Growing small again
One torturous part of the last year has been just how big I’ve gotten relative to my own socially-distanced, pandemic-contextualized smaller existence. To be clear, I’m not bigger and certainly not more important, but the world has closed in. It is smaller. As the world has shrunk around me, I’ve lost all sense of where I fit in the world - or how big it is, or how big I am in it.
Everything is more here, more now, more immediate, more real, more about me than it should be. In the oft-quoted words of David Foster Wallace:
“everything in my own immediate experience supports my deep belief that I am the absolute center of the universe; the realest, most vivid and important person in existence. We rarely think about this sort of natural, basic self-centeredness because it’s so socially repulsive. But it’s pretty much the same for all of us. It is our default setting, hard-wired into our boards at birth. Think about it: there is no experience you have had that you are not the absolute center of. The world as you experience it is there in front of YOU or behind YOU, to the left or right of YOU, on YOUR TV or YOUR monitor. And so on. Other people’s thoughts and feelings have to be communicated to you somehow, but your own are so immediate, urgent, real.”
The smaller the world, the stronger these truths. In social isolation, I am less informed and guided by the “socially repulsive”.
A year in, I am processing all of this.
A year in, I am trying to squeeze the learning out of it all.
A year in, I am trying to discern meaning that is bigger than me.
A year in, I am finally taking a break.
A year in, I am finally sitting on a beach.
My book in my hand.
My book in my lap.
My book on my chair.
My brain begs me not to read, begs to be emptied - to be rejuvenated, rewritten. To be idle, not occupied. Present.
My book might as well be full of empty pages. It won’t be read today.
Above me, the whispy, vaporal nonsense of the white washed sky veiling the eternal blue.
Before me, the noisy ribboning of the perpetual and timeless ephemera of the crashing waves.
Beneath me, the infinite stories of life and death and formation and destruction told in the countless grains of sand thoughtlessly trampled.
On the horizon, the vanishing act of the soaring bird as it dissolves into the sky only to reappear again. Reborn.
I am recovering. I am growing again, ever so subtly. In this moment. Finally, not doing anything.
For the last year, I have been living an extraordinary - but unexceptional - story, one we’ve all been a part of. A story in which I am more character than narrator, more illustrator than author. More object than subject.
I must soon return to me, to writing my story.
In many ways, I have lost my self in a year of perpetual demands on myself.
I find it hard to choke back the tears. Saltwater.
Amidst the crashing waves, the diminutive melancholy required for hope slowly replaces the abounding sadness that makes me feel grand.
I can be big no longer. It’s not helpful to anyone. I must grow small. I must dissolve. Reconstitute.
Only then can I write anything that matters.