Lately, I find myself thinking about these words–aloneness, isolation, independence, interdependence. While my partner is out of town, I have felt lonely at times–ah, another one of these words. Given that I’m recovering from an injury, I feel more vulnerable and more in need of others. In general, I thrive on a balance of aloneness and togetherness, what could be called interdependence. Looking back over my life, I think a lot of what I’ve thought to be independence was downright isolation.
As a survivor of infant surgery without anesthesia, I have often felt separate and different. This issue is a complex one, and I won’t attempt to address all the layers here. I do think, however, that almost dying at three weeks old, being separated from family during the critical period of surgery and recovery, and living with a sizable scar on my midriff branded me an outsider.
Of course, upbringing has so much to do with our outlook–who our parents are and how they treated our differentness. Isolation is a word that speaks to my experience. So often, I have found myself incapable of reaching out. Often, it takes a crisis for me to ask for help or allow myself to depend on others. My early experience with illness was seminal in the development of this difficulty.
Separated from my mother, lying on the operating table paralyzed, unable to cry out for help–the phrase “learned helplessness” comes to mind. One gives up trying. The other night before sleep, I asked myself the question, what am I not hearing? I have tinnitus right now from the fall I took on the ice and wanted to know what I could learn from this condition. I actually heard a tiny child’s voice cry out: “Mommy, mommy.” It came from my depths, authentic and vulnerable. I am here, was the response that I heard–the voice of something much larger than myself.
I am realizing that I have not only been separate from others but from my self. I rejected that baby–that troublemaker who was “like an alien from outer space” (Mom’s words) after the surgery with all her tubes and technology. That baby that lost so much weight that my pediatrician “wouldn’t have bet a plug nickel on” my coming through the surgery alive. With the words I am here, I have ended this isolation and joined the human family. I am holding this baby now. And in turn, we are being held by the universe.