Lily and I have been housebound for two days in self-imposed quarantine, since she is sick. We haven’t laid eyes on real, live humans, other than each other, for a little too long. We have over-relied this week on the internet and DVDs from the library, with the shining pixels penetrating our rattled brains, mesmerizing and numbing us to the reality of illness, grief, confusion. The aching truth is that reality is difficult to bear.
In exhorting myself to return to writing, in being exhorted by a staunch coterie, I find myself wondering, who am I writing for? What needs to be articulated? Surely we all need a little more peace and a little less anguish lately. What words could be loosed on the air like a piteousness of doves, beating ripples of peace with their little wings? Yes, a piteousness of doves is a collective noun to describe a group of doves. It feels insufferably appropriate.
The piteousness that I see, from my vantage point, listening as hard as I can, backing away from the fray, is stark. I often describe this in terms of the bleeding planet and its ravaged lifeforms. Lately, however, that larger backdrop of which we are all a part is manifesting in my awareness as individual people, with their fractured hearts and minds. I am surely one of them, and my observer self hops away and flies up onto a branch, for a better look at this riven woman and those who have intersected with her little life. Gazing down, looking at the spaces between all the battered bodies, my observer self sees a word taking shape like a snake, and it spells out loneliness.
Loneliness. We are driven mad with loneliness. We fling ourselves forward, sinking our hooks of loneliness into each other, piercing the skin in a vain attempt to attach, to hold on, to possess, to not be abandoned yet again. There is so much to say, so few ears that are willing to hear. There is so much thwarted longing with nowhere to go. The hooks seem to make a lurid sort of sense, given that there are so few tools of connection at hand, but in the end it becomes apparent that they are hardly benign, and in fact are only another manifestation of the tools of disconnection. We have internalized the disconnection so profoundly that we act it out again and again. It’s a cruel twist, given the underlying drive for connection that is sane and good. Instead of connection, though, what is being achieved with the sinking of hooks is the rending of flesh.
How, then, do we extract the hooks? What balm can we apply to the infected puncture wounds? I don’t think I have this all figured out, much as I would like to offer first aid. But my observer self has the beginnings of a prescription.
Refuse any more hooks, for starters. Observe, learn, and see them coming. As they approach, declare simply, “No, I do not accept this.” Turn to the hooks that remain embedded. It will seem inconceivable, what comes next, when all you want to do is curl around the festering pain and shut out the world. Take your vulnerable heart, your fearful, bloody, broken heart; scoop it up, gently, off the ground; and bring it to the source.
I didn’t say I had it all figured out, right? You are going to have to find the source, or let it find you. You are going to have to be still. It’s no good to just yank a hook straight out. There is the backwards threading, and allowing the wound to drain.
The piteousness of doves attends, cooing empathy.