Tag Archives: solitude

Nobody

Once upon a time there was a man who thought he was nobody. Because he thought he was nobody, he lived nowhere and knew no one. One day, he tried to escape from his own shadow but discovered he could only do that by burrowing into the darkest recesses of his mind. Undeterred, he wrapped himself in darkness and disappeared.

Years passed and nobody noticed. He noticed that sadness had become more and more a part of him. He was sadness and sadness was him and they were together in the darkness.

One day, he saw a glimmer of light and, having been so long in the dark, it looked like a star. As his eyes adjusted, he realised it was a hole in the darkness. It was there everyday, and each day he looked at it a little longer and came a little closer.

Finally he looked through the hole, no wider than a pin, and he saw a world out there. The vivid colours jostled for his focus as his mind was pitched over the rainbow. As he watched memories came back of how life was before he was nobody in the darkness. The confusion he felt was like a storm in his soul. Emotions crowded in on him, each vying for his attention. After so long in his shroud of sadness he had forgotten the pain of jealousy and the hurt of betrayal.

He thought he was going to be sick. His senses were overloaded and he was about to pull away when he felt a thump. It was the beating of his heart, strong and steady and it seemed to say that everything was going to be alright. Sadness tried to hold him but the beat was constant.

He knew what had to come next. He pushed at the pin hole until he could get his finger in it. Then slowly a whole hand and then two. One massive rip and he fell into the light, dazed and full of wonder.

Hello, a face above his said in a light, quizzical tone. Who are you?

I don’t know said a voice he had forgotten he owned. I was nobody but now I’m not so sure. And slowly, from the turmoil and chaos raging within him, a smile was born and sadness let him go.

No one’s home

He asked me if I was lonely in Cambodia and if I missed home. An unexpected touch of concern from a man I met in passing, but ultimately it was an ill thought question. He thinks that I should come home, but he doesn't realise that I am at home wherever I am. That wasn't his only mistake though.

I am not lonely in Cambodia. I am rarely lonely anywhere. My loneliness is something others see but it isn't actually there. I have always led quite a self sufficient existence. My life is hermetically sealed and my emotions are lived out in the landscapes and scenarios of my mind. No one really knows me and no one gets invited in. I am not lonely but I am often alone.

I love people. Well, I like a spot of company is probably more accurate. I enjoy telling silly stories and presenting my public face to the world. I get up and out and go about the town and say my hellos. However, more often when I have free time, I choose to relax in other ways. I have my own place and I just go there and lock the door. Being self obsessed, I enjoy my own company. When I am alone with my thoughts, time passes easily. My mind is the most beautiful place I know and I could dream my whole life away in there.

My problem is that other people cause me stress. It's not deliberate. The people I meet are kind and lovely as well as intelligent and witty. It's me and that beautiful mind of mine. I never feel I might have said something wrong, crossed a line, or not been considerate enough when I am on my own. Because I can't read other people too well, I am constantly on the wrong foot. Or I think I might be. So, I hop awkwardly through the briefest of encounters and then run away to my quiet, empty home.

Here is as good as anywhere. I know a few people and my language problems keep most relationships stripped back and simple. I don't know when I'll go back to England, but if I do, I'll be looking for my own place where I can just go and lock the door. If any asks, no one's home.

The Caretaker

I am a brother. It is something that does not take up much time, yet my brother is often in my thoughts. As children, our age shaped the roles we were given and seems to have shaped the men we have become.
He is older than me, and when I was young, he seemed so grown up. I looked to him for guidance and advice. Our home situation was somewhat less than conventional, so an unfair burden was placed on him that I never carried. He was expected to take care of me whereas I was just expected to be younger. He shouldered responsibility at an early age while I skipped through life, almost oblivious to the world around me.
My brother is fifty five years old now, and he has taken care of his wife and their sons. His family has grown up in a safe and loving environment that did not mirror our childhood existence. A stable home, where promises were kept and boundaries were maintained, has produced two happy confident young men. They have a home which is solid, built on love, respect and hard work.
I don't have a home and I have never really settled. I roam about the world, restlessly seeking things I'll probably never find. I would like to know how it feels to share my home and my life with someone. I am fifty and have never lived with a partner. I can only imagine the joys and woes of parenthood and have resigned myself to my solitary life. I have shirked life's responsibilities and I am still skipping. I never have everything I need and yet, thanks to the kindness of people around me, my scrapes are survived. I am still that boy who never has a clean tissue and always has untied laces.
On one level I have always wanted to be like my brother, but I am not. I am the younger son, and I was only ever expected to need looking after. He grew up to be a caretaker and I, perhaps not yet grown up, still take care when it is offered

Sok Sabay

I love being on my own. I can happily spend the majority of the day in my own little world. Today I have barely spoken to anyone and it is now lunchtime. I have just been wrapped up in planning lessons and getting ready for my six hour teaching day tomorrow.
I like a routine so I get out of the house about 6 in the morning. My alarm isn't set but I am usually awake before dawn. I walk and watch the good people of Battambang. At the start of my walk the streets are quiet and life hasn't really commenced for most khmer households. I see the same faces exercising by the river. There's the kindly looking fellow who teaches his adoring, all female class Tai Chi and the men who play Kinja, a game where you kick a shuttlecock to each other.
I stop for a bite to eat at the same little place. Sok sabay I say to announce my presence. I like the fact that peace and happiness are my first words each day as I take my seat and wait for my dollar breakfast. I've usually walked two miles or more before I sit down, so I am more than ready for my pork, rice, pickles and broth.
After breakfast I wend my way home. By seven the town is feeling more awake and the streets are full of life. Children off to school and parents off to work. Others, like me, choose to have a Khmer pavement breakfast.
A cup of coffee just before home signals the fact that there is work to be done. I try to start early so I can have a break and eat my fruit salad lunch. On good days, like today, I get a paragraph or two hammered out before it's time to put my long trousers on and face my students. After the peace and happiness of the morning, my afternoons are more hectic. I love teaching, but I don't find it calming or tranquil.
Most nights after work, I will go out and be sociable. A chat with friends is great but the Asperger Path will have me home by about seven. That will leave plenty of time for some vegetables and rice and another slice of peace and happiness before bed.
Sok sabay!

Blooming

Once I was blissfully unaware. I was an misfit, an oddball, an eccentric of a peculiarly English type but I thought nothing of it. 

My few attempts to fit in were always just opportunities to stand out. I was a follower of fashion for example. However my “fashion-forward” sensibilities were heady when combined with my complete unawareness of the ripples I can create around me.  Never thinking to look back, I sailed through the calm waters of life with the cut of my jib set jaunty. 

Then they interfered. I was labelled. The very essence of who I was became the focus of others. Professionals were involved and meetings took place. People were concerned or perhaps even worried. I was placed on the Asperger Path and my life juddered to a halt. 

Half the world away and here I am. The path is mine. I have owned myself and stuck two fingers up at those who told me what I could and couldn’t do. I live in a country where I don’t speak the language and my height, colour, build and beard separate me from the crowd. No one has really heard of Asperger here, let alone his blooming syndrome. We are all blissfully unaware. 

Diana and the Muesli

You have to love Diana Ross. Well, I guess you don’t have to but I do. She was with me at breakfast this morning and asked if I knew where I was going to. Hell no as Oprah Winfrey replied in the film version of The Color Purple. Luckily, not being black or southern, I did not receive a beating for my strident response. Diana just went on, almost as if she hadn’t heard, to ask if I liked the things that life is showing me. This time my answer was a life affirmating smile that wasn’t covered by hand but shared with the morning muesli. 

I am starting to believe that life is a gift. Like all the other gifts and talents I possess, it benefits from a bit of practice and honing. I am just past fifty and feeling fabulous. I have created a life that, right now, plays a rather gentle hand. My skill sets and strengths have been carefully balanced with my, let’s call them, eccentricities, and life is being lived in a contented manner. I have a home far from home and I have found friends far from friends. There have been a few hairy moments over the years but my diploma from the school of hard knocks looks dusty in the bright sunshine of easy street. 

Diana might be worried about my lack of destination but this life is easing on down the road. On my slow journey away from Oz I seem to have found myself a rather comfortable window seat. My name is not Dorothy and I will not surrender. I am somewhere, over my rainbow, living my spectrum disordered life one day at time.  

Do I like the things that life is showing me? Hell, yes Diana! Hell yes. 

Small

I lead a very small life. I get up and go about my business and to most I am an unknown. I am a nameless stranger on the streets of a city whose language I cannot read or speak. 
Yet, everyday I feel welcomed. When shopping, the generosity of a smile, when I struggle to communicate, calms me down. The old ladies of the market laugh at me but I can see the kindly twinkle in their eyes as I stumble through buying my vegetables. The toddlers, standing on the footplate of their parents’ scooter even shout hello as they go past. So I may be unknown but I’m not unnoticed. As a foreigner, a barang, I stand out. I am tall, even by British standards, so here in Cambodia I feel as if I’ve come down a bean stalk. I sail around the town on a big old fashioned bike, having eschewed the ubiquitous motorbike, gathering smiles. 
In my small life, these seemingly meaningless interactions are anything but. Each one contributes to a sense of happiness. Here in Cambodia people are shy but they are not wary. Having come from Europe where the single adult male is shunned as potential stranger danger it is lovely to receive happy waves and carefree waves and hear parents encouraging their children to say hello. 
I will never change the world and I have no aspiration to do so. Nor will many of the people I see every day. However, a cheery hello or an open smile can change someone’s day. I know this because the good people of Battambang share their small city and their kind, friendly nature with me, making my small life a happier one. 

The Hare and the Tortoise 

I met a man the other day who blew away the cobwebs that had gathered in forgotten corners of my mind.  Through his conversation he gently reminded me of lost passions and interests that have lain, unvoiced, in the hinterland of my consciousness. He was travelling at light speed through South East Asia. However  this cosmic hare paused for breath before zipping past me, the earth-bound sluggish tortoise. 

We talked of things from home mostly. A trip back to the familiar which was less memory lane than a base touch with my own culture. The politics of the left and the left out was discussed over one too many beers and the world unable to righted was dispaired over. We shifted our focus to love and relationships and discovered much in common. We both believed in the openness and flexibility of love. Seemingly polar opposites, the more we discussed the broader out common ground became.  

When he left I knew that I would never see him again. I wish he were a tortoise because I could have travelled and talked with him forever. How easy life would be but I don’t fall in love with tortoises. I fall in love with hares and so I wake up with spiders rebuilding their homes in forgotten corners. 

The Greatest Love of All

Is anyone ever really on your side. I wanted someone to stand shoulder to shoulder with me and they did not. They took a position removed from my own. They were not diametrically opposed but they I didn’t feel that they had my back.

In this world we are all alone. At any time the sensations we experience are processed separately and each of us had a unique perception of the world around them. Sharing  is at best a compromise of ideas and at worst a complete subjugation of the self. I have known for a long time that we all die alone but it is living alone with everyone else that is slowly killing me. 

I’m not talking about solitude. That lovely place is where I am right now, alone with my thoughts and lost in the most beautiful place I have ever been, the inside of my own mind. It’s the feeling of being alone that others bring with them and unpack as thoughtlessly as some tuna sandwiches on a plate at summer picnic. People laugh and smile and every foray into the light soufflé of society leaves me pancake flat as if there is no air in those cheerful places. The hail-fellow-well-met brigade offer a hearty superficiality that is not concrete enough to lean on. 

I want someone on my side. Someone who thinks I am great and supports me with unconditional love.  They need to travel with me on the Asperger Path and hold my hand. 

Given that it cannot be anyone else I will learn to love myself. Now where is that Whitney Houston CD?

Day Off

I am always out and about, I mingle and chatter and socialise my way through the day. Every morning I go out and drink a coffee and engage in the social niceties of everyday life. I might go to the market and pick up a few bits and bobs or maybe to the “drink shop” which sells a selection of western food. Then after a quick change into my working clothes I change roles and stand in front of a wild hoard of grade one pupils and attempt to teach for three hours. After work I sometimes have a beer with a colleague or head off to the night market for some noodles. I lead a fairly easy life. 

Yesterday I had a day off. I took a day off from everything. I reclused. I pottered around my tiny flat and did not venture forth into the world. A chance to recharge the batteries and have a little down time. I like people a lot but they tire me out. On The Asperger Path I try very hard to be outgoing and interested in the world around me. The social skills I possess are well honed and subtly employed but they are still learnt tools and coping mechanisms. I am not naturally interested in people and in my head I file facts about people so I can remember pertinent questions to ask. This man has a daughter and that woman has started a new job. I follow up on the information I have. I play my role but I need those cue cards 

Yesterday I talked to nobody. I had a day off from trying to fit in. Some time spent away from other people expectations. There is no loneliness in soltitude for me. I only feel isolation in a crowd. I read messages badly and the unspoken rules trip me up. When I do say something wrong or inappropriate I shrivel inside and the fear of that creates a lurking anxiety. If I get excited and start rattling and prattling I suddenly catch myself and my awkward unawareness leaves me floundering as I scan faces to see if I’ve overstepped one of the invisible lines. On my own life is much more tranquil. 

All the world’s a stage and one man plays many parts. Yesterday I was just me. I had no entrances or exits. I spent my day off stage.