When all is said and done, I'm probably just as lonely as I was when I was a child.

"When all is said and done, I'm probably just as lonely as I was when I was a child. 

This loneliness sometimes makes me sad, and sometimes happy. I believe it makes me a deeper person. And it makes me live less for the sake of appearances and recognition. We live turned toward the inside." (Paula Modersohn-Becker: The Letters and Journals, March 1902)

After 4pm, the daylight begins its transformation to a blue semidarkness. At night, the human eye cannot perceive color and sees everything in black and white. At twilight, the world is sapphire blue and I like going for runs during that time. It is the only time in the day when I feel time stands still for a brief moment, and while I am moving my body, it can feel like time doesn't exist at all. I am currently listening to the memoir, Crying in H Mart, on my phone, and let my mind drift as I catch glimpses of other lives in the opened windows and store fronts. 

A man sits on a black leather couch, wearing boxers and a heavy sweater, with his hand in a large bowl on his lap, concentrating on the television behind the Christmas tree draped with silver tinsel. Another man crosses the street to a closed Japanese supermarket, where the light is off, but he leans his face against the glass door and his body yearns for something within sight but out of reach. All the tables at Starbucks are occupied by young people and laptop screens. My palms are sweaty and sticking to the phone case in my left hand, while I clutch my keys in my right and the two little plastic beads dangling from my mouse key-chain bounce against my knuckle. The beads make a faint rattling sound, like the tags on a dog's collar. On these runs, I am exercising my imagination while moving my legs one in front of the other, swaying my arms, my heart thumping with strain, like a monotonous dance. I am not running away. I am running towards the lightness of myself. 

***

I don't keep an agenda. Calendars are a reminder of the constraints of time. During the holidays, I bought myself a small daily calendar notebook but as soon as I tore off the plastic wrap the excitement was gone. I hid it carefully in a small plastic bag and returned it at the store on my run the following day, conveniently en route. On the day before Christmas, I ran into a stationary shop and bought myself a brass fountain pen I'd been fantasizing over after seeing a video of a cool adventurer in Tuscon, Arizona, talk about how cool it is. The cashier placed it in a tin box and wrapped it in a thick paper envelope, probably thinking I was buying a last minute gift for someone. I folded the envelope in half and ran with it tucked under my armpit, switching sides from time to time, feeling uncomfortable and guilty. On my next run, I returned it too. I wrote with it for a day but there was no magic, and I missed my old pen and gained a new appreciation for what I already have.

When I was returning the pen, my husband and I were texting one another, arranging to meet after work. I texted him that I was heading to the store and as I waited at the register, saw his familiar tall shape glide to me from the corner and I felt a surge of energy. It felt like a zap of electricity and suddenly I felt more awake, the light in the room seemed brighter, colors richer, voices sharper, like finally tuning to a radio station and being able to make out all the words clearly. I hadn't realized I was listening to static until I saw him and felt the warmth of home. 

He has been so patient with me, all the time, no matter how moody I get, I don't know how he does it. Earlier in December, he had decorated our corridor picture rail with twinkling lights. When I came home from work and saw it, instead of being grateful, I lashed out about the clutter and how I didn't like the sight of wires on the wall. He retreated to his room and I felt awful and apologized. I still wanted the lights and the holiday cheer. The next day I came home and he had removed them and hanged a different string of colorful lights over the bookshelves. He stood to the side, watching me cautiously, like a child who had drawn on a wall and waited to either be scolded or praised. I hugged him and jumped up and down, happy to laugh again, together again. 

***

After we returned home from the New Year family gathering, we went for a walk around the pond and I was brooding. He asked me what I was thinking and I had said I was thinking about what would make me happy. "What would?" he asked, and I said I wanted to be alone. The truth is, I didn't want to be alone but I needed to. I needed to run into the blue to untwist the knot in my chest, to see color again. I felt terrible for what I had said. I need alone time to balance myself so that I can better engage with the world. I often feel hyper aware of sights, sounds, smells, and tactile sensations. My way of coping is to tune out into static, but I cannot remain in that sleepwalking state for too long. I need to wake up. 

I have been caught in between extremes of static or a whirlpool of emotions. I am at the halfway point of Michelle Zauner's memoir, but a passage from the beginning has resonated the most. Her mother taught her to keep 10 percent of herself from loved ones, not to give all of herself in case they betray or leave. I've wondered how much I give of myself. To me, relating to others is a visceral experience. When I hear from a friend, whether it be a message, voicemail, or email, it stirs me. I feel a literal warmth in my chest, like sipping a warm cup of tea. The feeling warms me up but doesn't last. I feel a longing to speak, to learn, to write, to give, to share, to live.  

 ***

One of my favorite memories in the last twelve months is the view from the hill at the end of the world. It was the first weekend in September. We sat on an aged grey wooden bench at the top of the hill overlooking the peninsula, where the ocean waves lapped the shores on both sides of the path. The waves gently came and went, revealing a mossy growth on one side and wet sand on the other. The tall grass and reeds shook in the wind, parting like hair. The landscape looked like a painting come to life, with deep green swaying trees. In the distance, another hill rose like a mirror image. It was just the two of us and two apple Danishes in this vast expanse of green and blue, the sound of leaves shaking in the wind. When I closed my eyes it sounded like pouring rain.  

Running into the blue is my way of centering myself. What I've come to understand is, I thrive in written communication because it is a controlled environment. I can take my time to read and decipher the meaning between words, while real life is unpredictable. I realized the only friend who truly knows me and accepts me fully for who I am, with all my qualities and foibles, is my husband. He understands when I want pineapple that I might mean water melon, he knows to hold my hat against my forehead with his finger without my asking when I am tucking my hair into my hat, he brings me a glass of water and vigorously points at it to remind me to stay hydrated, he makes me overnight oats while waiting for his tea to cool.

I've rekindled and build friendships in the last year. I prefer to have few friends. I can count my friends on one hand and keep them close. I have been lonely my entire life and this loneliness is an ever-present melancholy. I believe it will always be a part of me, my muse, the quiet place where I find solace. I need others just as much, if not even more, as I need to be alone. When my husband and I met, we used to write each other letters. Later, being too shy to speak directly, we used to sit beside each other and take turns writing in a notebook to communicate. Sometimes I miss those years, because I feel I am the best version of myself when I write, words are fuel, words are a lifeline, I mean every one and take them all to heart.

 

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