i know it’s coming when seemingly out of nowhere an aching Empty filled with Bleak and a dash of Doom starts to seep into my awareness. always at the onset of sunset. usually i’m alone. i’ve come to recognize that sunsets are the trigger. and there is no escape. the inevitable downward spiral into a frozen powerlessness. sounds and memories of all that is good start to fade as i retreat further and further inward, until i’ve energetically shrunken into such a small scared pea-sized speck of life that my voice could barely muster an intelligible squeak “help.” once i’m down here i’ve lost all hope so why even bother asking or trying anything. There Is No One – You Are Totally Alone – Life Is Dreary So Just Get Used To It – this is the cold hard glaringly real seeming Fact that usurps any bit of positivity i could ever try to hold up in opposition to it. this is also a feeling that could come even in the presence of others. it can amplify around certain people i would especially want to suppress showing this aspect of myself to, usually the happy optimistic ones. then the task is trying to lug this gigantically heavy empty feeling to a place where i could let it suffer within the safe confines of opaque walls without the risk of being seen and judged. in the past i’ve associated this state of my self with everything i didnt want to be: weak, meek, small, inconsolable, sad, helpless.
before i found a way to describe or even put a name to this feeling, it was just a totally incongruent freakish inconvenient inexplicable mood i abhorred. then at some point i started calling it my “orphan syndrome” from what i imagined what an orphan could feel: alone, no real home, someone who doesn’t belong to anyone or anywhere. i remember calling my boyfriend back then right as i was in the thick of sick on orphan syndrome, so desperate for rescue that i dared to peep out from my hole. “hello? WHAT. are you saying? i can’t understand what you’re saying at all,” and a very short time later he hung up. that’s the thing with Orphan Syndrome, is that speech will get slurred stammery and shaky, and very barely audible. i retreated back into my hole, feeling very ashamed that my speech could get so slurred stammery and shaky as to be an inaudible unintelliglble nuisance on the phone, regretting that i tried to make contact from this place – salt to injury.
there must be a cure. i sought out a past life regression therapy session to find out if the answer could be found in a past life. i traveled back to a life in the mid 1800’s. maybe this explains all the Little House on the Prairie books i loved reading as a kid… or maybe this was the basis for the fiction of who i think i was. nonetheless what i experienced under this time travel hypnosis is that i was a girl with chubby toes and a bonnet living in an orphanage, in some sort of western american pioneer town. i could hear the wooden floorboards of the stairs creak as she crept up towards her room upstairs glad to be able steal a few moments for herself to stew in a familiar melancholy as the light of sunset grows dim through the window. there it is, this familiar feeling of resignation to the Aloneness as Curse and Fact – the common thread that’s woven through both our lives. the regression therapist had me fast forward to her/me as a much older woman now nearing the end of her life. she is standing on a hill some distance from her house, with a sad soured resigned feeling of unrequited love – of something deeply amiss within her, despite having ‘done’ everything she was expected to do, and now as this life was ending, the feeling that remains is.. this can’t be All That Is.. and as she dies, i awaken from the session.
i knew the honeymoon phase ended in my next relationship, when the orphan came to rear her head DURING the honeymoon. the highest high got a buzzkill when i realized to my dismay that even the highest high couldnt fill this void. in fact, the very presence of these two realities existing simultaneously in separate rooms, and that one reality was the accepted one while the other reality was not, was in fact the very root of the Ill, and the beginning of the rift between the parts of myself i liked and what i felt i was liked for by him versus all the other unknown dark sides i felt i had no control over, and desperately did not want him to see. in one particularly intense sunset, i tried to explain to him in a feeble jumble of words what was happening to me. maybe there was a tiny bit of relief for the orphan to be talked about and even have a witness, but her reality – the space in which she occupied remained sealed off and unpenetrated.
i recall the memory of myself around 6 years old waking up from a nap one late afternoon, to find the house empty. a strange somber glow from the vanishing sun in the darkening house. dad mom sister nobody was home, or maybe just asleep. but i tapped into a sort of deathly silence, it was not a neutral ‘just a quiet afternoon’ thing, it was imbued with something horrifically dreary and ghastly. this was one of the first times i could remember this acute sense of melancholy that could make me easily empathize with a lone survivor of an apocalypse starring in a lars von trier movie. ‘everyone left you behind, and now you’re alone forever’- a despair that eats into itself and eats into itself again a bit more and more until i’m a hollowed out shell. it’s ironic that our mom would tell us from time to time again when we were younger how lucky we were that we weren’t orphans, that to be an orphan is the most tragic state in the world. yet there i am, in the feeling realm – a post-apocalyptic orphan sinking under the weight of the terrifying emptiness of it all, gestating in the belief that Life Is Suffering. somewhere i also made a link with this feeling that it’s also very NOT OK to be feeling this way. i should be happy and chipper and grateful for everything we have, just think about all the kids in north korea who are starving or worse, gotta resort to cannibalism. and when i was your age, my mom would say, i had to pretend my pillow was a doll because we couldnt afford toys, and pretend the table was a piano because we couldnt afford a real piano nor lessons. i would picture her as a little girl my age and then feel very sorry for her and simultaneously guilty about secretly hating violin lessons with the arrogant troll (my teacher) because what a priviledged life i had! i better just bite the bullet and trudge along…
i’m still haunted by the orphan despite having manifested a life situation that makes me envy my own self. this time i’m living with my kindred spirit, we watch sunsets together from our gilded balcony. jessy lanza was usually playing. it’s become our ritual. psychic smog can easily float out and dissipate here in our airy top floor apartment. (definition intimacy – let her see feel hear into me). quaveringly i can admit to her that sunset was really hard for me this day. something really lit up inside when she responded with “Got it. Dont leave Sara alone at sunsets.” somehow the orphan syndrome in our world takes on an exalted status. or maybe we both found our way to cope and capitalize our own existential blues by making art with it, creating a story around the feeling of a character who embodied Sunset Blues – which became the name of our exhibition
Sunset Blues comes again. i’m sinking quick and it’s uncomfortable. i recognize the different phases oscillating between denial and acceptance. i wont try to resist what’s coming, what is in fact already here now, but still, i feel that disheartening sensation of all Life Enthusiasm draining away to be replaced with the screechy hollowness. i’m trying my best to be present with it just be present with it, to be totally allowing of the feeling to just breathe into it and breathe into it when suddenly i hear the familiar chimey melody of an ice cream truck pass by the house outside. interesting Law of Attraction moment, the familiar sound of childhood coinciding with this childhood trauma. which triggers another childhood pavlovian response – a frantic search for quarters. i dash outside and like a wildcat shred the plastic wrapper off the neopolitan ice cream sandwich, so glad to take my mind away for a brief moment in a creamy dream. here is a need that’s immediately met. from nothing/no ice cream to TOTAL satiation. i then turn to ask my inner orphan with Sunset Blues, what do you want? she responds with: i want to be scooped up and rescued. i want the feeling of being totally quenched, 100% satisfaction guaranteed, in the thirst to be seen and heard and felt. I want every cell to be breathed through with assurances of ‘I AM TOTALLY WITH U.’ i want total contact total presence, that not even the tiniest pebble is left unturned, that every cell has been re-programmed and reassured of a new reality that is an abundant ever replenishing fountain of goodness and joy. I’m waiting for all the things that never happened. I want to be so completely enveloped and gripped with benevolently strong arms with such care, and firm solid steadfastness that i ALMOST need a Safe word.
(photo: lexi tsien)