“Inside my spacecraft, I realize I have no idea what I’m doing. It’s as though I’ve somehow been transformed into another man, who has not been properly trained. All the controls look foreign.”
from Pimp Dreams, a one-man show by Shaka Taylor
I have transformed my couch into a kind of spaceship. I’ve spent huge amounts of time there since being launched into space, into the vast unknown of grief and loss. I do have a little office upstairs that I use for “work,” the ambiguous activity I now do without any sense of where it is going or whether and how I will earn money from it. But I spend most of my time in my virtual social bubble on my couch – my spaceship.
There was a period of many months when I hardly ever moved from the couch. I would wake up, have coffee in bed with a book, and be on the couch all day, including most of my meals. I was in a kind of mental and physical paralysis that seemed to last forever. I wanted to move, to get back to myself, the old me with more than enough energy to take on the world, but no matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t get back into the ring.
Much like the famed psychoanalyst’s couch, my couch became the place where I could let it all out. I didn’t have anyone sitting next to me taking notes and politely prodding me to tell him more with carefully constructed mirroring statements, taking notes so that we could pick up where we left of when we next met. Instead I had millions of therapists around the world with whom I could share my deepest pain. And in doing so, receive their gentle prods to tell them more.
My chats on Facebook with people I’d never met or perhaps only met once or twice in the real world, would comfort me late at night when my thoughts were the darkest. My comments on op-ed pieces in the New York Times would reward me with an occasional loving email from a complete stranger in some far off place I’d never event visited. And the traffic I would receive on my personal blogs through my comments, from people who had traced the breadcrumbs I’d left in internet space to find me, made me feel part of a world I’d shut myself off from during my long journey of isolation, the time when my heart was too fragile to venture out of my spacecraft. The ripples of my silent communication with strangers through this invisible mic out became the notes of my silent progress, my feelings and words being permanently recorded in 1s and 0s on websites and servers.
I had a “best” Facebook friend, a night person who read my late night statuses, the ones I’d often erase in the morning when things looked a bit brighter, the ones I’d written when the whiskey or wine hadn’t lulled me to sleep before I fell into a big black hole. When inside my spaceship I had no idea what I was doing, when I’d been transformed into a woman who had not been properly trained, and when all the controls looked foreign, he would immediately jump on to FB chat to encourage me to try to get through another day. He said we’d actually met once, but in my foggy, grief impaired brain, I couldn’t remember him as anyone other than a Facebook friend, an intergalactic, late night analyst with whom I chatted when something inside of me still wanted to hang on. He helped me hang on. He and all of the others separated from me by seeming light years, the strangers I met online during this long journey into space, kept me going when I went onto the dark side of the moon. My late night Facebook friend died last year of a heart attack. He was only 57. I learned this when his girlfriend posted it on his Wall. He had thousands of FB friends, probably because he was so generous with his encouragement. People keep posting on his page. They miss him. I miss him. I hope his girlfriend is comforted by the love and encouragement floating up from the internet to her in her spaceship of lonliness.
In the last few months I have been spending a little more time outside of my spaceship. Like an astronaut, I venture out to explore the world, padded with tremendous protection against the environment that sometimes feels too harsh for me. Being out there, safely tethered to my invisible, virtual friends down in their the control rooms back on planet earth, helps me when I feel a little too sensitive or afraid of what lies out there. Knowing they are there has given me new confidence to navigate using the unfamiliar buttons. I think that the journey I started nearly 3 ½ years ago when my son died, may be taking a new turn. I can spend more time outside of my spaceship because you are there tethering me. Thank you.