I’m learning the difference between solitude and loneliness.
One upon a time,in the Purple Before, I used to suffer from gasping, chest pressing panic attacks at the thought of losing someone close to me. I’d read blogs like the beautiful, brave Once A Mother‘s and spend the next two days trying desperately to breathe without whooping and sobbing intermittently.
I imagined loss, the death of someone you loved to the planets and back, would feel much like that… struggling to breathe, encaved by the loneliness. I’d twist and gasp at the thought of the pain the world was in… how did people deal with the extinguished existence of a soul that belonged to theirs?
But that wasn’t grief. That was fear.
Grief, it’s different. It’s not a restless, lifting pain, a panic… it’s not the feeling of being terrified of losing someone. (Although being terrified of the rest of your life… that’s an entirely different thing.)
When your world is torn apart like that, when you’re faced with the space that someone used to fill, and all the hopes and plans and life that used to spin around their being… that’s not a fleeing feeling.
Sadness, the essence of being sad.. it’s a very heavy thing.
I still get anxious, I feel it niggle at the muscles in my diaphragm, and often it’s for reasons I don’t even clock until I trace back my thought pattern. But the panic attacks, the whooping, sobbing, fragile, pensive and terrified panic attacks.. they’re gone.
And this is what i need to know, for those of you who do have those panic attacks, those horrible minutes, hours, that I used to have, that strip your confidence and rub your soul raw…
This is easier.
Grief, it’s fucking horrible. But if you’ve ever had panic attacks like that, you need to know this….
Grief is fucked. But it’s easier to deal with than fear.
When you’re worst fear comes true… what do you tell yourself? A characteristic of depression,it’s irrational thoughts. What do you do when you can’t tell yourself those thoughts are irrational anymore, because the very thing you’ve always been afraid of- losing one of your soul mates, you husband and children- it’s happened?
You tell yourself you’ve done it. You’re much stronger than you thought you were. And if you can do this, this awful, tragic, gothic, painful thing… if you can live though this, you can do anything.
Or that’s what I try to tell myself, anyway.
I think, maybe that’s the difference between loneliness and solitude… loneliness, it’s not just because you’re alone. It’s also the fear of being alone.
Remove that fear.. and welcome to solitude.
It’s a place where you drive long trips with earphones in, listening to all kinds of music, and you do nothing but think, for hours and hours. And that’s OK. Because you can think, without scaring yourself, without torturing yourself.
It’s a place where you can take simple pleasures in simple things- a garden, freshly planted with violets. A cup of strong tea and a cigarette, blue smoke curling up into the clear, sparkly early morning sunshine, the wind whispering gum trees.
I sit, some nights, looking at the silhouette of those same gum trees, black against the inky blue of the sky. I look at the thousands of stars above them, twinkling and shimmering and filling the sky as far as I can see. (“This is where they go, the stars.. this is where they run to”). And I talk to my Tony.
I’m waiting for him to send me another shooting star.
I think he’s waiting for me to find some kind of peace.
I’m getting there.