Drifting Towards Hermitude

I haven’t written in a while because I find I have nothing to say. My inspiration is spent from this extended, unexpected, and unwelcomed isolation, a consequence of the economy and my inability to find work. Five years now. Along with our financial resources, it has worn down my spiritual resources, my desires and ambitions, my drive and resolve. I feel emptied of a driving spirit. I got nothing left.

Writing for me is a spiritual (emotional) process. I really don’t write from my intellect but from my senses, from how and what I observe and experience. When I review an event, I rely on my sense of it to guide me. Often, I cannot write about the event if it left me feeling flat or bored (I have dozens of partially written blog posts). But that emptiness is not always a product of the event itself; it is also—and perhaps, more so—a product of my own internal state of being. If I am emotionally blocked, I am not fully present.

Social isolation is unnatural for humans, and since I have always suffered from a little agoraphobia, I have always created regular and varied social interactions to counter that tendency. I was raised in a complex social and cultural environment. A big extended family, Jewish on one side and New England on the other. Working class, artistic, Bahá’i’ parents whose range of connections brought me into contact with people from the lowest and highest economic classes, from every racial category, from Black Panthers to Catholic Nuns. I kid you not: They were in our home regularly having political and philosophical discussions over coffee with one another. I cannot tell you how much I miss those days. But I haven’t been a Bahá’i’ in 40 years and never did find a comparable community to attach myself to.

I became a dancer, a teacher, a retailer because they all provided me with some sociality.  I don’t teach anymore and I don’t dance and I can’t find even low-end retail work. The deeper our poverty gets, the more I stay home: it costs money to go out so that even a drive to a café for coffee seems extravagant. Now, I don’t even write because, even though writing is a solitary act, it requires some kind of social investment and the desire to be heard or acknowledged. And right now, I don’t care.

It’s a circular dilemma and I’ve been cycling through it for a long time now, as have others. The fewer social interactions I have, the more I resist them, the more I need them, the more I don’t care. The more I don’t dance (or write or laugh), the more I don’t care if I dance or write or laugh, the more I need to dance… But, see, I don’t care because there is no one to see me dance or to laugh with. No one will know if I dance today or if I do nothing but watch reruns of NCIS. So, Why bother?

And it is a dangerous dilemma. Social obligations guide our behaviors in public and long-term aloneness allows us to neglect them. Like a muscle, sociality must be exercised. I’m much more likely to be rude with strangers on the phone; I’ve abandon niceties about swearing or losing my temper in public. Sorry, people, but I’ll bet you’re running across more and more people like that these days. Bad for society; bad for me.

Its bad for my diet, too. Without the sweetness of life, I rely on artificial sweeteners and am getting fat on donuts (mmmm…donuts…). Without joy, I rely on artificial mood enhancers which, at least, give me a respite from my deep malaise. And on my very, very worse days, when I feel the despair most acutely, I use stronger drugs and hide deeper in my hole.

Our poverty (mine and the Nation’s) also raises existential questions. What am I here for? What is life all about? Should I aspire to greatness or just hang out ‘til its over? Does it matter? You’d think solitude would be a great time to address those questions. Indeed, the great irony here is that when I was a girl I fantasized about becoming a cave-dwelling hermit or a cloistered nun because I wanted relief from social obligations. I thought maybe I would find peace in a life of simple living and meditation. Wrong again, Rothman.

Dear Goddess, this is a dreary post. But its truthful. And I feel better for having written it. I just hope I haven’t made you feel worse for having read it.

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