"It's as if a great bird lives inside the stone of our days and since no sculptor can free it, it has to wait for the elements to wear us down, till it is free to fly." Mark Nepo

Monday, November 15, 2010

Alone



I've been at the beach. Alone. Three nights, four days. I had a purpose. It wasn't meant to be a vacation, but instead a space in which I might get closer to finishing the first draft of my current WIP. No dog wanting to play, or cats wanting in/out/up/down. No husband to greet or feed or visit with. Just me. And my words.


I've been alone a lot in the last year and a half, and enjoyed the solitude for the most part. I enjoy my own company and even more, I enjoy the freedom that comes from no schedule and no other human's immediate needs driving my decisions. It wasn't until this weekend, however, that I considered how distracted I've kept myself, even without the outer distractions found in the busy life I left behind when I stepped out of public education.


Pema Chodron talks about how we all live with a feeling of edginess and anxiety, although often at a level so low we're not even aware it's there. We want solid ground under our feet, which is an impossibility, and the insecurity feels so unbearable, we'll do anything to not experience it. That's where addictions are born, in our desperate attempt to not feel so lost. And alone.


Because I'm writing a memoir, I was not only alone these last few days, I was also alone with the very deepest parts of me. And when I wasn't writing, I was walking in the vast openness of sand and ocean and western horizon - from the depths of as far inward as I could go to an outside as wide as forever and back again. And no other human for witness or comfort. Or distraction.


Something in the intensity of my focus and the lack of distraction (except for occasional e-mail, I stayed offline) helped me understand on a new level that the answers I'm constantly seeking are all tucked away in my own heart. It's where God's voice whispers. It's where the wisdom of my ancestors pulses. It's where the clearest, brightest truth lives.


The only way to access that, however, is to be willing to stand alone and turn inward. To, as Pema Chodron reminds, be Ulysses suffering the voices of the sirens to ultimately break their power. So this anxiety that is my constant companion and that is at its loudest when I'm alone, will not be distracted away. I don't need to feed it, or ignore it or worry that it means there's something wrong with me. I only need to stop resisting its existence.


I'm learning I can hold awareness of the edge, and not be any worse off than I was before. I can be alone with every aspect of my interior exposed to the light, and still be okay. Somewhere in childhood, feeling alone came to mean feeling unloved, which felt like falling forever in complete darkness. To survive that, I found a multitude of ways to avoid the one state of being which, paradoxically, was the only way to access the spark of divine love necessary for all other love.


As I've written this, the old hymn, "His Eye Is on the Sparrow," kept coming to mind, so I did what I usually do when words are talking to me - I Googled it. The verse from the Gospel of Matthew that provided the inspiration for the song holds this wisdom: "Look at the birds of the air; they neither sow nor reap nor gather into barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not of more value than they?"


A single bird has value and is known and seen, an important spark of divine light. And so, too, a single person. Alone.





30 comments:

sallylwess said...

Deb, this touched me at a very vulnerable place in my heart and mind. Please keep writing. Do whatever it takes to write your memoir. I want to read it. I want to learn from you. You speak to many of us. As a reader, I connect to you in powerful ways. You also inspire.

I hope to go to that place in my mind where I can begin to write in such a centered and connected way.

Charlene: the Polarblogger said...

How beautifully expressed! The lessons touch the core of the heart. I truly enjoyed reading this because I also like to be alone and commune with my inner self.

Linda Hoye said...

This is beautiful and I needed to read it today. What a blessing it is for you to be able to have this time alone to work on your WIP. I am also working on a memoir and I can imagine what an intensely personal time these past days have been for you.

Barb said...

I've been comfortable with solitude since I was a child, and I need time alone to replenish myself. I just finished Pema Chodron's, When Things Fall Apart. Her teachings about how to be present with painful emotions are a revelation to me. Tomorrow, I'll ski alone into the wilderness behind my house. Perhaps I'll think of you, Deb, and the writing you're doing. Enjoy this time without pressing schedules. I hope that you can find the message in your heart that you want to convey.

Teresa aka JW said...

Your words are so true, revealing and thought provoking. I love being alone with myself and yet there is always the chance I will have to meet myself and understand me. Parts of me I like. Parts of me are sad and I don't wish to experience those parts ever again.

I LOVE that song. It helped save my life--literally.

Kristen Torres-Toro said...

Sounds like much needed solitude. Sometimes being alone with ourselves is worse than being alone with our worst enemies. You have incredible courage!

Wanda said...

So looking forward to reading your WIP.

Carrie Link said...

NEHBM of being alone and the value in that!

B. WHITTINGTON said...

This piece of writing reminds me of Anne Morrow Lindbergh's book, GIFTS FROM THE SEA.
We have to have time alone to center and know who we really are.
We become whole again.
WE live at such a furiously fast pace.
Sometimes life makes my head spin - a few hrs alone can replenish the energy that is zapped from us daily.

Blessings and thank you for sharing this beautiful experience.

Wanda..... said...

As I sat alone this morning, quietly reading...your words filled me with a sense of well being. Your thoughts have such a poetic tone and deep meaning for all. In Solitude, I find the silence in which to listen to myself. Silent and Listen are favorite words...they share the same letters!

I would definitely buy your Memoir, Deb!

Lilith said...

"The only way to access that, however, is to be willing to stand alone and turn inward."

Yes, yes, yes. Except it scares the hell out of me:)

Thank you for this today.

Kathryn Grace said...

"The answers I'm constantly seeking are all tucked away in my own heart."

Exactly what I needed today. I have felt such despair since the elections. I have felt, with climate deniers taking over the very committees charged with helping us save humankind from our own destruction, that we are left with precious little hope. It is hope, along with a belief there is still time if we act quickly, that has kept me going. Without that hope, I question my purpose.

Turn inward. Find the answers there. Thank you. Thank you for sharing a bit of your self-awareness and journey with us, that we might better understand ourselves and find again our path.

kario said...

I am so pleased that you spent this time at the beach. I so fondly remember our writing weekend there together.

You never cease to amaze me with your courage to explore more and more deeply and the lovely gifts you unearth when you do. Thank you for sharing.

Cheryl said...

Another beautiful piece. Last night I was watching a program on happiness and they had people take 5 minutes to eat one sultana to become aware of the present moment and how beautiful it is and I your piece took me back to that. I feel that anxiety you talk of and your piece reminded me of a friend who used to say "what we resist persists" and I see the wisdom in what you say. Thank you. So pleased you had such a wonderful birthday too. On the mango ice cream - apparently heavy cream is what you would use. Have editing the piece to include it now and thanks for pointing that out. Amazing how different and yet how alike our worlds can be!

colbymarshall said...

I hear ya, gal. This week, i've wanted to run off to a beach or cabin somehwere to write to have no distractions. If only.

#1Nana said...

It is a gift to have the time for solitude. I'm blessed to have the time, but not the resolve to use that time wisely. Your post is inspiring to me.

patti said...

Deb, you are one powerful writer. I just blogged (to be posted next week) on God as my Muse, whispering sweet plot elements into my ear.

It's much easier to HEAR in the environment you had.

Don't stop, girl. Don't stop.
P

Amber said...

This may be my favorite post in a long time. Beautiful, deep, real. Love it. Love you. Love how you share.

oxox :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Oh I need this time alone, too - very much so - I'm mostly alone here in the cove - but even with GMR here I am at times distracted or interrupted --

This is a beautiful piece, as always . . . from a beautiful of a woman

Kathryn Magendie said...

A word or two was left out of my comment :-D - "from the soul of a beautiful woman..." was what I meant to write!

Kathryn Magendie said...

or was it "from the beautiful soul of a woman" - dang!

laughing -- *sigh* ... I'm just going now....

Happy almost THanksgiving

Janna Qualman said...

"Just me. And my words."

"It's where God's voice whispers... It's where the clearest, brightest truth lives."

I love this, Deb. I'm envious of your alone time, but thankful you had that for yourself.

deb said...

amen to all of this Deb.

and I think I need to book something like this.

patricia said...

Love that bible verse. It is something to hold onto. Always.

Linda Myers said...

Your quote reminds me of "the kingdom of God is within us."

I am just now learning to be comfortable with solitude.

deborahjbarker said...

Wonderful words Deb. You say it all so beautifully. The intensity of your experience can only be marvelled at. I am sure your memoir will be richer for it.
I love family and dogs and life around me but, equally, I like to find that solitude at times - not always easy with a large family. My trip to California was a 'finding myself' exercise I think and I was solitary if not alone if you get my drift.
As a small child I found what I used to call, "that quiet place in my head," which now I see has always been a form of mediation.I still have that quiet place and what a blessing it has been! Lovely post, thank you :-)

Terri Tiffany said...

SO you are doing what I would not dare to do--go off alone and write. Amazing! sounds like you are digging deep and doing ok!

Katie Gates said...

Wow. That post was remarkable. I could feel the solitude and your sense of peace. I love being alone (though not without a cat or two! does that still count as alone?), and I feel sad for people who do not know how to embrace solitude.

Rose said...

Your comments are amazing, you are very inspiring

M said...

The only words I can find to say is "wow" (I guess that is only one word). There is so much truth in this post...a truth that most of us deal with, but are completely unaware of. Thank you

I love you
Mark