My relationship to loneliness is that of an amateur, not a true expert. We are sniffing out what to expect from each other. She arrives on panther feet during the night and waits, languid but alert, tail slightly flicking, for me to open my eyes.
By the time I’ve brushed my teeth, she has skulked into the corner to wait 24 hours before trying to entice me again. I attribute her persistence to the fact that, like the majority of women of a certain age, I live alone. The panther of loneliness wants cuddling and petting and knows we do too. She knows that, even if we prefer dogs, we are in this way all cat women.
Loneliness is also a state of many older women who do not live alone, which is its own kind of hell. Great women of a certain age outnumber great men of a certain age by 10,000 to 1. My friends and I have done the math. Really, this is the true ratio.
It is single men, including the great ones, however, who are most ravaged by loss of intimacy and loneliness, but that is a little off track . . . though not so much. We will talk about mermaids in a bit.
First, let’s take the stigma off of loneliness. Loneliness is a sign of good mental health. It is a healthy natural response to being a social creature without enough meaningful warm social contact. It shows that you are tracking the reality of your socio-emotional life and registering that you are alive in real time and have needs.
By extension, it shows you are not willing to compromise yourself and the quality of your life just to avoid being alone. The last 1/3rd or 1/4th of your life is a time to contemplate, grow, explore, travel, learn new things, experience the wonder of existence, be awestruck, and bring to the world your experience, love, and wisdom. It is not a time to waste on meaningless diversions and social junk food. You are not a sitcom.
But while loneliness registers reality, it invites fantasy to ease the way. Our imaginations create solutions to life’s big and little problems. On to the mermaids.
Sailors created exquisite sea creatures – half-fish, half-human female – out of blubbery manatees and dugongs. With the sun flickering off their tails under the waves and their hair unraveled in golden skeins, mermaids lured them into impossible dreams. Lonely men on the same old same old unending magnificent ocean found solace in watery visions of intimacy that were possible only in their imaginations.
Imagined mermaids with good hearts wanted to mate with the sailors. Imagined mermaids with evil hearts, i.e. sirens, called them to crash into cliffs and to perish. (See photo of a mermaid of the nasty kind luring innocent sailors into danger. She’s also vain, note the mirror.)
Whether the mermaids wanted to make love with the men or were sirens luring them to their deaths had to do with the imagination of the sailor, not with the dugongs. Dugongs and manatees presumably have no need for fantasy. If they thought anything about the sailors, it was to stay away. Harpoons. (See photo of a dugong, kin of manatees.)
But humans have for millennia created beasties to lift us from burdens, boredom, and trials. We create and, in turn, are mesmerized by phantasmagoria – conjoined beasts or conjoined humans and beasts. We “in-body” our fears, desires, and impulses into imagined beings – good and bad – that reveal to us who we are. We used to think they were real. Now we go to Jungian analysts.
Still, in our minds we make love to mermaids, ride bareback on unicorns and winged horses, rise out of the ashes of devastation as brightly-colored birds. We also cringe and quake before werewolves, vampires, cyclops, and ogres. We ride some dragons and slay others. We invented these creatures in order to cope, to rise again, and to take our fears from amorphous into form – dragons and vampires can be slain.
Several months ago I commissioned a small painting of myself for a tabletop. (See photo.)
As a Sagittarius, I am a centaur, half-human, half-horse – and a hunter, wild and humane. The painting makes me feel capable and strong. It is good to own your animals.
I wish to own my panther. I realized that in the writing of this blog, which kept shifting and morphing over several days.
My dog Phoenix, named for the bird, and I as centaur would walk with the panther through the city, the country, relationships, and time. I would get her a collar with diamonds.
See how slinky and elegant she is? She would purr if panthers could. Instead she growls in a way that sounds like a purr. I ran out of excuses not to play.
PS: See photo of the centaur Sagittarius against a cosmos of star creatures, on a tabletop.