Letter from a Lone Wolf | Thoughts from OTW Guest Editor Troian Bellisario
I pride myself on being a lone wolf. I like being alone. Walking alone, eating alone, traveling alone. I make excuses to be quiet at home when my phone is blowing up with messages about a nearby party. This sounds cooler than it really is, which is just social anxiety. I think I often separate myself because I like to live in my head. I like to make up stories for the people I see passing by, or I spend my time reliving decisions or memories from my past, some good, more of them bad. Like an unfinished Kauffman film on repeat reflecting against the back of my eyelids, I spend my quiet moments imagining conversations I have yet to have, or thinking and rethinking about interactions of the past. Wondering if I could have done things differently, wondering if when the time comes to make a different decision, I will be brave enough to do so. And so I consider myself a time traveler. I LIVE in the past and the future, and being a lone wolf allows me the most efficient and frequent paths of Chrono-Displacement.
But, this is heavy work. I cannot change the past, and so revisiting it leads often only to the mining and reminding of pain, and traveling to the future is no better. Preparing myself for an unknown event doesn’t lead to readiness and courage, but rather a paralyzing anxiety… what if it goes wrong, what if they won’t, what if I don’t, what if I can’t?
A few months ago Lulu asked me if she could host an Of the Wolves picnic at my home. She would bring over lots of good food and invite good people and we would all do an activity together and…. talk. I was mortified. PEOPLE IN MY HOME? Did she hate me? Did she have malicious intent? What would we talk about? Who would they even be? Does she have friends other than me? How did she accomplish this? I stared at her in awe but because I love her and trust her I said… okay.
So the day came. Before even she arrived to prepare the house I felt that familiar lone wolf brew bubbling in my stomach. That slow boil of anxiety telling me I would be awkward and clumsy around new people. I would be uninteresting and bore them in my own home, and by the time I opened the door to let Lulu in, I am sure I was hot faced and concealing preliminary hives under my carefully chosen overalls. I watched her flit around my kitchen, so at ease with the prospect of hosting. Making drinks and setting plates and when the first knock on the door came I swear to God, I saw her SMILE. We might have been born on the same day of the same year of the same cosmic sign but I’ll be damned if me and my bestie weren’t cut from different cloths… I mean like silk and iron.
The rest of the pack arrived, some people I knew (whom I clamped onto immediately) as well as those I didn’t. Like everyone who Lulu works with at Of the Wolves these women were bold, beautiful and fascinating. Makers of film, clothing, and jewelry, photographers, yoga teachers, tarot readers, I’m pretty sure there was a straight up witch. Lulu, in tune with me since I was 15, quickly poured me a drink and plated me a snack and began to introduce me to the gang, taking care to weave a conversation around my home and work that would be interesting to the ladies and to myself. She looked like a mermaid swimming, she looked so at peace. And so under her guidance, I started talking, and eating and making rubber stamps for hand-stamped personal cards and… laughing. A lot. And eventually the anxiety in my stomach was replaced by a warm calm. I found myself looking in empathetic and interested eyes, and I couldn’t help but feel, against all of my best attempts to prevent it, that I was present with a group of women, equally present in the now. I wasn’t re-hashing an argument with my ex-boyfriend from eight years before, or wondering if I would ever make the kind of films I dreamed of as a little girl. I was just carving rubber out of a stamp on a warm Sunday afternoon, laughing with a group of new wonderful friends.
And if you can do it, if you can press mute on that constantly looping film of past pain and future fear, if you can be with people – that’s the power of being a part of the pack; you are drawn out of yourself, into the group, into the now.