Loneliness vs. Aloneness

Loneliness versus Aloneness

I’ve been obsessed with remembering my childhood from the age of 7 – 10. I think it’s because I was the most content at that age. I hadn’t yet gone through puberty, that time when suddenly everyone else’s voice is louder than your own. Once that happened, my equilibrium was thrown off.

Back then, my sister and I would play with these two brothers down the street, W and K. But we only played with them if we needed an occasional diversion. It wasn’t a requirement. We also had two friends who were girls – D and F – each one (respectively) about the same age as my sister and I – and we would see them, too, but even less often. Maybe once every few months.

But somehow I was still content. Content enough with my family, my room, our animals, our house, my imagination, the grass, the clouds, time. I don’t know how I filled my time but somehow (without gadgets except Saturday morning cartoons when chores were done) I was fine.  No after school soccer practice, no constantly revolving stream of extra-curricular activities. Nope. Pretty much nothing except my imagination, a few people, and nature.

And I want that feeling back.

Of course, I can’t totally get it back. I have a house now, kids, a job, bills, but I think it’s possible to get closer to that feeling.

Loneliness is a word with a lot of shame, but the problem is if you can never admit that you’re lonely (just like if you can never admit you’re an alcoholic), it’s hard to change. So I’m admitting it. For the past – I don’t know… 25 years? – I’ve been lonely at least some of the time. Not all the time, but sometimes, and I haven’t always filled that void with the healthiest of options. And the reason I can say this is… I know I’m not the only one. Ok maybe some people have all their shit together 120% of the time, but the reality is we’re all human and that feeling happens sometimes. So what do you do with it? Eat too much? End one relationship and begin another the same day? Become a people pleasing workaholic?

Loneliness is akin to boredom. If you’re bored, you want someone to play with (whether you’re 9 or 49). But the truth is, if you’re bored then you’re probably also kinda boring. You want some new gadget or person to amuse you. Maybe it’s a new boyfriend, maybe it’s switching jobs, or the town that you live in. Sure I can get a new job, a new town, or a new spouse, but can I try out new parts of me? Can I learn Spanish? Can I go square dancing? Can I start delivery pizzas and run into my students who will look shocked when I show up at their house? Can I start talking to strangers in checkout lanes at the grocery store? Can I do a social experiment where I eavesdrop on people in Walmart not because I’m a creeper but because it’s fun to watch people when they don’t think you’re paying attention?

When I was about 25, I was living in Denver and I decided that the reason I wanted to be in a relationship was because I was “bored being alone.” I told myself: “I already know myself really well and the only way to grow as a person is to be in a relationship.” What a crock of shit. Ok, maybe you do grow as a person in a relationship, but seriously. What I’ve learned since then is that if you are going into a relationship because you’re bored, then eventually you’ll get bored again once the novelty wears off. So you might as well learn how to not get bored on your own. Boredom leads to loneliness, but curiosity about you and your world turns loneliness into contented aloneness.

 

 

 

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Fb posts #7749847985

My dog Gizmo puts his paw on my leg.

The air smells sweet again this morning.

I feel empty and yet complete. I see the bigger picture and I’m fine.

I realize that you need to listen to the whistlings of your soul and my whistling is singing a tune that says ‘Sit. Relax. Draw. Daydream. Do a little work now and then. Doing nothing sometimes is the best something.’

And when you’re ready to be your silly self, the person who can easily forget herself and get lost in the moment, the person who can laugh at herself and not lose herself, the person who loves to help people laugh at themselves, too, the person who doesn’t care if she does push-ups in the classroom as long as it gets people to loosen up, the person who doesn’t care if she dyes her hair black because at least it’s a fucking change, the person who takes risks, the person who has been through all kinds of shit and still lets go of the bad and lets in the good, the person who would rather sit down in a restaurant and watch people than watch TV, the person who thinks about ‘the end being nigh’ every day not because she’s morbid but because she wants to live life to the fullest Buddha way, the person who is going to keep writing about her life because she is still trying to accept self-love and she’s going to keep doing this until it doesn’t feel so awkward and weird… and when you’re ready to be that person, then be her.

****

no matter how up or down or around or sideways a day has been, i go outside and i smell the air and i realize there is something bigger and better than all of the petty little concerns that can take up too much space in one’s brain at times. i smell campfires and grass and leaves and moss and i feel the cool air on my nostrils and i realize i’m more alive out here than in a house and life is wild and when you connect with that then it doesn’t matter where you’re at. it doesn’t matter who you’re with. it doesn’t matter if you’re alone. you’re already a part of it all and that’s just fine and dandy. and the trick is to stay open no matter how much circumstances conspire to close you up. stay open. and free.

****

why do i write so much gobbledyguk about my past? because i’m a woman in a culture (in a world) that tends to want to define me before i have a chance to define myself. for all the good in religion (and there is some – for example, i learned about karma or ‘treat others the way you want to be treated’), i also absorbed that stupid notion that self love is a bad thing. so between culture trying to tell me who i am for years and a religion telling me that i have to put everyone else’s needs before my own all the time, i have a lot of self actualizing to do.

****

beautiful moment #1: driving down a road in sequim that i’ve never been down before and realizing that this place has nooks and crannies that still surprise me.
beautiful moment #2: realizing that my strategy of grading a small chunk a day (rather than waiting for it to pile up and then i start hating life) is paying off and actually do-able.
beautiful moment #3: the feeling of freedom is awe-inspiring, scary, and magical.
beautiful moment #4: slowing down is what reaps in the magic.
beautiful moment #5: getting reacquainted with my favorite pen.
beautiful moment #6: freedom means carving out your own destination/destiny.
beautiful moment #7: people will always buoy me up if i’m around them long enough.

****
to be the kind of person who sees the good in everything does not have to mean that you are a pollyanna. it can mean any of the following though:
1) that you are not only a survivor but an enjoyer of life,
2) that you’d rather be filled with love than anything else,
3) that you’d rather savor the pleasures in life than the bitter pills,
4) that you’d rather gather strength for the rockier moments than sap your energy dwelling on the negative,
5) that you realize that anything virtually anything (except having your arm stuck under a boulder or being bunker buddies with hitler) can be seen in a positive light,
6) that you’d rather offer some good to the world than bad,
7) that even those curtains you put up that don’t quite go with your windows but are better than what you had are a relief to have and that though they may be frustrating because you don’t have a way to tie them back they remind you of the fact that you did it all by yourself and you are a capable person who can solve their own problems and when you can’t you are smart enough to research and explore and stand on your own two feet and not only survive but flourish,
8) that perfection is stupid,
9) that laughing at yourself is everything,
10) that the universe conspires to help you unless you go out of your way to fuck with it, 11) that you get what you give,
12), that the feeling of peace and contentment in my belly right now is a thousand times better than the moment 10 years ago when i was doubled over with rocks rolling around in my gut from an obstructed bowel and as long as i am not in that kind of excruciating agony then life is good,
13) you can always compare yourself to someone with more than you and make yourself miserable so why fucking do it? don’t do it,
14) think about the people with less than you who are still happy and be happy,
15) you are alive and breathing and lucky. that is enough.

freeeeeeee

I finally feel free.

The wind is lightly blowing, the air smells sweet—

 

The clouds are dotted and smeared across the sky—

I think the reason that poetry is so often about nature

 

Is because when your mind is finally free

then you can tune in and NOTICE beauty again.

 

I learned how to breathe today.

I saw my therapist. That helped.

 

I learned that it’s ok to be me. No need to define myself

in relation to anyone else, except my kids. Even they will grow up, and soon it will be just me.

 

Letting go of expectations, extrapolations, permutations

Letting go of the need to be needed.

Letting go of the need to need.

 

Breathing.

 

And letting a calmer mind lead me through the muck

And learn to see the muck as a beautiful thing in its own way.

I’m free.

The fog

DSC_0030 (1)I don’t know why, like so many writers, I have a hard time calling myself a ‘writer.’

I think writing is one of those professions where, if you accept that you are one, then you feel this great responsibility to speak some kind of truth all the time. Kinda like a preacher. And I don’t want to be a preacher. I don’t want to speak for everyone and yet part of the reason I write is because I AM trying to name some kind of truth that resonates with someone. Just not necessarily everyone.

So, on my not so good days, like today, I walk around in a fog. Have you ever done that? Just walked around not wanting to interact with anyone and yet I wanted to be around people, too? I’m getting good at that. Disappearing and observing. I don’t feel like talking. Just watching. I watched a man and his three boys get ice cream at Dairy Queen. I watched in consternation as I tried to imagine: 1) Is he really a single dad running around with three boys (one of whom was a toddler in his arms)?, 2) How could he afford it?, 3) How is he so calm? 4) He had a very roundish butt but a slender upper torso (sorry – I couldn’t help but look and wonder… sit at a desk much?). And then I saw him again at the laundromat doing his laundry so then I really started worrying… 5) Why is he doing his laundry here? Was he booted out of his own home? Does he have sole custody of the kids? Did his wife leave him for another woman? Why aren’t his kids helping to carry the baskets and hold the door open for him? Has he given up on life?

Eventually I walked out of the fog. Maybe because I got lost watching them. But I also decided to: drive on the open road, listen to music, get even more lost, take pictures of the sun and blue skies and grass, and listen.

And I had the same quote by Socrates ringing through my mind all day:

“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.”

It’s the same feeling I used to get camping all summer with my kids in Colorado and taking showers at the pool and sleeping in a tent each night and wearing the same clothes too many days in a row. Eventually you realize that you don’t need much to be happy. In fact, the less shit the better and the more time in your day for what really matters: people, coffee, nature, and smelling the sweet air. Oh and laughing and tequila and dancing are good, too.

I am a writer. I don’t need anyone’s permission to be a writer. Plus, I don’t want to live with a veil of fog over my head, so I’m going to erase it with the end of my pencil and the ‘backspace’ button on my keyboard. Only you know what you really need to be alive moment to moment. Be aware of what that is in order to WAKE UP and notice it more, and avoid what deadens your soul.

 

 

 

 

bad poem #1

i want to be a bird.
not right this second.
i don’t want to die.
but i wish i could fly.
i don’t want to hang glide, or para sail, or skydive.
i just want to be a bird.
nothing comes quite close.
nothing like the feel of the air under your wings,
making lazy circles on warm gusts of wind.
no map to follow, just your own whims.
nothing i know comes close.
except my favorite pen, paper and my mind.
my favorite pen has a clicker at the end that feels good.
a nubby end that i have to push hard on to release.
the body of the pen is sturdy with a rubbery grip.
and the tip is sublime, like a fine cabernet wine.
paper can be almost anything, lined or not.
it’s my mind that matters more than a jot.
clear, clean, empty and serene.
a void, a hole through which my pen explores.
it’s the nearest thing to heaven.
a bird, a pen, and me.

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god is good thinking

I don’t believe in god, but I don’t NOT believe in her/him either. I think god is a useful concept. Especially when I am very afraid. And I have been.

One time I was laying in a hospital bed in Boulder, Colorado, and I had had three surgeries on my abdomen to get rid of an infection and I was in so much pain several times that I was definitely believing in god. I was asking god for help. And it definitely seemed to work.

The rest of the time, I don’t ask or talk to god much. But I do talk to my friends, to myself, to nature. And I think they’re all the same.

I think god is really another word for being aware. Thinking enough about the world both inside and outside of yourself that you understand it better. Anticipate things. Think about things.

That doesn’t mean I won’t be calling out to god the next time I’m in extreme pain, but I think it’s good to know that you always have it at your disposal. It’s always there. You just have to be aware. You can forgive, let go, love, understand, create boundaries as needed, break down boundaries as needed, all in the name of ‘god’ or ‘love’ or whatever you want to call it. The point is to be aware. Be aware of what is good for you and the world around you. Good. God. That’s about it.

Headless chickens

The other day I was talking with my friend, S, from a long time ago. We went to high school together.

When I talk with her, I remember things about the person I used to be. I remember how excited I used to get about the littlest details. Like I used to sit in the passenger seat of our car and I’d let my arm hang out the window and I would look at the shape of my arm in the rear view mirror and I’d see my reflection and I’d think, “That’s a pretty good looking arm!” And, “When you smile like that, you’re kinda pretty!” And then I’d go back to lolling my arm around in the wind.

I used to admire the curvature of a stairwell as much as I’d admire the curvature of a calf muscle.

I’d be entertained on the bus all the way from 91st to 20th in NYC just by imagining the lives of the people sitting near me.

And now? I rush around with barely a moment to spare. I don’t even attempt to remember things that I used to like phone numbers and I don’t play with rearranging the letters and numbers of license plates like I used to.

And pretty soon my kids will be grown up and out of the house and where will I be?

So how to slow down? My friend S had the secret. She knew. Take the tiniest detail from your day and savor it. Enjoy it. Get every ounce of juice out of it.

Keep things simple. No need to rush from point A to point B. Take your time. Even if it means you arrive home past curfew. Your parents will understand. Tell them, “You were living life with a good friend. They will believe you.” Push the envelope. Live by your own rules. Don’t be a lemming. Think for yourself. Make up the rules as you go. Get along with people but don’t be a kiss ass but also don’t be a dumbass.

Basically: enjoy. Notice the tiniest details like the taste of nutmeg and cinnamon and mocha sprinkles on your latte. Or the shape of the clouds. Or the way that guy sits in his chair with his foot twisted under his other leg. Stop and notice things and don’t just stop there. Share them with someone. Enjoy little things together. Help someone else slow down. We’re all rushing around like headless chickens. Just pick up someone’s head, put it back on them, and then take their wing in your hand and slow down.

blubbery glory

it’s good to be useless sometimes. pointless. unproductive. turn things in a bit or a lot late. push things away. procrastinate. wait a bit too long. make up some excuses.

i had a student once who talked about how in asia he had to go to so many hours of school. school all day long. like 12+ hours of school each day. he had so much school that he would get very good at ditching school and making up excuses for not going. i sympathize with him. what’s the point of it all if all  you do is abide by somebody else’s made up rules. it’s time to listen to the beat of your own drum. at least once in a while for chrissakes. how will this world progress if nobody thinks for themselves?

i am too good at being dutiful. too good at checking off lists and keeping up. i need to get better at ditching my duties and playing hooky.

this is why i celebrate remembering my childhood. because at least at that age it was more likely that i’d heed the beat of my own drum.

all kinds of studies have proven it again and again. being too ‘productive’ and dutiful eventually stifles creativity. if any company is going to grow, it has to allow its workers time to play and create (e.g. google) and not be on such a rigid timeline. and i think that goes for how to manage your life on your own time. stop being so damn productive.

i’m tired. tired of being good.

tired of checking emails and responding. tired. and i know the sooner i respond to them, the sooner i will get more so that’s why i put them off. keep it at bay. let the world solve some of its own problems and self-generated hysteria.

here are a few simple things i know to be true right now. true and devoid of negativity.

  • i found a new pen that i like. i like it even better than that other pen that i was convinced was the savior of all pens a few weeks ago. i want to order some of these new pens online. they’re amazing.
  • my cat willow’s fur is grey but it’s amazing. a dazzling grey. it literally sparkles and glistens at each tip. it’s got a sheen to it. and her blubbery glory is all the more merrier because of it.
  • going to sleep by 11pm is key. hardest thing in the world for me to do when i feel like nothing exciting enough has happened that day to warrant me the pleasure of going to sleep and letting another day slip by on this planet earth, but oh well. maybe sleep is the pleasure sometimes.
  • i want to go soon and use my pen before 11pm strikes.
  • if it weren’t for my students each new quarter, i don’t know what i would do. aside from my friends and family, my students are literally the happiest thing that happens to me each day. no matter what is happening, my students remind me to have fun, stay curious, and don’t give in to negativity. they’re too young to know any better. and i like being around that kind of energy.
  • i want to be outside more. always.
  • i’m working on ways to laugh more.
  • if anything, that’s my modest gift to the world. a need to find the pointless silliness in things. more stupid stuff to laugh at. be less serious. lighten up. take the big fat stick out of your ass and laugh. yup, that’s what i’m shooting for, if anything.

 

 

 

 

 

sloppy and barely sorry

if all the world had someone to sit there and listen and sympathize and let you figure your shit out on your own, the world would be a healthier place. that’s (one of the main reasons) why we pay counselors and therapists, in my opinion. why can’t we be therapists for each other more often? mental health. we all need more of it. and it comes from purging that nonsense. somewhere. we all need an enema (not an enemy) of the body/mind/soul.

that’s why i write this (often but not always) barely edited drivel. i believe it’s better to get shit out than to worry about it being perfect. of course, some effort has to be made but i think many of us (myself included) worry so much about things coming out perfect that we often never get it out at all. i honestly blame this as the cause for the ending of some big relationships in my life. shit that was shoved under carpets for so long that it just ended up being too dirty and messed up to ever deal with and face. insurmountable shit.

so i would much rather get this out in its imperfect state than worry so much about being grammatically, capitalization wise, and punctuation wise perfect. yes, i’m even a teacher but i still say it. more as a psychology loving teacher really. GET IT OUT!

like right now. i’m sitting in my house and typing this and i think about the number of times i’ve hesitated going outside because i didn’t feel good enough. like i hadn’t done enough to organize my house or clean myself up or tidy up the whatever in the house and so i stayed and tidied and organized trying to achieve perfection and meanwhile the perfectly imperfect world outside waited for me. i’m done with perfection.

today i don’t care. i don’t care if the cellulite is showing because my underwear are too tight in my jeans. i don’t care if my bangs are greasy. i don’t care if my bills aren’t looked at for another day. i don’t care if the fence still isn’t painted because i can’t be bothered to get more paint. i don’t care i don’t care i don’t care.

i just care about getting out. and getting it out.

 

 

A bird in my mind is worth two in the tree

So the other day was extremely hectic. Piles of new tasks to do all week with new classes starting. Fun but overwhelming. Friday came and i felt like my head was swimming. Inside my head I literally didn’t know which way to turn. Something or someone was always beckoning to cross out another item on my ‘to do’ list. And so I stopped.

I planted my feet. I slowed down my speech. I realized, even in speaking, that I was jumping the gun. I was reacting rather than responding. I wasn’t DECIDING what I felt or thought about things. I was just instantaneously pinging back. Which is ok sometimes. Sometimes that is how you get through things. You can’t think that long and hard. But still, too much of that and you feel like a yo-yo.

And I realized it’s better to be a rock than a leaf in the wind (which is my usual favorite metaphor to aim for).

I mean sometimes it’s fun to be a leaf in the wind but too much of that and you forget who you are.

So when I finally stepped off the merry-go-round of life, I started hearing things better. Noticing more. So much so that when I stepped out of my house, I finally wanted to give my full attention to a bird. Sure, I see birds sometimes but this time I really wanted to watch it chirp. Watch its throat bobble up and down as it sang. I realized how lucky I was to have a bird land on a tree that near where I was walking. And I realized why people go birdwatching. Because if you are really watching birds, then you have slowed down enough to not only pay attention, but to WANT to pay attention. You have calmed down enough to make room for the bird in your mind. Otherwise the bird chirp is just another meaningless background noise. To empty your mind of everything but the bird is a sign that you’re doing something right. I want to be in that head space more.