Ramble at winter’s end

Conversation is a rarity in my life these days. Maybe I am mistaken, but I am beginning to notice a struggle to squeeze out thoughts when I am talking, the same thoughts that flow freely when I am writing. Can the art of conversation suffer from disuse? I guess it can, like most things. But hopefully, also like most things, after opportunities for regular practice return, I will regain the fluency I remember before isolation and rules restricting visiting and visitors curtailed social interaction. Living in a lockdown or the ever-present prospect of one is exhausting even for someone like me whose normal daily life is not forced to venture beyond the confines of their home. I am glad I don’t work or do formal study in these times. I’d be constantly regretting the lost opportunities for going out and being surrounded by people. I wonder why I enjoy that so much when I treasure solitude. We are complicated creatures and I am no exception. I love the anonymity of being just one of a milling throng. I feel alive, tingling with a sense of belonging to something much bigger and more vital than me: the human race. What I am really surrounded by is a sea of commonality, people just like me with many of my needs and desires and yearnings, going about our business, attending to our priorities, battling the fears and doubts and worries that hold us back, succumbing to the temptation of an unhealthy snack. How many of us telegraph our struggles to the world at large? How many of us wear our innermost fears and doubts on our sleeves? How many of us tell the world that we are desperate? Most of us bravely put our heads down and get on with our lives, such as they are. Some of us don’t have a choice. We have people in our lives who depend on us to always be functional and productive. Maybe our dependents, if they are not children or infirm, have dropped out of the race, simply existing, always hiding, too afraid to take on the world. If we grind to a halt, their lives are destroyed. We cannot allow that to happen. And so, we put our dreams on ice and do what needs to be done to keep our ships afloat, totally and utterly devoted to the people huddled on board, unable to provide for even their most basic needs without the assuredness of our presence. But even the seemingly self-sufficient, the productive, the generous, the devoted are not without fears and doubts and vulnerabilities. Self-sufficiency does not seep into every facet of a person’s makeup. Self-sufficiency can be a trap, creating an illusion, in both oneself (ok, myself) and others, that I am able to overcome anything and everything on my own. The fact is that I cannot. Burying fears and inadequacies and lack of confidence does not overcome them. Nor does labelling them as silly indulgences; or first-world problems; or matters that can be dealt with by leading a busy, productive life. Or even reducing their importance by focusing on the real problems of impoverished and endangered millions inhabiting this planet. Everyone, including me, needs help from time to time because we are human, social organisms that thrive on belonging, that need, sometimes desperately, the demonstrated love and concern of others. Nothing gives greater joy or has greater therapeutic value than receiving unexpected expressions of love.

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