There are moments in everyone's life when something happens, something extraordinary, something so exquisite and exciting and overwhelming that we want to share it. We're social creatures, we're built that way. So we do. We start gushing to the first person we think will understand.
It goes like this.
At first we're swimming too deep in our own exuberance to be able to notice the reaction of the one listening to us (or pretending to listen). It's only after we manage to really get into the story of our epiphany—whatever it is—that we notice peculiar silence. Or polite silence. Or an interruption. Or it can be a glazed-over look, or a disbelieving shake of a head. This misunderstanding comes in many shapes, but the message is the same.
I DON'T GET YOU.
And so we falter, begin mumbling words, and then stop talking altogether. The light goes out of our eyes. The thing that got us all thrilled and energized slowly slips into the dark corners of our minds. We nod politely to whatever it is the other person is talking about. We even manage to hold conversation, often for a long time, but that living breathing spark that animated us has vanished. Not completely, no. We're so good at burying these things, to retrieve them later. To write them out.
But before we do, before we get to that place, we feel like crying.
When we're done with our social duties of talking about the weather and the kids and the money and the whatever else it was that shook the air and we barely paid attention to, seeing mouths open and close and not really hearing the words, when all of this is over, we make an excuse to be alone. We carefully walk out of the situation that has been dutifully performed and satisfactorily ended, and we run home. Or some place where its quiet, where we can be alone. And there we cry. We weep. We let go, knowing that no one will understand.
Why do we cry? Because we feel lonely. So utterly lonely.
That thing that galvanized us, it was so important, so important to share, with someone, anyone, to see their face light up and get it.
Few people do. And so we write. We collect these things, these experiences, and we write them down. It starts early, very early, when we're little and receive the first rebuke. It could be us learning to spin a hula hoop for three complete turns. Or it could be us drawing a frog that looked so real, we were afraid it would jump off the page. Or it could be a face in the cloud we saw. Any number of these things we wanted to share and got a brick wall. We learned to internalize it. With years we got better and better at doing it, craftier. And that is why we, writers, can stand being alone for such long periods of time.
We have a lifetime of practice.
I think all artists do this, regardless of the medium. All artists are extra sensitive to everything around them. Sights, sounds, smells, sensations. Artist feel thousands of minutest gradations of things, when others can barely discern one. We make art so as not to go nuts. We can't not do it. The need to express the tumult of these feelings is so strong that if we don't channel it somewhere, it will turn in on us and make us feel depressed or, in the darkest days of feeling unbearable loneliness, drive us to suicide. It happens all the time. Artists take their lives when they decide to quit the world that doesn't see what they see.
If only we listened more. If only we took the time to see past people's facades and sense the yearning underneath. If only we didn't judge, didn't dismiss, didn't belittle. If only we reached out and took the time to connect to another human being on the path that led to our own heart, our own desires to share. If only. We're too afraid sometimes. I know I'm guilty of this. We all are.
Making art helps you open up.
Since I started writing, I have seen some ugly things in myself, and I have been working on rooting them out. You know what's strange? They go easily, as if they wanted me to get rid of them a long time ago. And when they do, I feel a little less alone. I see it's an artificial fear, a horror that trails behind me from my childhood. I'm never alone. I have me. I have mountains. Trees. Flowers. Clouds. I wasn't able to see this before, before I started writing.
And here I am, writing this. Why? I felt lonely for a few minutes, started crying, and did the thing that always helps me get over my pains:
So I've written this for you and I don't feel lonely anymore. I love you.