I had an epiphany last night. Loneliness is basically saying, “I miss you, but I haven’t met you yet.” When viewed from that perspective, it seems like a monumental waste of time. When I think about all the hours, days, months I’ve spent feeling longing and angst because of the absence of total strangers, it kind of makes me cringe.
The reason I was even able to lift my head out of that bad habit long enough to have this epiphany is that I realized that here lately I’ve been too busy to be lonely. I’ve been hard at work getting my first book published. I’m trying to get rid of the clutter in my life. I’m experiencing some intense stuff at work. I don’t have time to be lonely.
And to be perfectly frank, the mere thought of adding someone to my life right now exhausts me. Having to compromise sounds like a lot of work. Accommodating someone else’s schedule doesn’t hold much appeal. Making an effort seems like too much effort.
That caused epiphany number two: Loneliness isn’t a condition, it’s a choice. If it were a condition, like, I don’t know, a staph infection, then no amount of distraction would cause it to go away. But when I get busy, it does go away. And the beautiful thing about being busy is that it tends to put new people into your path, which is another balm for loneliness.
So, there you have it—my cure for loneliness. Now the trick will be to actually keep it in the forefront of my mind.
While on vacation I read a book (Packing for Mars by Mary Roach—I highly recommend it) that mentioned a very interesting syndrome called Kayak Angst. I’d never heard of it before (and can’t imagine why I would have, being the land-based mammal that I tend to be), so I decided to read up on it.
It turns out it’s a type of panic disorder that’s been found mostly amongst the Inuit of Greenland.
Imagine this: You’re sitting in a kayak, all alone, in calm seas. There’s no land in sight, and the grey sky is reflected in the glassy water. Suddenly you feel like your kayak is tipping up or dropping down, and you’re convinced you are going to drown. You feel utterly lost, can’t figure out which direction is north or south or east or west. In a nutshell, you completely freak out. Your brain has absolutely no frame of reference. For all you know you could be floating in mid air, and there’s no one, I mean NO ONE for miles around to help you.
I cannot imagine a more hellish type of panic attack than that. Not only are you having a panic attack, but if you’re not careful while feeling like you’re going to die, you really could die. It’s kind of like a perpetual motion machine of anxiety.
Apparently a symptom of this disorder is a tendency to avoid kayaks. Well, duh. Wouldn’t you, after experiencing that? That’s not disorder, that’s freakin’ logic, if you ask me.
The problem in this situation, of course, is that as an Inuit in Greenland, that avoidance means you’ve just cut off one of your main sources of food for your family, so there’s a whole other level of anxiety piled on. For the love of God, where does it end?
I’ve been experiencing a figurative form of kayak angst for about a year now. I have no idea where to go or what to do. I feel as though I have no frame of reference to draw upon, and there’s no end in sight. Maybe I need to splash the water with my oar so I can figure out what’s up and what’s down.
Hopefully I’ll see land soon, ’cause it’s freakin’ cold out here.