What Do I Hold Onto Here, In All These Feelings?

Back in 2017, I woke up one night and wrote this on Facebook:

As I age, the daily routines and responsibilities become so efficient, they are basically automatic. Then at 2:30 in the morning, with my daughter sleeping across my lap, I wake up with such a flood of feelings, such intense awe and sadness, inspiration, and regret. And I realize again just how much “growing up and settling down” is really just selective numbing. After all, how can the tidy, reliable lives we build ever possibly have room for all of who we really are and all we really feel?

Well, I’ve been feeling exactly this again, but this time not just for a moment like in that Facebook post, but for a few days. Just in between chores, or after some banal comment by a family member, or even after a fun family activity, there comes a moment to be with my own thoughts, and I just feel so much. I just start weeping. It happened even just a few hours ago: I went into my dark bedroom closet, shut the door, splayed out on the ground face down like that old ‘planking’ fad, and just sobbed. And it’s happening again as I type. Like the emotions are too big for this body. Like the me I’ve made, the life that contains me is just not enough for all that wants to come out. There’s longing in there, so much longing and I don’t know for what. There’s humility in there, like I’m just so small in this universe, in geologic time, and it’s so beautiful how big everything really is. There is a happiness, an unspeakable appreciation for the gift of being alive. But there is also pain. And it’s just all so big.

I was going to go to Facebook and write something, or even re-post the original thing, and then I just thought, “What for?” and “How dare I?” In fact, after returning, in a limited fashion, to Facebook, I’m increasingly agitated by the algorithmic lottery of what seemingly random handful of acquaintances will see what, or show me what from their lives, and that very randomness of it–like, cool, that heart emoji is nice, but from someone I went to one conference with in 2010?–actually makes me feel more lonely, more misunderstood, and, yeah, more at sea with all of these feelings. Not even to get into how off it feels ever for me, in my demographic categories, to ever talk about anything resembling pain or hardship when I know how privileged my life is and has been.

So I write here, instead, but I don’t really know what to write about it. I don’t even know how to hold onto it…

But maybe I do, a little.

For example, I do know that when I grab onto the feelings that are closest to loneliness, that’s when I really start to feel it. That’s when I heave and really cry. It’s not a loneliness like wanting people around. It’s something so much more intangible, and thus more maddening, like something I’m chasing and can’t catch, or a hole I’m falling down and can’t find the bottom of.

I think it’s a loneliness of wanting to feel known…to be held as the whole me, by people who know the whole me.

But who would have the time for that, and who would I even let close enough to try?

And I think that’s where a sense of desperation or defeat mixes in. Like maybe I’ve organized my life in such an irreversible way that the daily to-do lists of family life and the daily polite “collaborations” of work life–maybe ‘spiced up’ with the daily random likes and comments from Facebook posts–may be all the depth of human connection that’s left for me. That maybe these vast, cacophonous chambers of myself that, when opened, just explode beyond any typical ways of relating are something I will now forever have to just deal with on my own.

I can’t possibly leave it there, or settle for that.

I explicitly became political as a teen because I felt such deep awe at the wonders of life–actually sparked by a book by Guy Murchie called “The Seven Mysteries of Life” as well as Martin Buber’s “I and Thou”–and at the same time I felt such sorrow that I didn’t feel like I had anyone to talk about it with in high school. So I thought that if there were a revolution and global social equality, then the billions of people on Earth would be more free to feel the same sort of awe that privileged me felt. So I can’t just be okay with not being able to connect with people beyond the superficial–or really not, the superficial…but more like the substantial, the interesting, but still not really the point.

But, you know, dinner’s ready, and I’m being called. So I’ll wipe these tears up and get back to just…being around the house I guess.

Currently Reading:

-Dispersing Power by Raul Zibechi