You go out for drinks to unwind but the bar is loud, it’s sweaty inside, you’re worried your coworker likes you and is trying to get you drunk or maybe you’re the one who likes your coworker and is trying to get him drunk. Your roommate is worried about rent. Your wife is worried about her job. You’re worried about what you’re doing with your life. Worried, worried, worried. I’ll go to a party and sit on the couch or a bench or a stool, pretending to have a conversation (or actually having a conversation, that happens too), forcing some sort of connection because this is Los Angeles and you’re supposed to go go go. Always have fun. Always be smiling. Always be doing. But all I am is anxious. When I step through the doors of my job I put on a face and I’ll do some jumping jacks or a stretch, anything to switch over into my new persona. And so when you speak to me you’re not speaking to me, but to some representation of me, a mask that helps me get through the day without any lingering scars on my face.
We all do it I think. My friend said during a camping trip we took this week up into the Sierras, “At work everyone is at their most annoying.” The contrast was evident. She said this midway through a pretty strong 12 mile hike three of us were taking up to a place called Eagle Lake in the Sequoias. As we approached 9’000 feet our steps slowed down and our breaths became deeper. We laughed a bit more–we had been laughing a lot already–and there was more silence between us than there had been before.
That’s really the difference. How good does it feel to sit there in silence with someone? And not just sit there in silence, but BE silent, without concerning yourself with anything to say. It doesn’t happen very often and at least for me, it doesn’t happen very often with people who aren’t my best friends.
The easiest place to do this is on a camping trip or a hike. Someplace big or grand will help. A hike that knocks you on your ass even better. It’s tough to concern yourself with bullshit when your body is wiped out and your brain is overwhelmed. Combine them together and you have the recipe for a fairly amazing connection with your friends.
We came back from our 12 mile hike tuckered out. My ankle had swollen up and all three of us were more than burnt out on cliff bars. But there was work to be done. We had a fire to build and food to cook. Huddled around the fire we cooked our food and poured our wine and whiskey and added log after log and only stopped until we noticed that the stars had gone and the sun was soon on its way. I hadn’t done that in a long time. And this, with people I don’t know so well. It’s good to be alone but it’s also easy and dangerous to be alone. As bad a habit as heroin if you don’t break it. Not as easy but maybe more profound: share the solitude and the silence with people you love. Or even better? Share it with people you might someday love but don’t know yet. It’s as good a way as any to find out. And watch the sunrise together.
© 2013 Christopher Dart