Those of you who battle the Monster will know that there comes those days, without your own awareness perhaps, when your nose starts to turn up at everything. The world becomes cast with a gray pall, and Earth’s gravity seems stronger. Getting up in the morning is a test of sheer will power, the smallest tasks become arduous, you begin questioning why you ever liked reading philosophy in the first place—a bunch of old wind bags blustering on about nihilism. What has that to do with you?? Strawberries aren’t as sweet. Roses aren’t as fragrant. You’re frustrated with the state of the world such that an asteroid seems like not so bad an idea. You’re tired all the time…the kind of deep in the bones weariness that no amount of sleep can remedy.
And then, you start avoiding the people you love…family and friends. It’s not that you don’t love them. It’s not that you don’t need them in your life…desperately. You just want them to leave you alone. Because you can’t answer one more question, you can’t retain another ounce of compassion…you have reached saturation. And mostly, you simply cannot focus on a conversation—it’s so hard to maintain involvement. My friends will talk to me, and halfway through, I have already lost the plot, and need to scramble to catch up. It’s like I’ve come down with a “stupid” virus, and an overarching feeling of dull-wittedness. That’s why I haven’t written this blog in so long.
I wanted to try for something quick-witted and meaningful, but everything I have written, or tried to write, has lumbered forth from me and plodded along insufferably…either so emo that I began to retch, or just daft and disconnected. But, that’s it, isn’t it? That’s the exact thing about this stage of grief…the depression. I’ve been set adrift on the Monster’s ocean of apathy where all is disconnected. I could ride a roller coaster every morning, yet still feel as though life is one monotonous day that melts into the next. However, I have discovered that this is normal. What I’m feeling—this strange blah—is perfectly normal.
And so, I do what it is that I do—I research. But not depression, or the stages of grief. I wanted to see what other people had to say about emptiness, or rather, how they defined it. I at last turned to the poets, and thought I will for sure find something in the pages of Emily Dickinson “I’m nobody. Who are you?” or Sylvia Plath “the years draining into my pillow”, but I settled on Robert Frost. In a poem by Frost, I found emptiness described as abject loneliness. Here is his splendid model for desolation:
Acquainted with the Night
I have been one acquainted with the night.
I have walked out in rain—and back in rain.
I have outwalked the furthest city light.
I have looked down the saddest city lane.
I have passed by the watchman on his beat
And dropped my eyes, unwilling to explain.
I have stood still and stopped the sound of feet
When far away an interrupted cry
Came over houses from another street,
But not to call me back or say good-bye;
And further still at an unearthly height,
One luminary clock against the sky
Proclaimed the time was neither wrong nor right.
I have been one acquainted with the night.
The Voice in this poem describes his aimless wanderings…going out, coming in, looking—not exploring—down streets, and avoiding human contact. He feels separated from the stir of life, like everything happens on the next block, and he’s not welcome. The cold and unbiased moon is the only thing that communicates, and its message is simply to validate his disconnection—“the time is neither wrong nor right”, it’s neither here nor there, it’s six of one and a half dozen of the other…even the banality of the cliché lends to the loneliness. Just blah, blah, blah… In this poem, the night is a metaphor for the dark days of life. Aren’t we all, likewise, acquainted with the night?
You who are battling the Monster… If one day soon, you wake up to find yourself slumped in a boat, alone, at the very heart of a boundless and dreary expanse, you’re not nuts. You aren’t losing your grasp on reality. This IS your reality right now, and your mind is looping while it catches up. Just lay back, and bob along until you reboot. Watch television and forgive yourself. Who cares if the beds don’t get made today? If you forget to get dressed and stay in your pajamas all weekend, the world is not going to explode. The key is to recognize that this is happening to you, it is a process that you must endure, it will pass eventually, and it will not consume you if you refuse to allow it to do so.
The pattern of activity in Frost’s poem might also provide a way to avoid being consumed:
- He went outside, but you can simply stand on your back step and breathe fresh air during the day for at least 20 minutes. This can be achieved in your pajamas, boxer shorts, bare feet, towel, housecoat, etc.
- He went out in the rain. Basically, shower every day. It will invigorate you, and don’t we all feel better on the inside when we feel fresh and clean on the outside? Plus, the task of showering fully counts as a daily accomplishment. Yes, it does.
- He kept to himself. Well, it’s okay to “hermitize” for a while. Sometimes it’s okay to not feel the need to unload again and again and again. That time will come all too soon, most certainly. Sometimes it’s nice to be quiet for a time—both inside and out. Allow yourself to acclimatize to the shit storm swirling around you. You are not obligated to visit at all times, to be all things to everybody. Have a call-free week end. Turn off your cell phone, put it down, and back away from it. Honestly, the Earth will not spin off its axis without you texting or posting to Facebook.
- He didn’t get involved with other people’s activities. Don’t involve yourself in the drama of other friends or family. The Monster is giving you the worst drama you will experience in your lifetime, except for your own death, so unless someone’s died, your shit trumps their shit. It’s okay to be a little selfish some of the time. Lick your wounds…they need attention, or they will get infected.
- Finally, no matter what happens, the world is continuing on with or without you. So, if you think that hiding for a day or two here and there is wrong somehow, think again. It might well be that no one was any the wiser. They were probably dealing with their own nights with whom they are also well acquainted. It’s “neither wrong nor right”, it’s just life, and you are not alone.
We know that the best way to fight the Monster is to out-maneuver him. He’ll whisper to you that you are losing control of everything, and then he’ll cause you to obsess over the unwashed laundry. If you’ve showered, eaten something, got some fresh air, and actually managed to redress yourself in your pajamas, congratulations. You’re good to go. Your pajamas will last another day, and the laundry will still be there tomorrow. Know that you will eventually get up and do it, and feel comforted by that. When you feel better, everything will get done. Leave it at that, turn on the television, and watch something mindless. Believe it or not, it’s actually what you need right now. Just relax and breathe. You’re not losing your mind, and you aren’t doing anything wrong.