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Hey I wrote another essay, it’s intimate and it’s at the bottom of this post. This one is about being alone. As always, if you’d like me to keep discussing this topic let me know by replying. I can write more openly about my own experiences as well as share helpful advice /info from people much much smarter than me. “Love is like knowledge, you can’t do nothing with it but pass it on” – Tracy Morgan. I know… he’s good.
All the best things,
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The Performer: Part 6
On Being Alone
“I suppose it is tempting, if the only tool you have is a hammer, to treat everything as if it were a nail.” – Abraham Maslow
I was going to give you a bunch of life lessons from Ecuador, I had a plan: tell them you’re grateful for all the circumstances of your life, your ability to have an education, family, support system, access to clean water, medical assistance, the ability to even travel anywhere; tell them how lucky you are to be able to share these very thoughts right here. While all these statements are truth nectar, dripping confidently from mountain Yes Forever onto Gratitude Valley, I’m choosing to change topics entirely. Let’s go on a hike, you into holding hands at all?
I’m a solo artist. I just spent two months in Ecuador by myself. I was born alone — that’s a line in a new song I just wrote. What is it that compels me /people to do things entirely on my/their own? Am I bravely pushing myself to be a better person, or am I a product of an isolating society?
I think about this a lot these days, at times even while I’m performing on stage. Sometimes I find myself singing a song I know so well that the words feel like sand on the beach — obvious and laid out for my pleasure — and all I could think about while playing is how I did it again: I found myself fighting, alone.
I imagine there are endless ways to be alone: waking up early and going for a run, sitting in your room using the internet for hours on end, watching a movie in an empty theatre, going on a trip for 2 months to Ecuador. But what about feeling lonely? Alone is a fact, while feeling lonely is a state of mind. I can ‘get lonely’ anywhere, surrounded by hundreds of people, some of them singing my songs. Nonetheless, I do think that performing can be a great way to reach out to people, to try and connect and maybe even find those that bob their heads the same way you bob yours: figure eight with the nose, front and back with the forehead. But as we all know, performers aren’t immune to the traps of the ego, the same ego that tells us that we can do it all — all of it — alone.
Every year I learn this lesson in a new way, and this year I learned it through depression. When I got back from Ecuador I fell into a depression; please trust me when I write depression versus sadness: this isn’t my first experience with the symptoms, which helped name the beast and quickly slay it, thankfully. Here are my symptoms for you, arranged in no particular order, doused in intimate honesty:
- Every morning I felt tired and gruesome.
- I wanted to sleep away the day, every single day.
- Overeating and undereating.
- My passions felt like burdens. These included music, cooking, and even seeing my friends.
- My immune system, which is normally quite strong, immediately failed and I got sick.
- I found myself forgetting to breathe.
- I had severe problems with concentration and decision making.
- I felt like I’ve always been depressed and will always be in this state. This is one of the sneakiest symptoms.
- I didn’t feel worthy of love.
One of the lies that depression whispers at us (( surround sound and in stereo )) is that we should distance ourselves from our support group, and most devastatingly, to keep quiet about it all. This is the exact same notion: that we can do it all on our own. My past is drenched in this notion, coming from a family of workaholics that is; these are people that throw themselves at their work, relentlessly numbing any desire for grieving and dealing with the pain that life brings us. I used to admire this as a strength, but time and time again I’m finding that true strength comes from vulnerability. Being vulnerable means accepting your feelings out loud, and trusting that the people who truly love you are emotionally there for you, especially when you need it most.
In some cultures grief is as important as happiness is, and it’s viewed essentially like an artery, carrying blood and self-acceptance from your heart, to every part of your body. Grief isn’t meant to be experienced alone in a cement room with inadequate lighting; it isn’t meant to be ignored through avoidance, through drugs, by throwing yourself obsessively into your work, or into alcohol — instead it’s expressed loudly within a safe community. “Grief expressed out loud for someone we have lost, or a country or home we have lost, is in itself the greatest praise we could ever give them. Grief is praise, because it is the natural way love honors what it misses” (Martín Prechtel). Depression can lead you towards total apathy, which does not allow for grief.
I’m lucky, I know. These days I can usually name depression when I feel it, and I know not to sit still when I do, because so many times in the past it has lead me somewhere scary. This includes a long battle with anorexia in my late teens and criminal behavior in my early twenties — I was avoiding dealing with my pain and worst of all I thought that I could do it all alone. I was lonely, in a room full of people.
Please seek help if you are feeling any of these destructive symptoms. Please go into the sun. Please reach out to a professional, a good friend (or many good friends), a loved one, family, or this number right here:
Crisis Call Center: 800-273-8255 or text ANSWER to 839863. And also please remember that depression is neurological and chemical and requires treatment, just like any illness would.
We’re social animals y’all, we like to hold hands and just be in a room with other monkey humans, eating fruit, breathing deep, brazenly looking into each other’s eyes. Let’s not grieve alone.