Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trying To Remember...

...what it might have been like to be lonely. As in: greatly desirous of human company.

Thursdays are the closest thing I have to a day to myself. The kids go to school, and while every second Thursday I have to grab them from the bus at 1530 to drive them (and some others) into Launceston for trampoline and gymnastics at the PCYC, on the alternate Thursdays it can happen that all the way to 1825 or so, I might not have other people in my face.

Right now, I've just had a very fine Boags Pure Lager. I've got ABC Dig Music coming in via the TV, which I have just wired to a small amplifier/speaker system because the native sound off the TV was shite. It's dark outside, and pleasantly cool in here, despite the fact that the fire is pootling along cheerfully. I've got a pot of leek and sweet potato soup simmering on the stove, and I've just pulled the bacon out of the grill. When the family gets here, they will have delicious soup with bacon bits and sour cream and chopped coriander.

But you see, there I go: planning already for the return of wife and kids.

What was it like, being alone? I did it, now and again, when I was younger. I took multi-day walks deep into isolated bushland, carrying my food and my gear in my pack. Once I hitch-hiked around Ireland on my own... at least until two very cute German lasses with a car of their own made me a better offer.

Lately, though, I find myself wondering.

Let's be honest: I've never really liked most of the human race. Oh, by and large they're decent enough, but I wouldn't actually seek them out for company. My friends know who they are... but it's an indication of the nature of what I call 'friendship' that Papa Stanley can show up at my house a good seven years after I last saw him, and we simply carry on in much the same fashion as always. We're friends, yes, absolutely. Good friends, I believe - but I know he can live without me, and vice versa.

These days, communicating with the people you want to reach is easier than at any time in history. I have a number of distinct, but overlapping, circles of friends. Some I see regularly and routinely. (Hi, Bruce!) Others I might only hear from once a year or so. (Simone? Julie? You out there?) Nevertheless, I could get in touch quickly, as needed.

What I do not have is that ability to walk away, and experience silence and isolation. I have three kids, and a wife. I have commitments to study, to writing, to family, to teaching, and to the community in which I live. I move from obligation to obligation, moment to moment, breathing in the spaces between, mustering my resources, planning the next engagement on the fly. I may spend an afternoon in relative peace on a Thursday... but nevertheless, I'm tied down, locked in. I picked up snacks and drinks for the kids. I shopped for, and installed, the speaker/amp system so that the others can enjoy TV and games and music. I met the kids at the bus stop, delivered snacks and drinks and paperworks, collected school-bags and books, and organised a few details with my neighbour. Then I went home again, handled laundry, laid my plans for dinner, etc.

And amidst this, if I did feel lonely I have email, and Facebook, and I have a mobile phone too. If I really wanted there's Skype and various chat systems, and the landline. There's the radio. The TV. A backlog of movies and TV series I've been meaning to watch.

I think... I think I might like to walk away for a while. I can't really remember, any more, what it's like to go through a day without confronting other people. I think I might truly enjoy a week, a month perhaps, of genuine isolation. The chance to reflect, to contemplate, to reduce my daily obligations to the absolute minimum necessary for self-maintenance, or self-improvement.

Of course, I can't see it happening any time in the next five years or so. But the fact is that here I am, and it's dark, and cold outside, but I'm warm and the music is good, and frankly, I don't think I'd mind if I could just stay like this for a while...