Letters to Stories: Behind “Distance”

A picture of Half Dome, a hiking trail in Coarsegold, California, was used as the cover art for this poem. Picture courtesy of Tommy Kumlin (profile hyperlinked).

By Simon Heywood

More than anything, I feel like this poem was entirely inspired by my life rather than the songs I listen to. For that reason, I feel more of an attachment to this poem than my other ones. I wrote this poem after all the times people and I myself have been told “I think we need to take a break/take some space and time away from each other” or some other variation of that phrase. There’s always something so luring about isolation. It carries power, it carries mystery, but it also carries clarity.

At first, this poem fawns at the idea of distance, and also criticizes the people that take it. The people who tell others that they need some distance. They say they need some distance for a little bit instead of outright saying that they don’t want that person in their life anymore, because more often than not, those who tell others they need some distance means they’ll just take the time to figure out how to function without the person so slowly, they can excise those people from their life.

However, from there, the poem takes a stance of digging into the distance after initially criticizing the concept. The poem starts to explore the different purposes of taking distance and separating themselves from the object of the pain. It starts to try to explain why sometimes people just grow apart.

At a certain point in time, we bond to certain people to the point of becoming co-dependent, and at times entirely dependent on them. We lose ourselves in these people. We gain a sense of partnership at the cost of individuality. Sometimes losing ourselves through bonding with others is exactly why there begins a rift in those relationships. I know too well how that feels, especially when it comes to bonding with people to the point that I become dependent upon them.

All my life I’ve tried to be an independent person, solely able to function on my own. However, sometimes that gets tied up with the feeling of loneliness, and I start to crave for companionship. Anyone who is willing to give me that type of attention I let in, and that always comes at a cost.

The cost of becoming subtly desperate for attention is that when you become what is called “clingy”, people leave and you’re just more unstable. When what you were dependent upon is suddenly gone then you’re left always confused and more broken. However, after time has passed, you can start to process why certain people leave, and what distance means to them and what it meant for you. It’s not always the worst of things when people leave your life, despite the enormous pain that is initially felt. However, when people want to leave, they should just stop sugarcoating it or they shouldn’t agree to want to fix things at some point if that’s not what they want. If all they want is to leave, then they should say so.

Back to one thing I associated with distance earlier: power. Taking distance can be empowering, because you start to realize how lost you were and how much you gave up when you become dependent on someone. you realize what else you need to do to reclaim your sense of self and your sense of peace. That’s why isolation is dangerously powerful; because once you grow to love isolation and being alone and spending time with yourself, then you don’t really need anyone else, and the people that you left, or the even the people that left you will want you back, and they would have to hypothetically offer something that is greater than self-love.

Distance is out now on my Instagram. Poems are released weekly every Sunday or Monday on my feed.

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