If you ever came to my restaurant and used the washroom, you might remember this piece of artwork that used to hang on the wall in there. I bought it on my first extended trip (three whole days) away from the restaurant. When I saw it hanging on a wall in a cafe I walked to each morning for a well-pulled macchiato I thought to myself, "yeah, that is exactly how doubt works."The cat is also a dead-ringer for my cat, so I bought it on the spot. I've never had any doubts about this purchase.
I've not been quite as lucky keeping doubt at bay in other areas of my life. Unlike instinct, doubt is a thinking person's game and, in my experience, it's insidious by nature. Doubt is innocuous and gentle enough at first, but I find that if keep it a secret, its power grows exponentially. In this way, doubt is the first step on the path towards feelings of loneliness and isolation. It's like a loose thread that, when pulled long and hard enough, unravels your sense that the way that you are is ok.
Doubt is more readily available to me than belief when I'm thinking about myself. At the risk of sounding like a delicate flower, I confess that moving, meeting new people, getting dressed, learning, and writing are a few of the everyday things that can trigger a doubt domino situation for me. Writing, yes the thing I love to do so much, the thing I'm doing right now is a doubt minefield.
Similar to any struggle, when you're deep in doubt the thing you need most is the very thing you cannot imagine asking for: help. The help can come in the form of a thank you note, a hand squeeze, an acceptance letter, a phone call, or any other act that reminds you that another person sees you and connects with your experience. It's the connection that starves doubt before it can blossom into loneliness. A handful of you did that very thing for me this past week.
Well, in reality, you did it over the past two months I just only discovered it a couple of days ago. Let me explain. I've been having a hard time writing for the past couple months. This is something that has happened before and the most straightforward way I can describe it is this: it feels like the faucet is shut off. It's not that I don't have the time or even that I'm distracted, it is a distinct lack of creative flow. No matter how many times I go through this, it sends me over the edge. Any writing I'm able to do feels forced, and I can't help but hear the things I'm putting down on paper as me whining about life.
Add to this that I started taking a summer school class at a community college nearby. The class is great but my first week was a mixed bag where I was both excited to be learning and reminded that sometimes being around a group of people you don't know makes you feel more alone than physically being alone.
When I feel like this, it's easy to tug on that loose thread of doubt and pull and pull and pull until I'm clear that what I'm doing is a waste of time and that something is definitely wrong with me. Sometimes this whole process is so automatic that I don't realize it's happening I only know that I feel like I'm struggling. This is where I was last week when I was dinking around in my Gmail and remembered I had created an account for my website (sashadavies.com) and realized I couldn't remember when I'd checked it last. This is where you come in.
In that inbox I found a smattering of emails from you in response to my first two newsletters (eighteen of you to be exact) telling me "Thanks for including me" or "Gosh, I've missed your writing" or "We wish we could go to Cyril's tonight." It made my eyes sweat. I had no idea how much I needed to hear someone say "I see you out there, KEEP GOING!" Swear to god I'm not telling you this to guilt you into responding to these newsletters. I'm telling you this because I want you to be aware of how little it takes to help someone.
There is a vast spectrum of loneliness, some of it more urgent and dangerous, but all of it is tough when you're in the midst of it. I'd venture a guess that half the people you encounter each day are experiencing some level of doubt or loneliness. That assertion is 100% anecdotal of course, based on the fact that anytime I've confessed to someone that I'm a little bit doubtful or lonely, no one has ever looked like they don't understand what I'm talking about. They may look incredibly uncomfortable, but that's a conversation for another day.
I don't know that I will be any quicker to notice doubt the next time it creeps in like a teenager at 2 a.m., but I do believe that this experience has made me a touch more willing to ask for help. Thank you for reminding me that you're there for me and in it with me. I look forward to returning the favor.