Friday, November 30, 2012

Solitude and Blankets

Solitude.  I learned from an early age how important it is to enjoy one's own company and how essential solitude is to one's sense of well-being.  At one point in my life, it was like chocolate to me.  I thought I could never get enough of it; the taste was so delicious.  And life threw me a curve ball. Well, actually, it was more of a fast ball aiming straight for my head.   I either had to dive out of the way or risk cracking all my face bones and catch it.  I caught it alright, but it changed my life.

I ended up here in Wisconsin, far away from my family and friends and everything familiar.  For a while there, I felt like my very identity was dismantled.  During the vast stretches of time that my husband was away working at his dream job, I was left alone.  Those stretches were frequent at first.  None of the jobs I found here evolved into the beloved graphics career I left in Ohio.  But I loved being by myself so at first it was okay; if I wasn't working, I could easily entertain myself.  There were so many new places to explore.  And even if I sat alone at home, I can spend hours just writing (which turned into a full-time career, as most of you know) or thinking or listening to the birds or music or reading a good book.  But eventually, I began to crave human connections, real face-to-face human connections.  Calls home just weren't cutting it.  I was surprised, because I thought I'd never tire of solitude.  But I did.

When I went out into the world, it struck me like a slap in the face that not one person would recognize me, not one person would wave hello or tap me on the arm at the store and say, "Hi, Carrie.  What's up?"  And if I had the sudden urge to go have some java and gab with a friend at the coffee shop or go see a movie, there was no one to call.  David was usually working, and when he got home, he was tired and not often eager to go anywhere but to bed.

The desire for real-time self-expression was extraordinary.  It became stronger and stronger within me until I felt about to burst.  The energy and knowledge and satisfaction one gains from face-to-face social interaction are priceless necessities of life.  It took a few years but eventually I made friends, joined a few social groups and started to feel whole again.  I was like a tree, finally spreading my roots out and twisting them around the roots of other trees, sort of like a handshake.  And it felt good.  After regaining what I had lost, I realized how vital social interaction is to my happiness, to anyone's happiness.  I vowed to never get lost within myself for too long ever again.  I am a human being, not an "island," as someone very wise once said.  And I am social by nature.

Most recently, I was reminded what too much solitude can do to a person.  For four months now, I've struggled with a forced hibernation.  A herniated disc took me away from my beloved writing, as well as my friends and all social gatherings.  Extreme pain and the inability to sit for more than five minutes limited almost everything I could do, including drive.  And solitude is making me crazy!  I feel like a balloon filled with too much helium, straining and eager to burst any second.

I know it's partly my fault.  I disappeared for a while.  I stayed in contact with friends and family by phone and internet, but I could have easily invited someone over for a visit and did not. Why?  I didn't want to bother anyone, depress anyone with my problems, my pain.  And I was embarrassed because the house is messy, mortified that someone might see the cat hair tumbleweeds blowing across the carpet and turn away in disgust.

Solitude is like a warm blanket.  Everybody needs a warm blanket sometimes.  It's cozy and comfortable, but if you sit under a warm blanket indefinitely, you'll suffocate.  You need fresh air too.  And for me, that fresh air is face-to-face contact with people who care about me.

Today, a friend is coming over to visit.  And I am ecstatic!  I love my darling David to pieces, and enjoy his company immensely, but I need to see another face, hug another friend, and talk and talk and talk to someone who hasn't heard all my stories already, to someone who has new stories to tell me.  And then I'll feel truly human again.

Goodbye, solitude.  At least for today, I'm putting away the warm blanket.  It will be there, all folded up and ready for me whenever I need it again.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Sounds Like I'm Crazy

Awakenings Review's most recent edition is out, and I am honored to be included among so many wonderful writers.  My poem, "Sounds Like I'm Crazy" was accepted by the editors of the Awakenings Review quite some time ago, so I'm very excited to finally have the issue in my hot little hands!  A copy of the poem appears at the end of this blog.  It's far from my best poetry ever, but nevertheless I'm proud of writing it and sharing it with others.

Awakenings Review publishes stories, essays and poetry written by people suffering from mental illness/disorders.  My poem is about my struggle with 4S (Selective Sound Sensitivity Disorder) or more commonly known as Misophonia.  Some think the two are one and the same and others argue that they are slightly different.  

I've recently learned that migraines may also be intimately involved in the disorder, perhaps even the root cause.  All I know for sure is if we don't talk about it, keep it in the dark for fear of repercussions and being negatively stigmatized by the ignorant few who don't understand mental illness, we'll never progress toward a cure or at least some semblance of social acceptance.  If you're interested in gaining some insight from those with mental illness or just an extremely entertaining read, here's a link to their website:

by Carrie Ryman

Rattle.  Crunch.  Squeak.  Click. 
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep.  Tick.
I squeeze my ears tight.
I try to cope.  I am polite.

This horror of sounds that assaults my brain,
that litters my life with torturous pain,
cannot be avoided, cannot be blocked.
The noise haunts my being like toxic shock.

Rattle. Crunch.  Squeak. Click.
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep. Tick.
No one forgives.  No one forgets.
No one restrains.  No one accepts.

Lost in a nightmare of piercing air.
that destroys my peace and strips me bare.
The noise-makers think their wounded pride
is far superior to my panic inside.

Rage.  Cry.  Squeal.  Panic.
Shudder.  Slip.  Beseech.  Manic.
No pills to cure me.  No words to ease.
And worst is my own desire to please.

No control.  No answers.  No way out.
No weapons.  No freedom.  No normal route.

One moment there is tranquility, calm.
And then the onslaught, the nightmarish sounds.
Rattle.  Crunch.  Squeak.  Click. 
Shout.  Slurp.  Beep.  Tick.

It sounds like I’m crazy, but more is the truth:
Sanity is subjective and possessed
by the chosen few.