It is a time of serious transition in my home life. I am shifting once again from being in company most of the time to being alone most of the time. In the past, this has not been an easy transition, and this time it is no different.
I am unfocused, unable to perform, bewildered, uncomfortable, aimless. Time seems to fly past and freeze where it stands simultaneously. Days are endless and unbearable and also over in a flash.
I am (as my wife has recently noticed) very sensitive to one certain kind of change in my environment. I’m tremendously affected by the people around me, probably because people are so “loud” to me—I experience them as tremendous forces acting in my world even if they’re doing something as simple as knocking on my door. They’re like earthquakes happening all the time.
Some people seem completely unaware of their circumstances; they press ahead with clear goals, clear motivations, and a clear idea of how to proceed no matter the circumstances, and no matter who happens to be nearby at the moment.
Now I don’t need any particular spatial routine; I can operate from anywhere at any time, and I can handle with grace and shocking level-headedness almost any emergency or crisis that interrupts my life or the lives of those around me. I am critically reliant, however, on one thing: the stability of my people routine. An unexpected knock at my door can mean the difference between a day in which I write 50 pages, do my taxes, catch up on bills, and finish up by reading a novel, and a day in which I don’t even manage to watch a television program or read a page once the door has been answered, much less write or work—a day in which I’ve become completely debilitated by the unexpected visit. Same thing for suddenly being denied the presence of someone whose presence I’m very accustomed to. Who knows what happens to the time afterward? Not me!
It’s as though my functioning in the world is entirely reactive, a matter of stimulus response, and I come to rely on subtle cues and interactions with and from those around me for my routine, for the “I’ll do this now, and that in ten minutes, and the other after that,” and without the cues, or with a new cue inserted that I’m not prepared for, my entire motivational system goes haywire and I’m completely maladjusted and miscalibrated.
For three days now I’ve been unable to do anything at all. I haven’t watched television. I haven’t read a book. I haven’t written a page. There are a lot of things I ought to be doing, but I haven’t done any of them. I look at them and I am completely unable to focus; my mind wanders; it fills with dandelions and butterflies, with cirrus clouds and theoretical traffic accidents, with the ethics of medical trials and the portrayals of the Fibonacci number sequence I’ve seen on television, and with so many impermanent shades of azure and gold, hanging in the air like the crystallized ringing of bells.
I don’t eat well. I eat too much or too little, all junk. I don’t sleep well. I don’t do anything particularly well. I want to reach out to other people but I’m unable to do so. I want to change things around but I have no idea how to proceed.
I feel like the person who has been in the asylum for twenty years in a tiny room with no furtnure and is suddenly declared sane and loosed upon the world. I have no idea what to do; I have vague ideas of what ought to be done but no idea how to go about them, despite the equally vague idea that I ought to be, and perhaps once was, an expert in all of them.
In time, over weeks, things will normalize and I’ll gradually get back to regular functioning. It’ll take time. Hopefully less and less time each time this happens in my life. But at the same time, I know very well that once arrangements change again, say, at the end of the summer, and I’m suddenly alone a lot less often, there will once again be tremendous occasion for tension and bewildering behavior just as there was the last time I went from “mostly alone” to “mostly not alone,” because I simply can’t handle very well changes in the human-interactive structure of my intimate personal life, whether that involves friends, significant others, family members, etc.
I am not wired for modernity in that sense; I’m clearly wired to be a tribe member, in a stable tribe, with a stable routine. I experience all changes in my close personal interactive patterns as both tremendously troubling and deeply debilitating, an apocalyptic episode in each case from which it takes significant resources to recover.
It has always been this way and I have blogged endlessly in various ways attributing the effects to various things, but now, as I get older, I realize it’s just this simple: I am a person of deep subconscious needs and expectations when it comes to the people most closely surrounding me. When some new face intercedes unexpectedly or when some usually expected face disappears, I become an emotional and intellectual cripple for weeks.
It’s like breaking a leg, or recovering from a concussion, and no amount of other people bitching and moaning at me (as they have often done over the years) will change the fact that at this moment in my life I am simply incapable of doing anything other than typing out this very blog post, despite work that is piling up, and indeed I’m very lucky to have a blog and to be able to even do this at all.
I feel, as always has happened thus far when such changes have occurred over the decades of my life, quite unsane at the moment.