In 2001, a month before the big day whose anniversary is fast approaching, I had the great privilege of attending the Stanford Professional Publishing Course.
I had just become a book publisher who had absolutely zip-zero-zilch experience in book publishing. My background had always been in periodicals -- newspapers, newsletters, magazines, and professional journals. But the organization for which I worked bestowed its trust in me and sent me off to this beautiful campus for 10 riveting days of learning to help me get up to speed via total immersion.
I rented a bicycle so that I had wheels to gallivant around Palo Alto (where I'd spent 6 years of my childhood) during my "down" time, brought a wonderful novel to read, and spread out in a luxurious dorm room (honestly) with two beds all to myself.
It was about as close to heaven as I could imagine.
And for 3 days I was deliriously happy. From the time I was 9, I had set my sights on attending Stanford University (though that was not where I ended up), and so I prowled the book store to find the perfect "Stanford Alumni" sweatshirt. I loved having only one focus: learning. And I was living my dream.
But on the 4th day, something snapped. I began to feel miserable. Horrible, teary, insecure, dreadful. Watching the contingent of animated attendees from Mexico, I realized the source of my despair: utter loneliness, much of which flowed from touch deprivation.
I had no idea till then how much I depended on the close contact I had taken for granted in my sweet family of huggers back in Minneapolis. But there it was. I tried petting dogs on campus, and it helped a bit. But not enough. I called Mr. B and cried so hard, he booked a ticket to fly out to San Fran so he could fly home with me when the course ended.
I found a way to temper the loneliness by hanging out with the Mexicans, who were so warm and friendly and whose conversations always seemed to be punctuated with touch and concluded with a hug. They were, to borrow an Italian term, my pyzahns after all.
And as I reflected on the remarkable comments left in yesterday's post, I stumbled upon my own answer to the question I posed. So here it is: I often start out in the glory of solitude, but if I stay alone too long, it morphs to the pain of loneliness. I need both solitude and company.
I'd like to think I can reach a point in my life when the glory of solitude trumps the pain of loneliness for good.
But don't hold your breath.
Thank you to all who courageously posted your answers. You inspire me.
Image by oldtasty
"The Sense of Touch" - 59th Photo of the Year International First Place Winner by Damon Winter of the Dallas Morning News
(Hey, Derrick, I can post pictures of pretty churches, too! Hey, Pyzahn, like how I learned to use the word!)