Monday, November 15, 2010
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.