Saturday, July 29, 2017

Alone vs. Lonely / Talk 2 Ppl

I have been going to this terrific coffee shop in the mornings; I'm generally there at opening, 6am, though I try not to be actually loitering at the doors as they're unlocking them because that seems weird/annoying.
Here is the coffee shop, much as it looks when I arrive in the morning. I'm not sure how to credit this picture; it's not mine; it's from the website. The restaurant in which it's embedded is also good (I think); true to my rigidities, however, I've marked it as a place I go to for coffee and (usually) a freshly-baked good in the morning, and by the time the restaurant starts to fill up and the kitchen is open I'm out. Also, to be fair, I've basically gone off places where another human being takes your order and brings you food (unless I'm out with friends).
This morning, my rigidities were disrupted. I'd had this whole conversation with myself starting at 4:56am about what to eat, based on a delicious-nutritious thing that I'd baked (in the fridge), temporally proximate baked goods at the coffee shop, less temporally proximate but also relevant other good food because today's Saturday which means the Calabasas Farmer's Market will open up at 8am right outside (right outside; parking lot) the coffee shop, PLUS the fact that the Topanga Library opens at 9am today which seems like a nice thing to take advantage of and is relevant to what I'm eating at 5am because...well it's all part of a plan, right?

Let me pause: I think I come off as crazy in the paragraph above in a way that I am, but not as much as it may make me seem. A narrative schema that I often admire in novels and plays is when you're put inside the lived reality of a protagonist and themes strongly emerge--anguish, suspicion, fixation on clouds, whatever--and you're given no explanatory exposition for why this theme should be so central (because the point of the story is the story, not some book-cover summary bullsh1t approximation of the concept of the shape of a thing like a 'story') until maybe some glancing reference 2/3s of the way through.

I admire that a lot in novels and plays, but it's maybe not so super-great for blog posts so let me be clear: there's backdrop lore here that's useful to this post (and, perhaps, others). My living situation is in transition, in an accelerated and unexpected way, with some stressors attached. This is not a big deal; even mentioning it, I feel silly. But I guess I'm weak enough that it is in some ways acting on me, and that's a relevant backdrop and good to acknowledge. It's affecting productivity, logistics, mood, etc.; certainly, it's relevant to why I'm loitering outside coffee shops at 6am.

Anyway, so this morning, all my plans came to naught because I'd taken the delicious-nutritious snack from my fridge with me when I left the house at 5:30am (see backdrop lore, above) but not eaten it, on the promise of temporally proximate baked goods at the coffee shop, and--reader, brace yourself--there were no baked goods at the coffee shop. Not only that, but there was some new guy behind the counter who didn't know all the stuff (and: didn't know me) and we had a not unfriendly but y'know static-y interaction re: baked goods and coffee. Again, to make the story actual, let me be clear. I wasn't like, "Dude, where are the fucking muffins?" It was more like one of those things where we each had to say things twice; we both misunderstood each other a couple times. Static-y.

And when I went back for my refill I decided: basta, not good enough, slimb. C'mon. So I tried to be a little more of a viable human being. I was like, "Hey, are you new? I'm here lots of mornings and haven't seen you, I'm" etc.

And he was like yeah no, I worked here for awhile but then I was gone for a few months but now I'm back, I'm etc.

And I almost let this conversational offer pass (I often mess things like that up; sometimes consciously, sometimes not). But I didn't! I was like, "Oh was it a fun trip or what?" This question isn't quite as anodyne as it may seem (although that'd be fine, too: anodyne questions make the world go round). This coffee shop, for those who did not hit the link at the top, is part of this interesting complex that is coffee shop / restaurant / bike-shop. It serves lots of people in lycra with fancy bikes, and some people who work here are into that too, so I thought maybe this young hipster/granola- lookin' dude might have gone on a big bike trip or something.

Interruption: a guy with a charming and shambling sheep dog of some sort just came in the front (the entrance to the restaurant, not the coffee shop); he saw me brighten and mark and, as I took off my headphones, launched into an apology about how they were "just going straight through to the coffee shop" which trailed off at once when he saw that I was just happy to see his cool dog. He and I (the man; not the dog; don't know the dog's sex) had some bantering about the water backpack the dog had on, how he could now go and fill it with coffee. 

I'm actually a little confused about the breed of his dog because it was strikingly (gorgeously) hetero-iridiatic or whatever the right dogword is for that thing with the eye color. It was white with black speckles but kind of long-haired;
what the heck kind of dog is that? Beyond a good one, I mean. Clearly.

Anyway long story short, nope the young guy had not been on a long biking trip; he was on tour with his band, which he's in with his brother and another guy and whom I went and listened to after we talked, as I started this post, and then I went back to him and was like, "dude, you guys are grand!" and he thanked me in a way that I immediately recognized: very much over the idea that every time someone compliments your work that means you owe them some kind of performance (cuz, um: you know that your work is good. you have known this for years. it's like: the one non-objective fact that you know, beyond loving your friends and your family), but at the same time: it is, in fact, nice every time someone says something nice re: your stuff.

So now this moment of static and (absurd, privileged ⇐ duh) disappointment had become a nice small moment of connection. And I flipped from one feeling to another. Which--what is this, two-thousand words later?--is what this blog post is about.

I spend some time being "lonely", and I think I've written here about what that word means to me. Maybe you feel this sometimes, too; for me, basically, it is not net-net a bad thing. We're dealing with functions of margin, and the bad side--occasional loneliness, falling over the line--is like an inevitable overflow function of a very good side: solitude, focus, governing my own time. So in fact, if I never felt lonely, it might be a good diagnostic that I'm doing something wrong, and indeed there are times in my life when I've sure not felt lonely and man it's not good. So, in fact, "loneliness" takes on a bittersweet niceness, in memory for sure and even in the moment, because it's an acknowledged part of a whole that is, on balance, a blessing and full of very very good things.

But then there's "alone". Which is totally different, as I experience and understand it.

Here's a physical metaphor for this whole thing. I like to move my body and do fun, sometimes taxing things with it; the fact that I like to tax my body (and mind, I guess; or my fear, or whatever) means that I'm sometimes in physical discomfort or low-level 'pain'. But, just like loneliness, that 'pain' takes on a bittersweet niceness. Everyone else in the world has observed this as well ('no pain no gain'; 'pain is weakness leaving the body'; blah blah blah) so while I'm not into the fetishization of pain I'm also not into the shying fetishization of not-pain; I accept and to some extent even embrace a certain kind of pain and discomfort as the indicator that I am at the right margin, pushing the right limit.

But pain injury, this example. Pain doesn't equal chronic, sustained pain. Both of those things--injury, chronic pain--are really hard things. I don't want to say anything flip about them. They're hard and people managing them deserve deference and respect. If I could do away with discomfort, with the 'pain' of pushing yourself while training...I probably would not. But if I could do away with injury and chronic pain? Hell yes. Hell yes. Erase it forever, 4 u & 4 me.

So let's SAT analogy this whole thing (the "analogy" section was part of the SAT that...y'know what nevermind):

loneliness : alone
no-pain-no-gain type 'pain' or discomfort : injury or chronic pain

Do you see? The thing on the right is a sh1tty bad thing -- I'd free all of us from it forever if I could. The thing on the left...mmm. Life's not perfect! Maybe we need it. And obviously it's a continuüm: exposing yourself to the thing on the left is a gateway risk to the thing on the right. But again, tradeoffs; so...

So here's the point. It actually brings in every thing that I've said in this ramble-a$$ post, which is kind of a pleasant surprise.

The retrieval of my glancing interaction with the musician (whom I encountered as a barista: we've all gotta do what we've gotta), from a static-y interaction to a kind-of-nice interaction, underscored for me that I've pushed past the margin a bit on the lonely vs. alone thing. Because of stuff with the housing, mainly. The difference is safety, security; when I feel 'lonely' I don't feel at all unsafe or insecure--in fact it often accentuates feelings of safety, in a cozy kind of way. 'Alone' is different. And again, #JFC, this is not a big deal; I know I'm writing all this but I'm not a deranged narcisso-solipsist. But it's also how I feel, so I am writing about it.

And if you read it, all these words: thanks you.

I hope you have a great weekend with lots of good things. And perhaps a sprinkle of some not-great things, just to balance the mix. But none of the bad things. No bad things for you, ever.

last beat: The young dude setting up the bar (different dude), 
is having trouble with beer taps. They're stressing him out. 
I hope, for his peace of mind,
that he is able to forthwith resolve them.
Although I also hope, tbh, that those taps don't need use for a good many hours.

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