The following and all of the other episodes to come are snapshots of what goes on in my head, now and in the past. There are times none of this will make sense. There will be times when I might get lucky and the blog I post will be well constructed and will flow like a mountain stream to an awaiting lake below. Other times it will seem like the ramblings of a madman and you’ll ask yourself, “What the……?”
You should probably get used to the latter.
EPISODE ONE HUNDRED FIFTY SIX: “Not since Adam has any human known such solitude…”
“Not since Adam has any human known such solitude as Mike Collins is experiencing during this 47 minutes of each lunar revolution when he’s behind the Moon with no one to talk to except his tape recorder aboard Columbia…” – Mission Control
This was said as Michael Collins went around the dark side of the Moon, away from radio reach of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and from the signal from Earth and Mission Control. The most alone anyone in the history of the world has ever been, about 60 nautical miles from Neil and Buzz of the surface of the Moon and more than a quarter of a million miles from our planet.
I believed I have been completely alone a few times in my life. Though the world moved outside my home and outside my mind, I felt alone. Even when people were just feet away, just inches away, I felt completely alone.
At home, at work, in my car, I have felt like Michael Collins swinging around the dark side of the Moon with no way to reach anyone if something went wrong.
Recently, I bought the box set of From the Earth to the Moon (a mini-series that appeared on HBO in 1998) and rewatched every episode. When they talked about Michael Collins orbiting the Moon all by his lonesome, it struck a chord. Why it didn’t on my first viewing when it originally aired, I know not. But it did this time.
For almost a day, he was in the ship, Columbia (Neil and Buzz were on the decent ship called the Eagle, as in ‘The Eagle has landed‘), and did housekeeping protocols, looked out the window, and slept. Other than the maintenance and a short scare with the temperature, there wasn’t much left to do but sleep. Though he worried for the safety of his compadres on the Moon, not wanting to have to leave them, dead or alive, he was alone with his thoughts. He was to have said he wasn’t scared and didn’t feel alone.
I think he was telling the truth.
As for me, that would have been all I could think of when I wasn’t performing some task to keep my mind off of such things. As for trying to sleep, yeah, I doubt that would happen. Maybe the idea of being the first person in the history of the world to be alone so far from home would be kind of cool and do my own version of Tom Cruise in Risky Business (sliding barefooted in the Columbia would have been impossible with no space and no gravity but you get the idea), as time ticked away, the mental gremlins would start chewing away at my nerves and bad thoughts would enter my head.
I’m so alone.
What if I die here, so far away from the people I love?
But I have thought those same thoughts sitting here, on Earth. I didn’t have to be physically so far from home.
But that’s the thing, isn’t it?
One is a physical thing. The other is mental.
Feeling alone can come out of nowhere, whether life is going horribly wrong or completely right. It can come sneaking out of the darkness and take a hold of your happy thoughts and latch on for all it’s worth. I can understand the bad times (divorce, friends that fight and disappear, family members that die, pets that pass away, hopes and dreams unfulfilled, etc.) but why when things are going well? The feeling of being alone, even when participating in a historic moment, when you should feel triumph, or when you are surrounded by good people and things are going right, makes you feel more like you’re on the dark side of the Moon.
A brain misfire?
You just like to beat yourself up?
Honestly, I’d say both (if not more) is possible. Maybe probably.
For me, that feeling will be something I will have to deal with from time to time for the rest of my life. I’m pretty sure that’s a fact. There will be moments, surrounded by people, strangers and loved ones alike, where I will be in my own spaceship, hurtling through the vacuum of thoughts, on a wing and a prayer, feeling all alone. Even when I’m snuggled in bed with my wife, my most trusted friend and soul mate, that feeling might (and it has) come creeping out of the darkness and lodge in my mind, keeping me awake feeling dreadful and all by myself.
Even on Earth, that gulf of emptiness can exist.
Is there a cure?
Maybe. Prescription drugs are one way. Maybe constant meditation. Maybe prayer. Maybe positive reinforcement from friends and loved ones.
Maybe, maybe, maybe.
But I don’t think there is no real cure.
Other than patience. And the knowledge that is will pass, thought the seconds and minutes may tick off like months and years.
I have to reassure myself that it will pass.
YOU have to reassure yourself that it will pass.
To get back to Michael Collins, who of this writing is still alive and living life at 88, I wonder if he never felt alone so far from home, has ever felt alone here on Earth? Being a human being, I think he has.
Well, this is for you, Mr. Collins. I hope when you set foot back on the ground after your trip, you felt more at home and less lonely than you did before.
I hope when I’m feeling isolated from others, I think of you.
-Loyd Elmore Jr.
August 23rd, 2019
I’ve decided to keep a blog about how I’m dealing with depression. I’m going to consider this a form of therapy. It might not help anybody else but it might help me.