solitude

The bad news: Nothing lasts forever. The good news: Nothing lasts forever.

This week, other than band practice, a tattoo appointment and a Friendsgiving potluck at the end of the week, I have nothing. It’s strange, yet not, how my introversion kicks in sometimes – I’m told more and more as of late, especially by those close to me now who never knew me when I was an entirely different person, that me being an introvert comes as a surprise. That I should be on the stage; that I love dressing up and going out in public; that I make people laugh; that I’m a social butterfly. That I’m a complete extrovert. These words make me feel accomplished, more than anything – for those that have been with me for a while will remember, perhaps not quite so well as I, the many years I spent a hostage of fear and anxiety, desperate to possess half an ounce of confidence or self-belief, wishing so much I had the social skills that would attract people into my life and make them want to be around me, to impress, or sobbing into a pillow every night convinced I was everybody’s last choice. That nobody would miss me should I not be here, because I never had the courage to allow what’s inside to be seen externally. I used to fill up my weeks with plans because I craved the company of others, yet the desire was eternally outweighed by the fear of not being good enough, and I’d end up cancelling, and lonely, and upset with myself. These days my schedule seems to fill itself, and I find myself on the other end of the spectrum – busy, social, incredibly thankful, yet sometimes a little thirsty for what always terrified me most: solitude.

It’s strange how much the tables have turned. But then again, perhaps they haven’t. I still have moments where I find myself scared – of performing a song I wrote in front of people (yet I can karaoke in front of a room of strangers), of speaking on the spot in a meeting, or of others seeing the things I still sometimes see in myself. All of the flaws. I’ve worked so hard on embracing so many of the things that drove me to my darkest hour, and I feel more gratitude than I could ever express being in a position I’d only ever dreamed possible, but still, sometimes they sneak in.

Only occasionally, though. For the most part, I’m exactly where (and who) I always wished I’d be. I have deep, deep friendships with a few – “best” friendships, after never knowing what that could possibly feel like. I have independence and a sense of self worth I never imagined could belong to me. I let everything that begins as a tiny ember in the heart of my imagination burn brightly, so bright it spills into the outside world and I don’t care whether or not I’ll be judged for it, or if it’s odd. I don’t think any of us have these creative desires for nothing, and if we fail, we fail. At least we tried. At least there’ll be a record of our mind’s existence in this world.

So it’s been a couple of years of fierce determination, but I’m finally on the right path. I make music, I write stories, I make strange Facebook statuses about the sky. I try singing, I try taking photographs, and I try being in them, then re-working them to become the magical things I see through the lens of my imagination.

All of it’s a work in progress, but with passions, I think when they’ve spent far too long being stifled by your own fear, when you have the chance, you have to grab onto the time you have and unleash them into a creative explosion. Time is so fragile, and is stolen so quickly.

Tonight I sit in my new house, my housemate upstairs and a few hours before bed, alone. On one level I feel more connected and alive than I ever have; on the other, a sense of isolation so grand it almost evokes the feelings I used to have. But I’m stronger now. I have a tenor ukulele beside me, another laptop to my right, a glass of wine on the table, a few Photoshop windows open, a website half designed, a folder of sheet music in front of me along with a stack of stationery and postcards. I have so many things to put out into the world. Songs, videos, letters to loved ones, magical images. A sense of guilt hangs over me because I didn’t include storytelling in the list, and I’m desperate to write another chapter in my book, a short story inspired by a writing prompt, and another for the Hallowe’en season. I have tonight to myself, and so much with which to fill the hours. Hours to myself I’ve craved for what seems like months. I’m simultaneously overwhelmed and concerned. Not enough time for all I want to make, yet too much to spend alone. I haven’t felt the latter in an eternity, but I’ve recently had a bit of a deja-vu, in the worst way possible.

Years ago, when I was messed up, an emotional wreck and had yet to deal with my anxiety problem and insecurities, I lost friends. I hadn’t yet experienced a true, authentic, adult connection with another (platonic) soul, and those I had meant everything to me. I used to feel so much that I didn’t belong that anyone who stayed was absolutely cherished. But in the end, nobody did. I convinced myself it was because I was too much of an anomaly for this world; I felt too deeply, I was into too many different things, I was both silently passionate and loudly awkward, and I didn’t seem to fit in to anyone’s life well enough to stay. This was half a decade ago. In the last few years, I’ve learned how to fend for myself. To acknowledge the true power that lies in simple acceptance, rather than trying to control. To remain calm, and to train myself to capture any stray thought that may wander into the land of old and reform it into something new. Something real. To insist on living in the worlds inside my own head only if they are worlds of wonder and awe and inspiration. Not imaginings of others’ thoughts or intents or worst case scenarios. I used to believe every fear inside my head was intensely real and react accordingly. No wonder I was such a mess. Now I sit on the other side – though my feet sometimes dangle – and I know exactly what’s true. I believe in myself. I know my own worth. I continually learn, create, and push myself, and by doing so, somehow I’ve ended up with incredible people in my life. Intense kinship, for lack of a less fancy word, the likes of which I used to wish for so desperately. Yet tonight, I feel alone.

I lost people recently. One person in particular, who’s been in my life for over a decade, and has been one of the biggest parts of it in recent years. Relatedly (because it sounds otherwise), I’ve spent this entire year single. For the first time in my life, it was through choice. I’d experienced such depth of connection that I was sure nothing could possibly live up to it, and I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. In my younger years, my self esteem came from being with someone else. I was terrified to be alone. This year, I knew because I had experienced it, that what I wanted was possible. That maybe I actually deserved it. And I wasn’t going to take anything that I knew wouldn’t be that. My dearest friend, who I’ve come to see over the years as family, confessed his feelings for me a few times this year. Each time, I felt terrible saying they weren’t reciprocated in that way, but that he was the most important person in the world to me. He’d always say it was mutual, and that he’d get over it because we were going to be best friends “for life.”

Anyone would be lucky to have a best friend like this. We shared everything; celebratory wine on the good days and emergency car wine on the bad. Lengthy handwritten birthday cards, text reminders every day that no matter what, somebody cared about you more than anything in the world. Adventures in creativity, in other cities, pyjama nights and our innermost secrets, knowing they would always be safe. Trusting the words that no matter what, we would always, always have each other. Last week, this was taken away, and it threw everything I knew into disarray. My best friend is gone, because I said once and for all, I wasn’t “available” in that way. Ironically, this person was always the one to stand up for me if ever I was wronged, saying “talk is cheap,” and to look at people’s actions. His action in leaving my life defies every word he ever said, and I feel like somebody has died. Except worse than died, because I know he’s still right there, just choosing to no longer be around. I’ve been strong, but I’ve also broken down a few times. Old thoughts of years ago have stirred in my soul and I’ve begun to question again if anything could possibly ever be sincere. I believed with all my heart for years. But at the end of the day, everybody, even those you feel bound to for life… everybody leaves. And life is better for having had them.

I know in a former life this would have broken me. That I would have believed myself to be so very broken that nobody could possibly want to stay. But being on my own this whole year has brought a kind of strength – a lesson that sometimes, you kind of have to be your own superhero, because nobody is going to save your own day but you. It makes me sad to say that, because I was always the most hopeless of romantics, the most fanciful of dreamers, the believer of fairytales and human goodness and bonds that would transcend most anything. It hurts my heart to admit that I of all people have become jaded. Yet at the same time I feel a tiny bit proud, knowing after so many years of darkness, I can hold myself up and know that I’m good enough on my own.

Tonight, for the first in a very long time, I feel lonely. But I also know that I can choose to accept that. See the countless things in my life that I have now that I wished for for so long. Recognise that I have no control over anything but my own actions, and with reminders of appreciation, accept. I feel lonely. But I feel incredibly grateful, for too many things to list, and because of that, strong.

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Right Here, Right Now

Lately, I’ve been feeling a little bit guilty. When I first started writing here, I did it for a number of reasons: to get my thoughts out into the world because back then, I was a timid thing with a head full of thoughts and a heart too scared to speak up in the world; to chronicle life and bind it into real books at the end of each year; to connect; to document a journey through things I was afraid of and be held accountable to all those goals; to hopefully somehow be some kind of small inspiration, maybe; but most importantly, to make this a place where anyone could come and fall into my mind and know they’re getting the genuine thing.

One of the things I remember being bothered by when I first ventured into the blogosphere was how there was such a difference between real human beings and the personas they portrayed online. I found myself frustrated, searching for authenticity in a sea of best impressions, and I made a vow to myself: put it all out there. All of it. Don’t be a victim or a downer, but don’t be afraid to hide real feelings. Get really excited about stupid stuff and put that out there too. Be an outpouring of enthusiasm for everything I feel deeply about. Think out loud, as a stream of consciousness, and have this space be as close a representation to the inside of my mind as possible. (Though if that were true, the walls would be decked with quotes and beautiful imagery, and there’d be all sorts of music playing in a wandering stream of energy and enchantment.) Be genuine, because by being anything else, no subsequent relationships ever could be. 

My text sleevePeople question me sometimes, and tell me there’s such a thing as being “too open”. But take one look at me and you’ll see I can’t hide a thing. My heart is literally tattooed all over my sleeve, and a recent costuming endeavour (Observer from Fringe; yep, bald head and everything) proved I was thoroughly incapable of hiding any emotions (I’d be a terrible Vulcan!). I’m wired with a desperate desire to know and to be known. Right now, I feel as if I’ve been doing a lot of reflection on how best to balance that, but I don’t know if I’ve been doing the best job. I’ve been trying to follow my friend’s advice (it’s very good), yet somehow I keep packing my calendar fuller than a Christmas turkey.

I think, as with so many things, it goes back to the whole INFJ thing—one of the things I find most interesting with MBTI is the differences within types—I know a few other INFJs who fit the type just as well as I do, but are happy to only go out once or twice a week (higher I), or are able to remain a little more steady when it comes to being affected by emotions (lower F), for example. I’ve always remained an INFJ, but as I’ve grown older, my introversion has been steadily decreasing. I think this leads to the desire to be in the company of others, which when extremely awesome or extremely meaningful (or both), leaves me feeling energized—yet if it’s obligatory, I feel bad afterward, because it’s time that could have been spent making something. And I always need to create. I always have. Especially since I’ve been alone; I dived into photography and modelling and writing music and doing covers to keep myself occupied so, in all honesty, I didn’t just sit there being sad. But in doing so I fell ever so much more in love with it.

QueenMab1WebIt was a good thing: my loneliness was the catalyst for an explosion of creativity and a deepening of incredible friendships. I love doing all these things, all of the time. But tonight was the first time I actually scheduled myself some alone time. I’ve been feeling guilty of going out and seeing people too much at the expense of things I need to accomplish. Yes, I’m always doing photos, whether shooting or editing or being in other people’s… and I love telling stories through imagery. Yes, I’ll come home from work and between getting in and heading out again, I’ll pick up my ukulele and I’ll sing. I’ll try whatever happens to be floating around my head, or I’ll play some chords and hum a tune and record it for future use if something comes out sounding kind of okay. I’ve missed being part of a joint musical force so very much, and this past week, my stars aligned and two friends of mine, two incredibly talented friends who are already in their own amazing band, said yes to teaming up as a three-piece with me. (Me!) We had our first jam, and I was nervous and awe-struck, but I feel like this is could be the start of something that might just be really great. And I’m beyond excited. But one thing I haven’t been doing much of is working on my book. Maybe it’s because that’s the one thing that must be done alone. “Visual storytelling” is a collaborative effort; it’s fun, and from beginning to end, there’s something very social about it, even the solo work itself. Music too: you either collaborate with others, or you post something on the Internet and talk to others about it. But writing necessitates solitude. And that’s the one thing I’ve always been afraid of.

(Most recently written song, before I found this awesome team)

I’m much better at solitude than I used to be. But I have such trouble turning off my thoughts and focusing them on writing the story at hand. My mind will be full of tales and ideas and will conjure up strings of words all day long, but at the end of the day, when I finally have time to put them to paper, they get all tangled up with thoughts and feelings, wishes, reflections, curiosities and nostalgia. And it’s so terribly hard to concentrate. I feel off balance—like I should be either an extrovert who’s just always around people all the time, and feels good about it, or an introvert who can stay home most of the week, perfectly content to embrace isolation (even my word choice there has a negative connotation) and have ample time to devote so much more time to creative projects… I just feel a little torn between the two, and though I’m doing a lot (and loving it), and though I’m learning to only say yes when it’s a “hell yes”… I’m still not finishing my damn book. And that’s the one thing I absolutely need to.

Especially because I hired this amazing artist off the Internet to create the cover, who I'm totally going to visit in Vancouver this summer

Especially because I hired this amazing artist off the Internet to design the cover, who ended up being awesome at life, too, and who I’m totally going to visit this summer

Does anyone else have this problem? Too many ideas for too many things, not enough hours in the day, being torn between craving company and needing alone time, and the complete inability to shut off all the thoughts and simply focus on one thing? I wish I didn’t have to sleep. I feel that maybe then, I’d have sufficient time to devote to everything I want to instead of squishing it all in and feeling spread thin. I want to do everything. But I also want to be able to focus on one thing at a time without my thoughts wandering off with my feelings. The concept of meditating, or even just lasting more than five minutes in a bath, is one I’ve never been able to fathom. (There’s always so much to be doing!) How do you do it?

Fellow INFJs… I feel like you may have a few words of wisdom. Or at least help me feel a little less strange.