On a cloudy day in late December, I find the whitened blue-gray of winter distances soothing. The tree-covered hills of Middle Tennessee, bowed like the backs of ancient wanderers huddling on the edge of town, work a strange, restful magic on the eyes. And then the early dusk: how the blue-gray deepens; how the ends of bare limbs silhouette into thousands of gnarled and knobby fingers, heaving here-and-there in the brashness of bitter breezes–the kinds of breezes we’re never dressed for, so we hurry from the car to the great indoors, where our bones ache a few minutes more.
All these things conspire to the mystery of winter. I know no dread of a long night, only the embrace of a cavernous, comfortable dark, one that welcomes introverted sojourning, where I cocoon myself in flannel and plaid and lamplight. Winter makes many think of death, but doesn’t it also somehow make you feel more alive? Is it because I was born in January, that I have this drive?
Our Tennessee cold spells never last long; perhaps if I had a Michigan address, winter would be more of an inconvenience. But for now, living as I do in the humid South, I get excited when I hear the temperature is dropping. Will anyone else claim this?
Everybody knows that there are millions of people in the world they will never meet. Awash in our routines and daily interactions, it is easy to forget just how anonymous we really are. Even the reach of many celebrities only extends so far. For every big fish in a small pond, there is an even bigger small-fish in a big pond. Wrap your head around that.
Thankfully, we do not need to dwell on our anonymity. In most cases, all it takes is one person to make us feel special. And if you have more than one, then you are well-off indeed. Yet there are certain situations which make me feel a little more anonymous than usual.
Below is a short list of anonymity-affirming scenarios that I have experienced. Many of them have links that illustrate my point (in case you do not feel anonymous enough already). These are in no particular order:
1. Seeing myself in the background of someone else’s photo. This happens sometimes on social media. We took our son to an Easter egg hunt at Christ Presbyterian Church in Nashville. I’ve met the pastor, but I wouldn’t say that we really know each other. He posted a photo of the hunt on Instagram, and, sure enough, there I was, passing through the left side of the frame.
2. Eating at a busy restaurant in New York City. At Momofuku Noodle Bar in the East Village, they seated us at a long table with a bunch of strangers. While this strategy may encourage interaction for some, it only ramped up the anxiety for this introvert. By the way, if you have a negative view of introversion, you should read “23 Signs You’re Secretly an Introvert”.
4. Seeing a longtime favorite band in concert. Click here to read a prose poem I wrote about this experience.
5. Attending a college graduation ceremony (see photo above). This year, my sister-in-law graduated from college. At the ceremony, my aunt-in-law leaned over and commented about how “all these people” (ourselves included) are just a “blip on the radar” of how many people there are in the world. She was right, and I could not stop thinking that here were hundreds of people that I have never seen before, and they have never seen me before, and it is likely that none of us will ever meet.
In conclusion, I need to say that the intention of this post is not to make anyone feel insignificant or unimportant. Everyone matters. As mentioned before, we operate on an individual-to-individual basis, thankfully. But I find that it is healthy for my ego when I remember that I am part of a very big world. That there are millions of people experiencing life through their own personal lenses. It’s not all about me. So, here’s to anonymity.