Thursday, November 24, 2011

The Big Lonely

Acting is the greatest answer to my loneliness that I have found.
Claire Danes

An artist is always alone - if he is an artist. No, what the artist needs is loneliness.
Henry Miller

So, I'm sitting at my desk, still in my coat on from having come in from outside, from having come in from a good cry on the side of the road, a cry affirming the incredible loneliness that has increased most days since I've moved to the Central Valley. (And yet you ask, how could you be lonely with those fall colors, with those almond blossoms that make Spring a ridiculously joyful party. Bear with me, reader, there are seasons of my life when loneliness is a necessary place, a time in which I need to look into the mirror of myself for a designated period of time--every artist needs this space, this time. This may have been a prolonged period of loneliness for me [3 years]. However, it's one in which I haven't made use of the loneliness; instead, I've tried to shove in placeholders to stave off the loneliness. I won't go into all the stuff I've stuffed my life with in the last three years, but what I've always known, what I've talked about in a interviews, even, is that I need, crave, leaning into what I call the "Big Lonely"--a vast desert of solitude that's required to do the work it takes to write, which is also fine counterpoint for the big not-lonely of acting, and the super-social world of teaching. The Big Lonely is also a great chance to listen to God. Henri Matisse, one of my favorite visual artists, said, "The essential thing is to work in a state of mind that approaches prayer." Prayer of gratitude, prayer of asking, prayer of turning everything I want or think I want over to the care of God.)

So, I'm sitting at my desk, in front of a first draft of a poetry manuscript, culled from the multitude of poems I wrote between April and October, poems that celebrate the landscape of the Central Valley; poems that describe my spiritual struggles, my romantic joys and sorrows; poems that insist on choosing life even if the mind wants to twist living into a less-than-attractive option. But it's the only option. I live. I insist on living. My body refuses to give up. It hasn't given up to any of the life-threatening illnesses I am diagnosed with. The poems show that life is sometimes full of unbelievable joy, and is sometimes threatened to be overcome by darkness, but in the end, there is always life. There's always a new hope, a new journey around the bend--whether it's the hope of sensing God on a new level, the hope of a new connection with a friend, the hope of surviving another lonely night, the hope of finding lasting, loving romantic partnership, the hope of the perfection of a creative moment as an actor, musician, or writer--the hope of reaching the next goal as a singer, the hope that my fingers will grow stronger and smoother on the bass guitar, the hope that I'll feel the reality of that line of Shakespeare's from head to toe the next time I perform it, the hope I will discover a new combination of words that will delight myself and another, the hope I will open a new mind in the classroom, the hope that God makes possible.

And suddenly, the lonely has a new texture to it, it's full of possibility, it's full of worlds I'm inventing on paper, it's full of imaginary characters I'm embodying on stage, it's full of songs I haven't yet built bass lines for, it's full of kisses, of prayers, of laughter, of new weather--it's Alaska, Paris, Dublin. It's my upcoming trip to New York City, it's a party on December 17th, and it's now--it's Nick Drake playing on my headphones, it's a sense of momentum, of new, of incredible, of the pool of light on my desk in this dark office after nightfall. It's meteor showers. It's dancing, it's cereal in a bowl, the clinking sound it makes when I pour it in. It's my present skin.

"Time has told me
You're a rare rare find
A troubled cure
For a troubled mind.

And time has told me
Not to ask for more
Someday our ocean
Will find its shore.

So I’ll leave the ways that are making me be
What I really don't want to be
Leave the ways that are making me love
What I really don't want to love."

Time Has Told Me by Nick Drake

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