A reader asked:
“does loneliness ever strike devi lockwood?”
Let’s talk for a second about boundaries.
There are things I love to do that I can’t do when there are other people around.
Reading is one of them.
Writing is another.
I have a 30,000-word long document (starting from Jan. 20 when I touched down in New Zealand) into which I pour my heart most nights before bed. There’s a whole lot of stories that don’t go up on this blog because they need time and space to process. I am giving myself permission to slow down, in writing and in life. Stand by.
A third thing I can’t do with other folks around is focusing deeply on my internal life (also known as: writing internally). If I slip into this mindset when others are around, I’m not listening fully.
There’s much to be said for the importance of just lying on a patch of moss on a riverbed, looking up, with a mountain in the distance.
I try not to cling to people, because people are unfixed, changing, complicated. That’s the beauty of being human. We define ourselves in real-time.
We are the stories we tell ourselves, as much as we are the stories we tell others.
By paying full attention to myself and the nonhuman actors around me, I re-center. I feel safe in that kind of deep listening––headphones off. Unplugged. Or headphones on blasting a song I have just fallen in love with.
Or, as the incomparable Carla so succinctly put it, when I was in tears on her couch in Whanganui, overwhelmed with the richness of experience that came from pausing for a week in the rivertown (I found resistance within myself, I didn’t want to leave)––
“You’re a prism, refracting rainbows,” Carla said, stroking my hair.
She mimed cupping a prism in between her hands, told me not to rush up from the horizontal position where I had been cuddled up on the couch.
“Give yourself permission to move slowly. And here: tissues are better than issues”
I couldn’t help but smile.
This was the first time in my life that someone told me it is okay to cry. Tapa.
(Tapa is my favorite word in Tuvaluan. It means “wow” and is pronounced Taah-PAAAH!)
So here’s to darkness.
Taking the time when we need to.
Earlier in the day I had been talking with Maria, a self-professed clairvoyant, while we drove from her farm to flash-mob dance practice. The topic of conversation swerved from her adorable baby ducks to self-care.
“Oh, it’s all intertwined,” I began, taking a deep breath. “One of my goals for this year centers on self-care, but also forgiveness. Gentleness. I want to be gentle with myself, and gentle with others.”
Maria nodded as she hugged the corner, racing. We were a bit late. The conversation charged on.
“So on New Year’s Eve I was at a party with a bunch of Australian expats in Tuvalu––”
“That’s always a great way to start a story,” Maria laughed, zooming at 100km/hr. The limit is 85. When I haven’t been in a car for a while, I get nauseous. Too little air but so much to say.
Slow down, a sign proclaims. Kiwi road signs are refreshing in their honesty.
“There weren’t New Year’s Eve fireworks or anything. No ball drop to watch. Nothing to tether me to the usual way I know of bringing in a new year.
“The hosts––two navy guys who help to manage fisheries licenses for the many foreign boats who trawl the Tuvaluan waters––gave instructions that everyone was to dress up as a phrase that starts with a certain letter of the alphabet. As the night wore on, we would have to guess each other’s identities.
“I came as Climate Change.”
Maria smiled and took her eyes off the road to make eye contact. “That is so you.”
I smiled back, holding onto the seat with my hands. “After the party I walked 200 meters to the airplane runway––most everywhere is a few foosteps from the runway, the most salient geographic feature on the island––and made my way home. One of the Aussies offered me a ride on the back of his motorcycle but he was tipsy and I wanted to be alone.”
In inhaled the smell of hot car, eyes closed. Remembering.
“When you look at darkness from the outside, it seems like one color. One shade. But within darkness, it’s never one thing. There’s sky, speckled. The bigness of the Milky Way. Invertebrate clouds.
“But also the textures of shadows from living and nonliving things on the ground––each one its own language. A vocabulary of movement.
“Life blurs. The occasional, bright rumble of a motorbike messes with my vision, but after a few minutes of relaxing into the dark, I could see things. Things I wouldn’t see in the day. Movements. Not the suggestion of a pack of dogs but the energetic sphere of the place they had been.”
Maria nodded. “This is what I do for a living. Access the dark and bring it into focus. I get it.”
Everything is connected.
In the darkness you can see movement for its other name(s).
A prism has to be recharged. It has to go into the dark before it can come back into the light to refract.
I am a prism.
Does that sound hubristic to say? Whatever. Let me whisper it.
I am a prism.
I am the river and the river is me.
The light is the stories of those around me.
The dark is always the dark.
I will cry when I need to cry.
I will stay grounded.
Even the act of biking can feel like floating––my body balanced on air––the tires I diligently pump to seventy pounds per square inch before every ride––as I propel myself through space, a country.
So do I feel lonely?
If anything, I relish the time I spend with myself. It is necessary and wonderful and replete with life.