Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Island Living

John Donne said it first and probably best: 'No man is an island unto himself.'

And yet...

The above photo is of me (left foreground) standing alone on the trail of Mosaic Canyon, Death Valley. I'm not alone-alone...everyone else (including whoever was behind this camera, obviously) was somewhere in the vicinity, but I must have sought out a little bit of space between the sleek walls of marble, allowing the acoustics of the canyon to bounce its happy-kid voices over and around me for a brief moment, because truth be known, I like to be alone.

And sometimes, despite knowing that so very much of the human condition screams connection, I fear I could settle into a little shack in the woods a la Walden Pond (or perhaps Unabomber) a bit too easily. I crave space. I thrive under a hefty weight of self-efficiency. I am in no way a touchy-feelie person.

And it always comes back to bite me. I know you'll be shocked to hear this, but if you tell everyone that you can handle everything on your own all the time, they stop trying to help you. I know, right?! And then, after a while, you really do start to feel alone. And not in that feel-good Unabomber way, either.

So I'm trying.

I'm attempting to reach out more often. To need help. No, scratch that: to want to need help. (Because of course I always needed it.) I'm trying to chisel away at that towering, rock-hard myth that we all have it totally pulled together; you know, behind the doors of our homes, beyond the entryway we try to keep vacuumed in case someone stops by.

And I'm beginning to see how it works, this non-island living: I share a personal worry with someone I trust, and I feel a burdon lift. I find myself in a bind when a preschool birthday party conflicts with a grade school soccer game, and someone offers a hand. (Aren't friends who will grab not only your kid's booster seat but your kid too and plop them both in their car at the last minute, insisting they've got everything handled the best? Thank you, Tina!) I delegate duties to my perfectly able-bodied boys which yesterday, I would have shouldered solo: I could use a hand here. You can grab that on your way out. Why don't you each take a load?

I have to admit, it's pretty nice here in the village, amongst you all. The weather's fine. The company is finer. You know how when a group of women get together and everyone's so glad to be there they're all talking over one another and no one can get a word in edgewise? I love that. I love to be heard. I love to talk. I relish the wisdom to be found in seeking out advice, of sharing stories, of meeing neighbors. I want to hear what you all are reading, what's for dinner, and what drives you most crazy about your kids.

But sometimes--and I don't know if this is true of you, too--I need to set myself adrift. I need uncharted territory through which to cut my own path under my own steam. And on those days when I'm determined to go it alone, please wish me luck.

It's just someplace I need to be.

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