Last week in this space I hinted at the loneliness of writing – I also ended with the promise of how these saved letters changed my life – all in the contextualization and limitation of life as 140 character slices.
The definition of loneliness possesses the attributes of sadness, rejection and separation. Does writing supplant those mindsets or instead does it fulfill a vital conversation that needs to take place within each one of us? We relentlessly look for quick fixes in our lives to solve problems and are equally quick to blame others for those problems. We develop alcohol and chemical addictions and some not so obvious ones as well to cope with our pain. For entertainment we watch inordinate amounts of mindless reality TV programs out of boredom – it is far too easy to turn on the tube than to “do something”. We turn to porn for instant sexual excitement, gratification or arousal. We go to therapists to have them “fix” us – often without willing to do the self-work required. Do we know what our essence or our soul is asking of us? Key question is this – When do we devote the time to listen to ourselves – only ourselves? In yoga we learn about stillness – it is funny, but with all those moves and poses we seek stillness. We focus on our breath – the inhale and the exhale. Writing is a sense of capturing that stillness – it is a form of therapy. We write out the thoughts we are thinking after processing their unique meaning to us. Writing for me has not been that Zen experience some strive for whilst meditating – although the benefits of meditation are many. Writing has allowed me to hear myself, which I have only successfully accomplished while in that state of loneliness.
So what did I get out of writing those letters? And the other relevant question is what benefit did I subsequently derive by re-reading them some thirty years later? It takes precious time to write out ones thoughts – to feel them and to understand them. It is a time of reflection, of order, relevance and process. Remarkable for me was to re-read letters I had saved – and insightful to re-read letters of mine that others had also hoarded. My dear friend from East Berlin is but one such person who saved my letters to him and I his. As I began to write my book a key exercise was to try and recall what I was thinking at the time I scribed those letters to Frank and others. Had I changed? Were those thoughts consistent with my present-day ideals I hold true? Reviewing those letters over and over again was a cathartic and at times painful journey of self-discovery. At the time of writing them I don’t believe I was self-aware in the way that I am today. I could have been, except for the fact I wasn’t ready to listen to myself. That came with; experience, maturity, pain, mistakes, loneliness and lessons. “When the student is ready the teacher will appear.”