My current existential crisis is a fascinating one. I feel original in my contempt for modern circumstances.
I was always on the outside, feeling like something spectacularly unusual and formidable was occurring. The parallels between my twelve year old and forty two year old selves are intriguing as well as comforting. I can handle calamity, especially the internal interference kind.
Rage static. Panic shrapnel. Disquieting disbelief debris.
IF (and it’s a big if) there is some semblance of context or continuity to it.
Let’s say it’s a full-time job trying to make sense of my own life. My ‘predicament’ if you like. Less a lifetime than a social experiment playing out in semi-real mind-time.
(I am) So utterly alive, yet, disconnected from the safety of the social grid. A community outlier. Self-exiled sounds a little too convenient. ‘Post-romantic’ perhaps.
My early life could be divided into a youthful Romantic phase. When I believed that A led to B and that I might be participating in a rough and ready fantasy kingdom where all my toil and anguish was for a greater good. A time when there was surely something fantastic in store, just around the corner. Some brilliant future where talent and hard work would be rewarded by a wise, kind, vigilant industry.
Then, there is now. The post-romantic era.
The bit / part where I don’t believe in anything. I’m like John Lennon’s God song where he doesn’t believe in the Beatles or Dylan or God. He does, however, have a girlfriend. This is a palpable step up from me. John is an activist for love. The kind of love generated by a long-term relationship. An emotional business arrangement that makes each living, laughing day an investment in your shared future.
I am more like the Solo Man in the Solo Man ads from the 1980s. I’m kayaking down a hill for some reason. I’ve made sure to bring along my favourite can of lemon drink. I scull it passionately at the end, mugging for the universal camera that I believe still holds a vested interest in the forensic follies of my introverted outback existence.
The camera is inside my dreams.
Only last night I continued a recent trend of a dream category I would dub conversational.
The premise: I am so bereft of interactions with my own people that my subconscious has taken to synthesising realistic social situations in which I find myself nattering away about subjects of high interest and little consequence.
Last night I was on a bus with two college kids, a boy and a girl.*
* In the interests of the authors reputational dignity, I’ll omit any psychosexual anecdotes that present themselves. Suffice to say, there’s definitely an aftershock of ageing which ricochets through the lion’s share of one’s conscious fabric on a near bi-daily basis.
The boy and girl were laughing about something. The boy said “no one is called ‘bad’.”
I sprang to life.
“There is someone called ‘bad’ – the WWF wrestler Bad News Brown.” I then leant on my bank of childhood wrestling knowledge to impart the few wrestlers of colour from the ’80s. I’m thinking Koco B. Ware (who had a parrot on his shoulder), Mr T, Akeem the African Dream and Virgil (the bodyguard of ‘Million Dollar Man’ Ted DiBiase).
So, this dream – as weird and as cryptic and as recognisable as any other, had me simply telling these kids about this bit of trivia.
Something something. Maybe I had an erection.
Look. The point is (‘I can see your point. No, it’s just the way my trousers ruck up’ – now I’m quoting Rik Mayall from Bottom.) I’m so under stimulated intellectually and impoverished socially that sometimes I catch up with people more in my dreams than I do in real life.
Similar to how a sexual dream can offset ones frustration in a meaningful way, these ‘natter-mares’ service a submerged part of my neglected inner-self with intriguing precision. My ability to withstand social starvation is being tested on a near atomic scale. It has been this way for some time.
A perfect storm of isolation through no fault of my own.
Picture someone who is a lone wolf
wrestlerwriter. Take a personal memoir which they have to squirrel themselves away to write. Then add a pandemic where everyone burrows down for cover. Times it by being over 40 - a phase where virtually everyone you’ve ever known or liked disappears up their tree to nest, rendering themselves emotionally unavailable. Oh and here’s the clincher - view all of this through the lens of someone with a heightened sense of abandonment, who feels like they are watching every single person succumb to smart phone addiction at worst and socially acceptable distraction at best. The world used to be a party. Now it’s a series of messages in baby bottles. If you scrimp and save and wrangle an in-person catch up, you will bear witness to the eerily subtle degradation of interpersonal skills - forced to dig deep in your memory hive to recall whether there ever used to be a time when you would walk away from hangouts feeling remotely satisfied. See, it’s not even the technology but the structure of ‘mature age’ socialising that is flawed. In the golden days of uni and being in your twenties, you would see your favourite people all the time. You were on the same bus - the magical mystery tour. There was momentum. There were dynamics; harmony. These years, you don’t see people for months. You get one two hour catch up blast. These coffees and phone calls can feel oddly transactional. Our tired brains have to work hard to think of high quality abbreviated chunks of information about our by now, quite separate lives. Nothing really changes. None of our decisions involve the other directly. See, back in the day, you didn’t really ‘catch up’ you ‘hung out’ - the party was happening in real-time (even if the party was the pseudo prison of high school). There is something sadly / oddly (soddly?) nostalgic about a time when you were swimming in a temperate sea of social connections. Life was a project you worked on together.
Now? I’m f l o a t i n g i n s p a c e. It’s peaceful, sure. But a little cold. I communicate via my fishbowl helmet. Messages are delayed. Voices crackle back through static. There are atmospheres between us. The world looks small from up high.
I faintly dream that I might meet another astral surfer. Some like mind – that whole
I’m not sure how little I’m supposed to expect anything.
I daresay if my expectations fell any lower I’d be in need of medical attention.
And so, my friends, we enter into the post-romantic phase of life. I don’t overly expect anything.
I do, sort of
I have hope.
I just don’t pretend to cover up how angry I am. How disappointed. I’m still keeping up appearances. I wear sunscreen daily, mainly out of vanity. But – I’m self-serving to a fault. I am honest and protective in a manner I could only dream about when I was younger and being walked all over at regular intervals.
No, see, the fallout I feel is from actually having a healthy self-esteem and, god forbid, more room inside myself to share with another than I ever thought possible.
The cruel twist in this wild little tale is that at a time when I find myself growing into the ideal version of myself – there is absolutely no one around to take any interest whatsoever.
i never saw that one coming
I change my statement about being lonely.
I’m not lonely. I’m just alone.
There is and always will be a difference.
I would rather be bored than stressed.
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NOTE: John Lennon doesn’t believe in yoga, but I do.
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