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Mid-October Notes: Life hurts and I’m mostly okay with it




Piet Mondrian liked to depict trees, and was clearly a monster. Who would pare down a tree to this level of abstraction but also impressionistic precision. I just get so angry thinking about it

Piet Mondrian liked to depict trees, and was clearly a monster. Who would pare down a tree to this level of abstraction but also impressionistic precision. I just get so angry thinking about it


1. Life hurts and I’m mostly okay with it

The biggest revelation (and a surprise) of this year, my 30th, is that the pain of confusion and loss are not states to avoid. Because, Number One, you cannot avoid it, since life is necessarily hard due to constraints of physical reality and the way human society is set up is far from conducive to optimizing human potential and dignity. You have no choice but to suffer if you are an intelligent, sensitive person who is awake to the desires and impulses of your essential self, because they will rub up against cultural norms and, uh, the existence of other people who are different from you.

Oh, and the ever present reality of decaying bodies and inevitable death.

Life hurts. Decisions hurt. Consequences hurt. Birth hurts and death hurts.

Love hurts. The most.

None of these are ideas against which we are to wage war. Pain isn’t a sign you’re doing it wrong. This was a surprise to me.

2. Sexy cat lady, sans cats, only occasionally sexy

I have an urgent, growing and seemingly indefatigable need for silence and stillness. I started to develop this great introvertive streak a couple of years ago, and it has grown to the point where I crave silence and solitude like oxygen. I guard them, I squirrel them away.

I require beautiful, open space, my books, tools of creativity, a comfortable bed to nap on, lots of coffee and tea, and then I’m all set. For a dangerously long period of time.

When I have the luxury of such time, which I did for the past couple of days, mostly I don’t know what to do. There is no agenda. Nay, it feels fairer to say that my head-and-heart cannot abide by an agenda.

We just get quiet enough to feel the inner stirrings, and then we follow the next indicated step.

There were times, until fairly recently, when this kind of agenda-less, social-pressure-free time would have me writhing with desperation — the desperation to escape the vicious and sticky layer of mind-noise that made it all but impossible to meet my unguarded self. I ran frantically to the most easily available distraction — food, booze, mindless media consumption, pointless romantic drama.

I still go there sometimes. But I am also acquainted with an alternative — that of remembering the joy of who I am alone, the soul-stirring thrill of playing with ideas, meeting the people-in-my-head — Frida and Che and Yeats and Mondrian. Also LBJ recently. (What, I’m mildly obsessed with dead presidents with strong personalities.) It’s nice to be able to choose.

3. Alone but not

I am incredibly glad and grateful for the deep and nourishing friendships I’ve cultivated over the years, with whom I get to enjoy apart-but-in-community, separate-but-together-ness. Or at least that’s what I’m calling the concept after a conversation with a friend who also recognized this form of relating. Most of my closest friendships are with people who are thousands of miles away, spread out across the U.S. and Europe, with whom I make time to talk, and I mean really talk, about the deepest contents of our hearts on a fairly regular basis.

Thank goddesses for the internet.

I would feel an acute loneliness without them, but I do not. I feel my emotional needs well taken care of. I have not always had this, perhaps I will not always have it, and I do not take it for granted.

4. Integrity is breaking my brain

Living in integrity has been kind of an ongoing project because being bad at integrity has historically caused me a lot of pain.

Avoiding responsibilities, failing to own up to the consequences of my actions, getting into debt, saying things I don’t mean, dating people whose company I seldom enjoyed, jonesing for approval from people whose job it was not to give it to me.

And I learned something stunning recently and am working on applying it to my life: when I don’t want to do something because I fear disappointing another, it’s not actually their hurt feelings that I’m concerned about, though I lie to myself and say that it is so. It’s that I am unwilling to be exposed to someone else’s negative response to me. I don’t care about what burdens them; I care that they say, “Simone is disappointing/flaky/crazy/immoral/[whatever negative thing].”

I did some really scary things recently that exposed me to the possibility that people would say or think negative things about me because not doing so felt like a betrayal of myself. I endured people’s negative opinions of me or my actions. I did not die.

The newfound boldness is terrifying and delicious.

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