side of a mountain, deep in a valley in the lonesome old Catskills. Who am I without others? Am I, without others? What is that, who is that? I spent my second summer of graduate school reading philosophy of self, and while I began that summer with an almost irrationally angry defense (“Of course there is a self, who do you think is even asking the question?!” I’d say, usually suddenly and mysteriously on my feet and with a red-flushed throat), by the end of that summer academic philosophy had done its thing, and I no longer even understood the terms of the question. Self? What is that, really? Me? Who am I, really?

To summon but shift Prufrock, I wonder: Do I dare?

8 thoughts on “Thoreau”

  1. It feels like you’re there for a reason, to learn, accept, and fall in love with yourself. Maybe part of that is bringing people along with you. And maybe part of it is to sit in yourself. You already are whole and complete. It’s late at night and I’m rambling but oh I love your posts, selfish as that may sound. Xoxoxox

    1. I feel this too, my dear A, that I’m here for a reason, that there is something big and deep to learn. And maybe what I have to learn will be needed by someone else. I am so so glad you’re there. Always. Always. xoxoxoxox

  2. So beautifully said, as always. Your complexity is your beauty, and as your friend, I wouldn’t have you any other way. I, too, often wished I were less complicated, wanted to be the kind of person who didn’t ponder the deep and the dark. But when I finally learned to enjoy being alone with myself (believe me, that was quite a journey!), I realized that everything I was was because of where I’d been, and the fact that I survived made me a stronger person. I like myself, now. And that’s everything. You will always be learning, growing, sharing, and we love you for it.

    1. That’s one of the very best things to remember — we will always be learning and growing! I keep waiting for that experience of feeling like finally I’ve got it . . . when the fact has long been a series of waystations where I get it a little more, each of which seems at first like the end, but it’s only the next stop. Thank you for that reminder, and for being on the trip. People who knows this are definitely my tribe. xoxox

  3. This post is so interesting to me. I feel like I live out in the middle of nowhere, but apparently not. Here, where I live, people are where they say the will be when they say they will be there. There are set open and closing times and things don’t really vary too much. But I have been to a place like where you are talking about – where everything sits on the whims of the locals, things open and close at varying times, and you never know what to expect. When you are on vacation, it’s both a nice change of pace (being forced to slow down) and irritating (plans you make get cancelled). I don’t know if I could do it in my daily life. Thank you for sharing your little piece of the world. 🙂

    With Love,
    Mandy

    1. Mandy, thanks for the comment and for linking your site! My husband and I travel a whole lot — our favorite places are in Southeast Asia so we go there at least once a year, and as often to Hanoi as is humanly possible — so I will enjoy following you. Yeah, this aspect of daily life in a truly rural area is hard to get used to. I’m so glad I also have a home in New York City, because I’m not sure I could do this without having that other option. It’s TOUGH when you’re a real-city girl.

  4. Maybe (we) social psychologists put too much emphasis on the social. That is… not enough on the implied. Frankly, I’m beginning to think of the internet as almost entirely implied social, not actual. Should social psych really be about the interaction of “real” social interaction and “implied”? (sorry for the weird punctuation.) It seems obvious to me that this ratio is in flux over the last 20 years or so. I mean, if insects’ are impacted by an audience, how are we simple humans expected to deal with a full time implied audience? How are we to tell the difference while distracted with stuff like Trump?

    On a completely different tangent….
    We bought an RV!

    Glad to hear things are progressing well. Do you at least get to burn the old carpet? Or did they haul it away? I’m imagining a bonfire might be pretty enjoyable…

    Sherlock

    1. Well, your first paragraph should be unpacked over a beer — and I hope that can happen on the sooner side! Let’s do it! And an RV, how thrilling, y’all!! Lots of shifts happening in our lives, I think it’s far past time we ate oysters, drank beer, saw each other. For real. It’s a 2 hour and 45 minute drive from my door to yours — or yours to mine, I presume. I have a car and an EZPass and I’m ready to roll. 🙂

      NO I think it would’ve been a hazard to the environment to burn that nasty ass carpet. I hope it’s smoldering in some dump somewhere, being consumed by bugs and bacteria and turned into something less disgusting. Jesus. That was gross. They hauled it away, and I felt like paying them extra for having to touch it. Gag. I still keep dropping to my knees and putting my face on the carpet just because I can now.

      Couches coming this weekend, and painting to begin, and when the unpacking is finally finished I’ll let y’all know and we can make some plans. I miss you both!

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