In the following, “C” is me. “X” is an unnamed friend and confidant. I badly want to edit this for readability—at times it feels like I’m riffing on “ways” and trying to see how many times I can use the word. But I’m letting it stand as is, as it captures a moment of thought in conversation.

C: Some days my loneliness percolates to a point where it feels like a tangible presence, or rather “anti-presence” would be truer. It’s more, rather than less, a thing because I can see it and know that there’s not an answer to it. It’s not a thing that my wife or my kids, or you, or my few other friends and numerous acquaintances can touch. I’m not even reaching out right now for you to say or do anything about it. Just saying it to externalize it so that it isn’t just in my head or me talking to myself in a journal. It’s just there. And I’m just here. Stating it helps detach from it a little.

X: I hear ya

C: Weird experience last night. We met a friend at a local brewery for a dueling piano-bar night or something like that. The place was a huge concrete block building with very little to dampen acoustics. So put a couple hundred people in there and two keyboards and vocalists that were amplified to the point of near-distortion, and I started having something like auditory hallucinations. It sounded sometimes like distant screaming, and other times like sci-fi sound effects. The first time it started up I walked outside and it went away and I knew it was just the acoustics and my ears not being able to handle the noise and my brain not being able to process it and put the right “shape” to it. But it continued the entire time we were there.

X: Creepy

C: Totally. Even realizing what it was it didn’t completely neutralize the effect of it. I had to keep going outside to clear my head before walking back in.

The loneliness, I’m almost positive that my re-engaging with poetry has stirred some shit up. I’m not sure yet what it’s all about, but I think in part it has to do with the ways in which it activates some ways of thinking, or perhaps rather some forms of “thought/emotion experiences” that I simply can’t share with anyone. Not for lack of wanting to, but rather that either I lack the means to communicate it, or it falls along lines where I know the people around me, even those closest, just aren’t particularly receptive. It’d be, for example, like expecting you or J— to be emotionally responsive to some of the music I love best, but which makes her experience physical pain and which I imagine you’re not particularly receptive to.

It’s like watching a movie that feels life changing, but only to you, something that can’t be shared because it’s just not anyone else’s thing.

X: That makes sense that loneliness would be a response.

C: It does. And I think previously I was so engaged in trying to find solutions to that loneliness by hunting for people to connect with around those ways of experiencing. Now I’m a little more detached from my feelings. Not detached… just… there’s more of my consciousness—I am just as emotionally engaged in the experience, but there’s also another part of me that is able to watch it from outside. It’s not a limitation of the engagement, but rather feels more like additional ways of being conscious, if that makes sense.

I’m thinking I may need to face this shit down and instead of finding a way to meet the perceived need of it, channel it into a creative effort. Use the tension of it.

X: Good idea

C: Which is a little scary, frankly. I’ve been hiding in various ways from strong tension feelings for quite a few years now.

X: Freedom

C: What’s freedom? Living within tension without being a slave to it?

X: Yes, the direction you are moving.

C: Simultaneously carries the feeling of death and birth. Not to get melodramatic. But it roots around that deeply. There’s a real pit of fear lurking there.

X: I have no doubt

C: We spend our entire lives trying to use the emotional and physical senses as guides to what needs fixing, changing, healing. And it’s been a life of teetering between various contrary motions and trying first to identify the better one to embrace it, and then to try to balance them and hold them both, but perhaps there’s a later stage of development which isn’t a balancing of contrary-tending tensions but which is something like a full engagement of both. But that seems almost like something you hear from people who have dropped acid or taken shrooms.

X: Well, psychotropic trips can be telling…

Here the conversation trails off onto colorful dancing bears and hookah-smoking caterpillars.