...and then

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Loneliness is a tree

Loneliness is not a a big, scary, oppressive monster that I read about. It doesn't claw at you like the repetitive angry wave taking away from a giving shore; no, nothing as obvious and vulgar as that, this loneliness. It isn't the thing you see in the movies where thoughts race through and you sit, pretend-glamorously, with a drink somewhere, all artistic in your alone-ness. It's none of that.

For the most part, in keeping with my severe penchant for living blissfully in denial, I would never admit to being lonely, if I ever was. Or if I did, I'd say it was a perfectly alright way to be because, hey, I was a woman of this world, right? I didn't need anyone. I was strong beyond words, I had things to do and I had thoughts to complicate. Loneliness was okay. Because if it wasn't, then I'd have to admit to need. And need, need wasn't my style. I didn't do needy.

And so it became that I was never lonely. Even when I was. But that was before I actually became lonely. For, you see, till recently, I realise I haven't truly ever been lonely. I've been physically alone plenty of times, sure; I've even felt a bit of loneliness on and off when things weren't so great but never the loneliness that has recently revealed itself to me. In a room full of people, in time full of words, on the other side of a screen-full of people saying wonderful things, loneliness among plenty. That, I now realise, is true and honest loneliness.

A loneliness that is as natural as blinking your eyes, a loneliness that grows on you, around you, filling every area of your living, gradually like the plants you tend to in the garden, like water boiling. You don't see it grow. I was in search of something, of finding out what lay in the centre of this chaos that I've made my own for a while now. So I pruned and cut my life till there's only the bare minimum left. You dust all the glitter from the surface to reveal a solid colour beneath it, you trim and trim and trim, till you are left with the essence, so fragile and devastatingly true that a mere dishonesty from within was enough to shatter it. You do this, this trimming of extras, in order to find the one thing, or a couple of things, that are most important to your life. You clear and clean till you find the core of what you want. For the most part, it is a great process. The raw that you see beneath is beautiful in its quiet, ugly truths. And for that view, the process is worth it.

The other side of this relentless and ruthless cleansing is, for me at least, that you drive away everything that holds your normal outward life up. You shut people out by creating an independence so fierce, however temporary, that you cannot let them back in for a while. And you do this slowly. You do this every single time you respond to someone's "How are you" with a cheery "Fine, thanks". You do this every time you decline an invitation to go out for a drink. You do this every time you make exciting plans only to chicken out at the last moment because that peace and quiet you've been holding on to has been so addictive that you are worried your withdrawal from it will show in the presence of someone else. You do it every time you hang clothes out to dry and your mind takes a bit of a walk; every time you read a book and forget the line between your boxy little bedroom and whichever other world that you've been living in vicariously through words. Insidious, entirely undetectable and filling your life like a room packed with air, loneliness takes over your life in the most natural way. Come to think of it, it is a slow, quiet journey that you make for yourself. Loneliness, then, is as much the journey as it is the destination.

On a train once, I wrote a line that came from watching trees that stood in the vast listless palms of the earth's hand. "Loneliness is a tree" I observed. Because indeed, nothing but nothing I've witnessed comes close to the self-contained honesty that a tree is. Shorn of its leaves, the branches are all kinds of meandering. They reach out only be frozen midway; they stand contained and uncrying. They do not compromise; they wait. Even when full and lush, a tree is loneliness. Leaves have time for each other; shared green secrets, silky applause in the breeze, a flirtation with sunlight, a zamindar to birds. And yet the tree itself is loneliness. Unmoving, contained and exquisite in the entire honesty that it will never be actively engaged in the company of others. But that's to me, the one watching the tree. If a tree could talk, it would then tell us of the infinite terrible-ness of its loneliness. And that, for me, is the probably the most hellish thing about being lonely. That there are no words. 

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21 Comments:

Blogger jnana said...

Oh my :( How can you describe the un-describable and in such eloquent style too?

11:45 am  
Blogger SwB said...

It is indeed. A tree. Loved this post.

1:38 pm  
Blogger Revacious said...

I read the last para twice. :)

4:54 pm  
Blogger vikram said...

Your description of lonliness akin to a tree is fantastic! But r u really describing the tree or your lonliness! Please even I am lonely quite a number of times but could never express! So am still confused r u living in denial or searching for true pastures! Guess will never figure out! Keep writing!

10:41 pm  
OpenID mysideoftheriver said...

If I could gather my loneliness well, I would have liked to write these very words. Except for the tree line. That is something a class apart, in expression. Every time I avoid calling someone, wait for that click of door handle from across before I step into the corridor, just that act of averting the eye when I spot a familiar face, and every time I revisit a post with something in mind for a comment and decide against putting it down - I am amazed by how much the habit of loneliness grows on oneself. You have put down the thoughts beautifully.

- Soumya

12:50 am  
Blogger Karthik.H said...

This inherent craving for love is something I've never been able to understand, but that may be because I try to rationalise things before I move on to understanding them.
The lonely tree might also tell you a tale of how undisturbed it led its life, free of intrusions from other mildly curious parties and the ability to master challenges on its own.

9:18 am  
Blogger Sythe said...

Incredible piece of writing. Loneliness is indeed a tree.

9:29 am  
Anonymous Rickkkyy said...

what rubbish.
your MOM is a tree.

4:31 pm  
Blogger The Restless Quill said...

jnana, revacious, SWB Thank you so much for your kind words.

Vikram I am just giving expression in the only way I know how to. By writing. Like you said we may never know :) thank you for taking the time out to comment.

mysideoftheriver From what you say, it seems to me you know exactly what I am talking about. Thank you for your kind words.

Karthik IMO, loneliness has nothing to do with craving for love. I am blessed with much much much love and protection in my life. From people related by blood and not, from men and women. Lots of it. Loneliness is something else altogether.

Sythe: Thank you so much, MrSythe.

Rickkkyy: Heheheh, I'll be sure to tell her that.

4:43 pm  
Anonymous histhin said...

loneliness is an wall...built to protect against people who might have hurt you but one that is very difficult to take down later... a cul you think you desperately want to leave but never stir out of the little nest you have made behind the wall...Brilliant article :)

7:36 pm  
Anonymous R said...

I've said this before - if I could write as beautifully as you do, THIS is the post I would write. Especially given my current frame of mind.
You're bang on about the neediness(?) (What? Me? Admit to be being needy? No bloody way!). I am that girl with the cheery 'I am fine, thanks' and I am the girl that chickens out of plans because I've grown to like this loneliness. It doesn't make me a sad person (dear God no!)but I am definitely not the girl I used to be. I am writing down the entire 5th paragraph as a reminder to myself! Lovely writing, S.

9:45 am  
Blogger Vasudev Murthy said...

Very nicely written, Sandhya!!!

5:50 pm  
Anonymous V said...

This is really evocative and fantastic writing of the highest quality.

I have always perceived loneliness along similar lines - it is uniquely exquisite and permeates through the being rather than just being unfairly shoehorned into "a state of mind".

I love how you describe the tree (Trees are a relatively recent particular interest of mine too) and draw the parallel.

A little fodder for reflection (possibly playing Devil's Advocate): To me, a tree means something quite different from loneliness.
A tree is the highest symbol of connection - a connection with the living, breathing world in ways that are profoundly mysterious to us. The tree does not so much provide a silken applause to the wind as veritably dances with it. It does not eternally dance with the wind, or flirt with the sunshine because, at some level, it perceives the import of temperance - temperance in a relationship that will help nurture the connection and not burn it out. And for this reason, I think a tree is about as far from loneliness as can get - it is profoundly connected (both internally and externally) to the world about it.
If a tree could talk, I'd imagine it would be a lot wiser than Man, and prospective wisdom is seldom gained in loneliness.

I loved this post - the writing is beautiful and the profundity of the observation merits multiple readings, each often leading to different avenues of reflection - and that is a telltale sign of phenomenal writing. :)

7:13 am  
Blogger Kamala said...

Beautiful writing.Everyone is Alone,hand in hand with the Self and at peace. We are all like Trees only.

6:38 pm  
Blogger Vidya said...

Beautifully written. Man's journey is towards self-actualization. Loneliness, or rather, solitude, becoming a very natural and integral part of life, is one of the attributes of self-actualization. It is amazing what visions solitude treats us to. I loved the bit where you say it becomes so addictive that you are worried your withdrawal from it will show in the presence of someone else. The bit about the tree was the icing in the cake.

8:27 pm  
Blogger SuKupedia ™ :) :) said...

that last para just made a perfect end..not really the end because I had a feeling that u could write and write about it..but u just decided to stop there... liked the flow of thoughts & that too on such a subject to write ur mind straight is app laudable :) :)

10:33 pm  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Beautiful piece of writing

7:55 am  
Blogger Sharvani Pinge said...

I've never known how to describe Loneliness. I've experienced it, feared it, loathed it and then revered it.
I don't know if I can really relate to the 'tree' comparison of it all. For me a tree has always meant so much more, of abundance and purity. And yet, I remember that once, a very long time ago, when I wanted to describe the loneliness I felt, I had indeed drawn a tree... alone in a barren land, leaf-less and fragile!

I really felt touched by your words. I really don't know what made you write so honestly about loneliness, but I can tell you that it makes you a whole new person, giving you insights in your soul you might have never seen before!

Esp loved the first para. :)

9:48 pm  
Blogger DE-C-IDE Solutions said...

madam, u disappeared from twitter :(

6:50 am  
Blogger Laxmi Hariharan said...

Or loneliness could be a life giving #treeoflaxmi

12:41 pm  
Blogger The Empath said...

goddamn, quill. its been years since i've read your writing. but goddamn. impeccable,hauntingly moderate and real.

5:11 pm  

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