My Blog__ On Being Alone

April 30, 2012


My psychic told me a few months ago how important it is for all human beings to spend a few hours a day, every single day, by themselves. Being alone is never something I enjoyed, and for a long time I was under the impression that it stemmed from a lack of maturity. I was afraid of being in my apartment alone, I needed attention, I wanted stimulation. And I think it's not unusual that during the times when I am alone I am the most susceptible to depression.

In my mind it always felt very important to be proactive about the state of my mental health. It's hard to know whether that stems from the history of mental health issues in my family; the vocabulary of psychiatry was always commonplace in my household. And on top of that there's no question that the trope of the "hysterical female" still holds a lot of weight in the way that women are taught to think about their behavior.

Don't be the crazy girlfriend that bugs out on her lover, don't be the psycho bitch who screams at someone for talking to her the wrong way, don't be the overemotional baby who cries in public. These are definitely all things I have said to myself. I'm sure I'm not the only one, and in many cases checking yourself is a good thing. I just wonder sometimes how deeply my drive to be sane and level-headed has permeated my being and stifled things I should have just let out. If I have learned anything in my young adult life, it is that repression is not a sustainable coping mechanism.

Sanity and loneliness have an intimate relationship with one another. Much in the same way that sex and power do. The two work to devour one another and then reconstruct themselves again in a different balance. Sometimes sanity wins, sometimes loneliness wins, and sometimes it is very hard to tell which force comes out with the dominant position. That ambiguous state is hard to pinpoint.

A couple weeks ago J went to Mexico City for an art fair, and I was alone more than I generally am. I had a bit of an existential crisis one of the nights she was gone and wrote a rampant journal entry about the necessity of sustaining a position of enabled estrangement in my thought process--which is essentially the ability to see products of the culture industry with a foreign eye, not using the standard measures of beauty or quality to assess them. It's an idea that stems from the fear of enlightenment modernity as a tool to produce a mass, unthinking subject. The loss of a person's ability to think differently than the people surrounding him is, in and of itself, a mode of INsanity that has everything to do with loneliness. Or perhaps, more accurately, becoming a drone in the army of an unthinking mass of people has everything to do with the inability to be alone.

I spent my night of crisis scrawling notes into my journal about the importance of resisting the mass modes of thought that a person working to produce and sell culture products--fashion, music, art, for a profit MUST be trained to think within. It has been a long time (a few good months at least) since I felt as bat shit crazy as I felt that night. I unleashed my rapidly moving thoughts onto the page in a monologue that might be called an esoteric and confused account of critical theory I hadn't read in months. Scholars would write it off as an ill-informed ramble. I was grasping for something that felt so out of reach, a comfort in the words of dead German men that served as a confidence-building foundation when I was in school. That theory is so far out of my reach now, reading it makes me feel lost and incapable. Writing about it makes me feel desperate.

But I showed it to J when she got back home because she is the closest thing to a psychoanalyst I have access to and she usually understands me when everyone else gives me blank stares. She read through the pages with an amused look on her face, closed my book, and said to me: "I think this is the best thing you've done in months."

I'm not sure if she said that genuinely, or because she thought my words had some ironic value to them. But it felt good to have my crazy validated by a person who is smarter and more articulate than the majority of people on this planet. My greatest fear has always been to lose my grasp on reality. I shake at the prospect of someone looking into my eyes and saying, "Dana, you're not seeing the world for what it is. You're not making sense. You've become detached. You need to be medicated. You need to be institutionalized." It's a thing that really happens.

I watched a woman in the midst of a complete breakdown on Avenue A last week. She was screaming at the top of her lungs, "I AM A WOODEN DOOR. I AM A BIG, WHITE, WOODEN DOOR." She'd lost it. She was alone and no one could understand what she was trying to tell them. Her sanity had escaped her and it might have been her loneliness that caused it.

I was alone tonight. I was running by the river thinking about the disconnect I was experiencing from all the people within a 5 block radius. And when my iPod ran out of battery I found myself muttering under my breath. "I am a big, white, wooden door." And I laughed to myself, because I realized that I understood that woman just a little bit. And I was alone. And I didn't feel depressed, because I realized that grasping for sanity is the only thing that will ever truly drive me crazy. Being lonely only forces me to think on my own terms, without the guidance of the masses.

So for all of you who are in the midst of a moment of crisis--being a psycho girlfriend, or a crazy bitch who gets over emotional, I invite you to try my new coping mechanism. Just stop, and say to yourself, "I am a big, white, wooden door." And smile because you have achieved a position of enabled estrangement. And you are not alone.

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