Since I was a teenager I have enjoyed being alone. I have a very social life when I want it but for the most part solitude is what I prefer. Most of the people I know prefer the regular company of others, and I understand their need but for me, sometimes people are just too much, humanity is just too much. The noise of life becomes intolerable. Every time one neighbor finishes their home improvement project (that invariably includes jack hammers, nail guns, chain saws, table saws, tile saws, and perhaps a sledge-hammer or two) the neighbor next door decides they need a pool. If it isn’t never-ending construction, it is the gardeners- and we all know about leaf blowers. I don’t mind lawn mowers as much but eventually they grate on my last nerve too. Remember when you used to hear the sound of a broom or a rake? I thought there was a ban on leaf blowers but apparently that memo didn’t go out in my hood.
So there is industrial noise that we have to put up with in the small city, noise that I can’t even hear when in a big city like Manhattan. There it just becomes “white noise” and lulls you into a trance. In a residential neighborhood it is far more noticeable. But there is another kind of noise that makes me retreat and it is the silent kind of noise that emanates from humans. It is the sound of pain, frustration, need, vanity, selfishness, self-righteousness (a big one in Los Angeles), and ego. This is the kind of noise I run from. As some Buddhist scholar said in regards to the noise of a party or a construction site, “they are not doing it TO you”. Meaning that the neighbors are not tearing down their house just to bug you, the teenagers down the block aren’t having a graduation party to upset you– they are just living. I wish I could say the same for what I call “psychic noise”.
I am an overly sensitive person which is good and bad. I can feel the pain of others, and so I wish to help or do what I can to ease their pain, then again, that vulnerability puts me in the line of fire with no flak jacket. So when it all becomes too much, I retreat. I do not answer my phone, I do not return calls, I hide from the front door and shudder at the thought of having to go to the market. Returning emails is a bit easier but not much. I can feel thunderous emotion through the damn computer.
By now I expect that some of my oldest friends understand that I am not gone forever, and that I am here for them in a pinch but I cannot respond to daily communication. As I’ve said before, there is also the not so minor fact that I am a painter and that in itself (for me) is a solitary occupation. When the phone rings and I answer it mid paint stroke, the spell is broken and then I am angry. It’s hard enough just getting into the studio.
These are serious times for many people in my life and I take their plights into consideration on a daily basis but I will not, cannot, give up my solitude for every self-indulgent behavior. On the other hand, when I have spent too much time alone, I start to get a bit batty and bored. Then the company of my friends is a welcomed, and special occasion. When one is alone too much we forget how to relate to others, how to share and how to listen. It’s that fine line of socializing that is tough for me. In order for me to understand things about life, I need to go inside and be quiet- even if it is terrifying, it must be done. I read, I write, I sit quietly, I look at my garden, I have a cocktail quietly looking at my garden, I paint and rest.
So I apologize to those that find me rude but I think I’ve been fairly honest in that it is my need for self-preservation, the need to re-fuel in order to go out and battle life. Otherwise I am just another drained human being with no capacity for compassion, another artist lacking in sensitivity.