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Loneliness vs. Solitude: Waiting for My Next Toehold

July 31, 2010

When I left the house this morning, in search of an obscure shop with cheap stimulants and free wifi, I packed my bag with the usual suspects- a book I knew I wouldn’t read (just in case, you know), my notebook with my to-dos in it, my journal, a few pens, my morning pages notebook, The Artist’s Way, and, of course, my Blackberry, iPod, and laptop.  Here’s how the day would have gone:  I’d order a drink, pull out my laptop and get on Facebook, “just for a minute, I promise.”  That would lead to Tumblr and a whole host of other ways to waste my time.  Then I’d look for a job for a while, maybe apartments, until I’d realize I hadn’t eaten for 7 hours, I’m clenching my teeth from the caffeine, and hadn’t written a word or crossed a thing off my to do list.

So, after I ordered a drink and picked a table, I was met with frustration- followed by a begrudged relief- when I realized I’d forgotten my power cord to my laptop: No Facebook, no Tumblr, no excuses not to put this actual pen to actual paper.

At the time of scrawling this, I’m at a coffee house call Fresh Pot on NE Mississippi.  It’s pretty generic here- wooden floors that shake the whole place when someone walks to the bathroom in the back, that sweet and heavy smell of really good coffee (I’m sorry, but Starbucks just doesn’t have this smell, and probably never will), and unemployed hipsters in silly outfits lounging about.  But I suppose I shouldn’t talk because I’m lounging about here in jeggings and am epically unemployed.

I’ve been looking for jobs non-stop; it’s become borderline obsessive, actually.  I always have Craigslist open with my mouse perched on the “refresh” button- anxiously waiting for that allusive job description to roll in.  The one with moderate responsibilities, kick ass benefits, a hefty salary and a hip atmosphere.  Where there aren’t any offices and everyone leans back in their chairs, throwing stress balls up in the air, brainstorming their next creative venture while I bounce about in my pencil skirts, delivering coffee and chatting up the cute intern with the glasses about that super hip indie rock show he wants to take me to on Thursday night.  I really don’t feel like that’s too much to ask.

So, anyway, no luck on the job front.  I have, however, been contacted back by two scam artists, one of which seems to be a wealthy Canadian businessman with very broken English (probably French Canadian then) who desperately needs me to make a deposit for the local orphanage (how nice Portland still calls them orphanages!).  He assures me, when he returns from Canada, he will pay me back.  It’s nice to know people are getting more creative.  That Nigerian prince thing was getting tired.

Aside form scam artists, I heard back from a temp agency basically saying they think I’m special, just not the kind of special they’re looking for.  Go me!

In other news, I’ve been adventuring around Portland a bit, but mostly I’ve been sleeping until 11, causing Uncle Tony to think I’ve asphyxiated or something, which then leads him to frantically knock on my door in a panic every morning.  I made a bold proclamation to Aunt Kathy yesterday- I would NOT be sleeping in late anymore and I would be productive from now on, to which she responded “why?” and I said “I don’t know,” and took a nap.

My birthday was on Monday and was one of my best birthdays since I was 10, when we were on a houseboat with some old friends and everyone put on a show in my honor.  No one sang me Beach Boy songs this year, but it was still amazing.  I drove myself to the coast, starting with Astoria.  The weather was perfect- mild and warm enough to sit out all day with short sleeves and no coat, or without getting heat stroke.  Astoria was run down and falling apart, but in a cool, tragically beautiful sort of way.  I snapped some photos, walked around a bit and had had my fill.  Then I drove about 15 minutes south to Gearhardt- where I found everything I could ever want in a place; everything I needed, actually.

The town is small, mostly vacation homes, a golf course, and a few stores.  I had no idea where I was driving and by chance I took a street that dead ended at a sandy trail, lined by thigh high grass speckled with dandelions and little white flowers.  I could hear the ocean ahead of me but couldn’t see it until I reached the top of a mildly steep hill.  The view takes you by surprise and certainly steals your breath.  To my left, in the distance, was a collection of giant cliffs, covered by fog, looking like someone had smudged their charcoal tops into the sky with their thumb.  To my right was a small bench nestled into that tall grass and I nearly disappeared when I sat down on it.  In front of me was the ocean- grey and limitless.  All I could do was smile; and smile I did.

I sat there for a while- hours and hours actually.  Finally I had to peel my clenched fingers from that bench seat and see what some of the other beaches had to say (but not before an embarrassing and hilarious episode that involved some “spontaneous, creative destruction” and having to chase after a journal I threw into the ocean- tights, closed toed shoes, and all).

I ended up at Seaside next and then Cannon Beach, neither of which held a candle to Gearhardt, but had some charm to offer.  Great vintage and thrift shops and an awesome pizza place right by the water at Cannon Beach.  I have no idea what it’s called or what street it’s on.  So, sorry if you were interested.  Around 6, I drove the hour and a half home, eating my pizza and thinking back on the beauty of the day, and plenty more smiling ensued.

I’ll be honest, the day before my birthday wasn’t one of my best.  A lot of things were making me miss home and making me feel like I was missing out on a lot: places, things, people, all of it.  I basically felt like my (slightly irrational) fear of completely losing everything I had built in Colorado, of being left behind, was coming true.  And the thought of spending my birthday alone wasn’t helping.

Being alone on my birthday, though, was the best possible thing for me.  While I sat on that bench and watched the water chase the shoreline and felt the breeze on my cheeks, I searched for any ounce of that sadness I had been overwhelmed with the day before.  There was nothing of it left- just the feeling that I was alone, but certainly not lonely.  I was in a deep state of solitude.  Sasha Cagan, a great writer and a personal hero of mine, writes about moments of solitude as glowful- “because it helps me picture a candle in a window, something almost divine about drawing resources from yourself.”

I still feel that way- immersed in blissful solitude.  And I’m still so happy I came here to Portland, drawing resources from myself in those glowful moments to create something new and adventure-full.  Though, I’ll admit, a lot of my time is spent being uncomfortable and a little scared.  Scared of what’s coming (or not coming) next and uncomfortable in those moments when the solitude gives way to the loneliness.  But I’m thankful for those feelings.  I think they mean I’m doing something right.  A very good friend told me this recently, and it’s exactly what I’m talking about:

My mom read me this great essay once, written by a woman going through a divorce and sending her kids off to college and changing her career all at the same time.  She’d taken up indoor (and outdoor) climbing and she realized that much of what she was doing on the climbing wall was a metaphor for what was happening in her life.  She would find herself at a point on the wall where the next toehold was a bit of a leap away–she would have to let go of her current toehold all together (and risk that split second of free-fall) to make it to the next step.  But unless she could take that small risk and leap, she would never be able to move forward–she’d just stagnate and sit around all day in the harness until someone forced her to come down.  Not a good option.  So acknowledge to yourself that you are somewhere in that split second of free-fall.  But the next toehold is going to materialize.

So, for now, that’s where I’m at- in a bit of a free-fall, waiting with baited breath for my next toehold, all the while faithfully believing it will come.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. Aunt Cindy permalink
    July 31, 2010 6:24 pm

    You are precious! I love reading your stories. You are a very talented writer and I look forward hearing about all your adventures. Something wonderful is coming your way and you have a very special purpose in this world. Keep searching and writing. Love you!!!!

  2. July 31, 2010 8:19 pm

    You are strong and courageous; brave, beatiful and a light in our lives. We miss you. Feel our love and support across the miles.

  3. Susie permalink
    August 2, 2010 3:34 pm

    Sarah, What a talented writer you are, I love your blog. Keep doing this, and also start writing, however you become a writer,,,do it! You are so good. I will keep checking in with you on your blog. I love it! Sounds like you are doing well.
    love you girl

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