Some nights like this I stay up late listening to music in a dark house. I’ve done this for most of my adult life, even when I was married and just needed some nights by myself in a quiet house after everyone had gone to bed. Some of my best memories were of the year in college I lived alone. I would sit on the wraparound porch of the old victorian house where I lived in a tiny studio apartment and on dark, rainy nights I would sit on the stoop and watch the rain on those black streets, the red, yellow, and green of the traffic lights reflected in the wet asphalt.
Those were some of the best times of my life, but also the loneliest times. Strange to say, I’m more alone now, but I’m not lonely most of the time. I have my dog, I have my music, I have my stories. The bastards haven’t taken those from me yet. Oddly enough I have the most time to do the things I have always wanted to do right now and no money to do them. I’m struggling. I’m fighting. Most of the time I feel like I’m losing.
The other day, I was scrolling social media and came across another writer who was talking about the loneliness of being a writer. Even among other writers. Connection is such an elusive thing. It’s ironic that the medium we work in is based on communication, which connects us, but so many writers have very limited communication. It is a strange line of work. You spend most of your time alone with your thoughts, telling stories, and yet you know that most of the time talking with other people can be such a drain on your creativity. The few friends I have are people who energize me. We talk for long periods of time sometimes and solve all of the world’s problems while we are at it. But sometimes you can talk to someone for five minutes and feel like they have drained your psychic batteries all the way to empty.
I tend to avoid those people.
I’ve reached a point in my life where the sound of an empty room no longer drives me crazy. I’ve come to terms with the peace I need in my life. Music playing from another room. A dog snoring in a chair. The hum in my ears from too much abuse on my eardrums over the years. I used to crave companionship. After my marriage ended, I was desperate to fill a void that had been eating at my soul for so many years. I was willing to compromise who I am to fit into someone else’s shoebox. Even the happy relationships I had took a lot out of me. Time. Just having to be “On.” My writing suffered. For me, and I would imagine other writers as well, writing is not something that you can exchange for an equivalent thing. It is integral. Millennials would probably categorize it as being “something you’re going to make your whole personality.” Critical motherfuckers.
It’s about as much a part of our personalities as a lens is the point of a telescope. It’s how we experience the world. In my happiest times of not being alone, I never met anyone who understood what listening to Chloe Dancer/Crown of Thorns by Mother Love Bone makes me smile and why I never have the heart to skip that song. How could they? Unless I put the reason why into word. Many songs catch a moment in time. Even now, as I listen to Disarm by Smashing Pumpkins, I remember autumn evenings working in a bakery, cleaning the place after everyone had gone home. The white blanket of snow on the rugby field outside. The cha-chunk sound of the time-clock as it punched my timecard at the end of the night.
I’ve reached an age where I no longer daydream about what it would be like to be rich enough to own my own castle in Scotland. I’m 47, and though it might not sound very old to some, and extremely old to others, it’s an age where I know that even if I could buy a castle tomorrow, by the time I got settled in, I would be old and dying. There’s too much to do in this world besides sit in a room all day you keep filling up with stuff. All the stuff I had in the first half of my life is gone. Most of it anyway. It served no purpose other than distraction. No one will inherit it after I am gone.
Maybe we aren’t stardust after all, not the way the astrophysicists contemplate. Maybe we are all just stuff. A collection of elements that just gets shifted from one atomic mass to the next. One day, my body will be ash and it will add to the dust that blows across the plain. In two generations, my name won’t mean anything. I won’t have a castle, and I probably won’t have anyone who knows why I smile for certain songs.
I struggle all the time with meaning. What does any of it mean? We just keep running on that wheel until it is finally silent.
It doesn’t matter. It just doesn’t matter. All you can do is dig a hole and fill it. Purpose. Meaning. Maybe I’m short on both these days. Like I said, I have plenty of time and no money. I suppose I have unintentionally followed a monastic path. Austerity. Poverty. Celibacy. Enlightenment. Not necessarily in that order.
I look for connection. I want to share my thoughts and ideas, but I sense the world is fading away. As Stephen King wrote in his Dark Tower books, it has moved on. People rarely read anymore. If you go to a bookstore, it’s a thousand books with the same cover. I think fewer than 10% actually read more than three books a year. TV shows are all filled with the same bullshit stories and intellectual properties that just keep getting a new coat of paint every time they come out with better special effects. Scrolling through TikTok, I only have the attention span for about 30 seconds at the most. Sometimes I just scroll, hitting the dopamine like someone in a hospital bed thumbing that morphine drip as soon as they can.
In my dreams, sometimes I run into people I haven’t seen in a long time. I miss them. I think of them and they haven’t thought of me. I keep writing a book no one will read. No one will publish. And only I care. This week I hit a point where I didn’t care either. I’m so gunshy with my writing lately. Second-guessing myself. Trying to write everything perfectly so I can make a sale. Casting my pearls before swine. People who buy the paid work I do are like people who hand a picture of dogs playing poker and say “I don’t know art, but I know what I like.”
Let the robots write for them. Nobody cares. The world is moving on.
Things got really dark for me yesterday. It was hard to think of the things I have instead of the things that will never be. Having my books read stepped into the latter category, and for a moment I was fine with that. I read an article online the other day that was so horribly written and about as surface as you could get on a subject. The writer was someone in their early twenties. Nepo baby, I’m thinking, because I’ve submitted to that magazine and can’t even get a response to a query. I feel like I’m walking in a desert and all the water has become dust. I’m sure they aren’t haven’t a hard time paying their bills. Some people get a whole other set of rules from the rest of us.
Anyway, none of it matters if you look at it through geological time. Though sometimes I think it would be cool to see the continents merge back together again. I just keep doing what I can. It’s all any of us really can do. Hope for a break in the clouds and blue skies for a little while at least. Sometimes we have company to experience that, and sometimes we don’t.