Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘alone’

Well, 2016

I tried to write about 2016 this past week and I couldn’t do it. I wrote some words, but then I thought, these words don’t matter to me, and I let them languish unpublished. Instead I spent most of the week alone, reflecting and resting and, perhaps most of all, listening, giving myself the deep focused listening I craved.

When I think of 2016, the first memory that comes to mind is a day in early August. I was lying on one of those vaguely uncomfortable exam tables in a small private room at Urgent Care, wearing jeans and a thin cotton hospital gown. I was cold. I was frightened. I kept accidentally beginning to cry, not a loud sobbing with lots of tissues but more of a silent scream where I’d suddenly find tears plastered to my cheeks. My head hurt so badly, I was so confused, my brain kept betraying me again and again. I was alone.

I was waiting for my CAT scan to find out if my brain was bleeding. If my brain was bleeding I’d go in for brain surgery. At least that was my understanding from the brief forbidden peek on the internet I’d allowed myself. If I went in for brain surgery, who knew if I’d come out. It didn’t sound particularly promising. I knew I’d do whatever the doctors said without asking questions because I wasn’t capable of making any important decisions and there was no one else there to help. At that moment, it was out of my control and all I could do was sit and wait and try to hold myself together even though it felt like I was watching my brain disintegrate.

I wish somebody had been with me then. And I know some of you reading this right now are wishing you had been there, and in my imagination I edit it so you were there holding my hand. There is some comfort there. But at the time, of course, I wasn’t able to imagine things, and I couldn’t even access or control my own thoughts properly, and I was very alone, and I thought: “This is what people mean when they say everyone dies alone. I never realized quite how horrific that idea was until this moment.”

But I didn’t die. Instead I got some valuable practice, and maybe next time I’ll do better. Maybe next time I’ll find a small core of peace inside myself. Maybe next time I’ll have more grace.

When I think of my 2016, I think endurance. I endured, and I’m proud of what I accomplished. I made some difficult decisions that led to big changes that I believe will make my life better down the line. I suffered from the worst injury of my life and I didn’t give up. I learned a lot. I didn’t close down, and I held onto my vision of a brighter future. I found moments of joy and connection even in the midst of tremendous struggle. I went to great lengths to take care of myself and to respect myself, and I feel like, even though it was very hard for me, I did a better job of it than perhaps I’ve ever done before. I’m very tired, but here I am.

I didn’t like 2016, but I’m grateful for the time I’m getting, even when it really sucks. I feel lucky to be here.

For all of you who had good years, I’m so glad. You keep my hope strong. And if you had a bad year, I admire you for hanging in there, and I really hope the next year is better for us both.

20161123_174050

Advertisements

Read Full Post »

“Live the questions now. Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” – Rainer Maria Rilke

I have been re-reading bits of Letters to a Young Poet and then I found this cool site called zenpencils.com that illustrates quotations and poems in a comic-like style, and they recently did this Rilke quotation, and it seemed timely. So here we are. (The latest one they did is a Lang Leav one, which I also highly recommend, especially because I love Lang Leav’s poetry.)

20160217_120509

It’s nice to think about living into an answer, but I think we are always living our questions. And the answers simply lead to more questions. Sometimes life seems to me to be one giant experiment. You can follow blueprints left by other people, some of which are more detailed than others. Or you can strike off on your own and see what happens. But it’s all about questions, starting with the simple “What will happen next?”

I ran into a friend at a party some time ago, and he said he reads the blog from time to time, and he told me how idyllic it seemed, that I got to sit around and ponder the big questions. And I do. That’s exactly what I do. I spend a lot of time sitting around and thinking. So here’s another question for you: Why? Why do I sit around and ponder the big questions? And why do I get to do this? And does it have any outward effect whatsoever?

I’m reading a book about playwriting, and I have learned that the “action” of the play is what the characters want. This idea will be familiar to anyone who has studied any kind of storytelling for more than a few months. (Weeks? I don’t remember, I just remember it is foundational.) So then some of the other questions we live are “What do we want?” and “Are we going to get it?” and “Are we going to keep it?” and “Is it going to change?”

I spent several hours on the phone this past weekend with a friend who is going through a break-up after spending more than twenty years not being single. “Friends aren’t the same,” this person told me. “I feel so alone.” And I felt a jolt of surprise that this was a revelation, even though after twenty years, of course it was. Yes, being single means being alone in a different way. How do we become okay with this? How did I come to this almost benign acceptance of yes, that is really how it is? And then another question: who am I when I’m alone? Who am I when I’m not fulfilling a role that is at least partially defined by my relationship to someone else?

These are questions that have been occupying my spare moments lately. Who am I when I strip everything away? When I put aside relationships to friends, family, a lover? When I subtract job and career and calling? When I suspend my hobbies, my interests? When I forget about my past? When I am no longer concerned with status, power, wealth, influence, and ego? Who am I then?

Who am I then? I am living that question. Maybe nothing, maybe everything. I am present. I am living into answers that will give me more questions, and my curiosity will be my fuel.

Read Full Post »

Almost every day, I take a walk with Nala. We have a couple of regular routes that depend on how much time I have and what the weather is like and how my toe feels and how long it’s been since I last picked up the mail. In the past, this walk has also been a time to catch up with significant others, but for the last few years, it’s almost always been just for Nala and me.

Nala on her leash

Nala on her leash

I don’t take my phone on these walks. This wasn’t a mindful choice; it began because in the summertime I often don’t have any pockets, and it was a mindful choice not to have to lug a purse around for a simple walk in my neighborhood. But lately I’ve noticed how much I enjoy not having my phone.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my phone. It tells me how to get where I’m going. It lets me access my schedule. It lets me keep in touch with a host of lovely people. It gives me information exactly when I need it (and yes, I did check a recipe in the grocery store today in order to choose the correct size of cranberry bag). It lets me take photos that help me remember what I have done and where I have been.

I love my phone too much. I want to check my phone. I want to see what’s happening on Facebook and Twitter. I think of things to google. I flip into schedule mode at the drop of a hat. I want to see if anyone has texted me. I want to text someone. Hell, I simply want to know what time it is.

But I also don’t like my phone. I go to social events, and I notice when everyone has their phone out, and everyone is talking to people who aren’t there, via texting, instead of talking to the people who are there. I don’t think I judge (I know what it’s like to be shy, to want to avoid an awkward moment), but I do notice. Sometimes, when I am not at my best, I think, “Aha! This means I’m allowed to look at my phone too.”  But more often I think, “What’s going on here? How can we re-establish a connection right now?” Because that’s really what’s happened. The social connection has gotten difficult or a little slow for some reason, and instead of waiting it out and sitting with the slowness, we’ve retreated into our phones.

I like noticing. I like having some daily time when I remember what it’s like not to have the impulse to check. I like not always being available.

I revel in the opportunity to be actually alone. When my phone is there, it is a constant reminder that I don’t have to be alone. But sometimes the company provided by my phone can feel hollow. I remember that according to Facebook, my life is an uninterrupted stream of exciting events and cute outfits. According to Facebook, I live a magazine kind of life, and yet that isn’t actually what my life is like at all. My life is so much more complex than that.

I like having uninterrupted time with the people who are important to me when we just…talk. And sometimes we sit in silence. And sometimes the conversation is not the most scintillating thing ever, and most likely there’s something really exciting happening somewhere on the internet. And I don’t care.

Because it is in that space that conversations deepen. It is in that space that conversations spread out to become some of the most interesting I’ve ever had. It is in that space that I learn things about the world, and about the people in that world.

It is in that space that I get to feel what it is like to be you.

Read Full Post »