This feeling lonely

Journals from October 2018…. some really lonely days…….

I wonder how many people at this instant feel lonely in the world. How does loneliness feel to them? 

I have realized that at times although alone I don’t feel lonely. And those are the times I feel somehow connected to others or something. That my life matters. 

But when that heavy feeling of loneliness sets in, it feels like I am not connected to anything or anyone. That I am irrelevant.

And today I woke up feeling like that. I had this full week. Busy and full of people and work. And I really enjoyed it. But it is interesting how a little thought comes like “I have no plans this weekend” and then a little phrase or text can … whoosh… take you to that lonely place. Perhaps touch that existential wound that we all have.  At that moment that I heard my sister say she had to get off the phone cause she was gonna have dinner with her husband. This phrase made me think” “Look at how much of a priority they are to each other” and made me feel sad that I don’t have someone in my life that I enjoy his company so much that I would stop my other conversations to go have dinner with him. 

And then while my mind was marinating part consciously and part not so much on “I am lonely”, I got a text from a close friend whom I love to spend time with and haven’t seen in a while. We used to have this weekend ritual together that I looked forward to. Every Saturday we used to start the morning with a dance class, then go to this diner for brunch. We’d share our feelings, laugh and many times cry our eyes out, going through so much tissue paper wiping our tears. But her life has changed. She now has a small kid and has become busy with family plans and even though I know she wants to see me, it doesn’t happen as often anymore. She messaged me telling me that she loves me and that she has seen this beautiful movie with her husband and that I should go see it. Instead of feeling happy that I got this loving text from her, my mind went in to thinking about how these days she spends her entire weekend with her husband and family and makes no mention of seeing me. 

I thought, here I am really looking forward to these encounters. To seeing my sister and to seeing my best friend but their lives are full with their husbands, etc and their priorities are to them. They don’t need me as much as I need them.

So I went from being in peace with my life this past week….Work was good, in appreciation for my medical assistant, my coworkers, my friends who I had spent time with, even how I got to randomly meet someone while on a run and thinking what wonderful surprises you get when you are single….. to waking up with these thoughts, my mind going down the quick sand of “how sad is my life and how un-needed I am to these people I need. And if I wasn’t even here, yes, maybe they would be sad but they’d get over it” 

In the midst of this sad saga, this story of feeling sorry for my self, I thought how can I get myself out of this and went to the only thing that works when I am willing to do it. I remembered the words of my therapist “befriend the loneliness, be with what comes up” so I reached for mindfulness. 

The RAIN practice of emotions – Recognize, Allow, Investigate and Nurture. I listened to Tara Brach’s guided RAIN meditation. Sat with it and just let it all come up. The waves of sadness so strong it feels like it is gonna rip through my heart and would never end. But then the ability to nurture, like a mother that holds an unruly, needy kid with so much love and tenderness. with no judgement. And then slowly and so slowly it is amazing how emotions subtly shift when we don’t resist them. And as I finished this RAIN meditation and started moving about my day, through the ensuing hours, wisdom became so much more clear and accessible. 

I was able to notice all that I love and is here around me. Like this willow tree by my window that dances in the wind and is so soothing to me. or this little kitty that sleeps so cozily and makes me smile or how I love to go run by the trees and feel the air in my hair.

And I was able to have some clearer thoughts. I thought no one can really take the place of someone else.  Yes, my sister has her husband who is her companion but it doesn’t take away from her connection with me. I remember times in my life that I was so busy with what was in front of my face, wether a relationship or new friends and studies in medical school and I had less time for my sister or other friends. Did it mean they were irrelevant? Did it mean that even if I didn’t see them or talk to them for days or even weeks that their presence didn’t warm my heart and give me reassurance? And if any one of them were to “not be here” there would be a giant hole the size of them in my life; their kindness, their wit, their touch… just like after all these years, there is still a hole in my life the size of my dad, even though at times I didn’t spend enough time with him or didn’t even feel fully connected to him while he was alive.

I think no one is immune to loneliness at least at some points in their lives. And when we are going through it, it feels like it will never end. And some of us have come to see  loneliness either as a deficiency on our part or fault of others for abandoning us or fault of universe for forgetting about us. But the truth is that it is just being human, part our need for connection and part our unhelpful and frankly bullshit conditioning depicted perfectly in the famous song by Dean Martin that says “you are no body till somebody loves you” or more like “till somebody shows you they love you the way you think they should” cause they could love you (like my sister and friends do) and your expectations of them makes you think they don’t.

Such is life, my love. This is what I hear from that wiser part of me, the sane part of my mind…. Such is life. And this is a season that has some lonely days in it. And it is ok. And when these self-pitying thoughts pour in your head and deepen the pain of loneliness, just see them, hear them and forgive them again and again, forgive your mind again and again and turn your attention to love, to that ever-present love that is right here, in the dance of the willow tree leaves, the cozy nap of the cat under that patch of sun, the joy of the wind in your hair when you run. Open your arms to all of life.

What to do with all these thoughts?

This morning I woke up with this subtle not so great feeling. Ugh what is the thought. What if I like him more than he likes me? What if I am more attached than he is?…. No in reality, the thought doesn’t even have a maybe in it. It doesn’t come as a question. It comes with certainty; “I like him more than he likes me.” 

So where the fuck is this thought coming from? I really don’t have any objective evidence for it but I know this is how my relationships go down. With this exact, subtle thought. It starts little like this and then festers. If I believe this thought, I subtly pull back. And then of course they react to me pulling back and then I get my self-fulfilling prophecy indeed fulfilled. Then I am sure he likes me less and I pull back more. 

So I do the only thing that I know usually helps me. Write and write. Write all my thoughts. What little word or phrase did I hear that has made my mind go there? When you are a sensitive person with a past that you believe as “failed relationships” and get attracted to unconventional guys who value their independence, it is easy to take little things as evidence for your story. The story I have in my head. I will need him more than he needs me. 

It was helpful to look at the little thoughts that were there as evidence behind this thought and to really ask my self; Is it really true what I am thinking or is it just habitual thinking? Just water down the old river. What is the habitual pattern of thinking for me? I start a relationship and slowly start to have thoughts like these that make me anxious or eat away at my peace and I can’t enjoy getting to know this new person that universe has brought in to my life. 

My habitual pattern is also to get really mad at myself when I have these thoughts. Why they hell do you think this way? Why can’t you not be so sensitive and just not take every little word as meaning something or other. But truth is that getting mad at myself does not help anything. 

So while struggling with all of these thoughts and feelings while trying to go about my day, I stopped and just remembered what I learned in this course I took “mindfulness self compassion” and I also remembered the promise I made myself a few months ago “I will never abandon any part of myself” and here is a part of me that is in pain (meaning anxiety, fear, confusion, etc) and the course said whenever there is pain, there is room for compassion. So I held this part of me that is so scared and confused, telling her she belongs too. It is ok if she is sometimes so sensitive towards every little word and is scared and even wants to pull back. I literally held that part of me like a scared child. It’s ok. You have the right to be here, even thought ultimately you are believing some thoughts that are not valid but still, you are here and if you are here, you deserve to be here. 

I would have never allowed myself to do this before. I used to think that if I am giving room, or saying ok to a part of me that says “I am not liked” or “victim” or “needy” that it will get worse, but what I have realized that it doesn’t. In my case, accepting and loving all of me, even the parts I really wish I didn’t have, actually feels much better ultimately and makes me be able to think more clearly. 

I realized the thought is: what if the kind of closeness I want in my relationship is not what he wants. What if I am fooling myself and making it seem like I want a more distant relationship. The truth is that I don’t exactly know what kind of relationship I want. It’s been so long since I was in a a long term relationship. 

We walk around together talking about how unconventional our lives are and I find myself out of the blue saying “I don’t think there is anything wrong with living in two separate houses and having a relationship like that, some people do it”. Or that “we don’t have to label anything” and I totally and utterly believe it when I say it. 

And then out of the blue I wake up and I also have thoughts like “what if we are dating for months and months and he never introduces me as his girlfriend or what if he wants tons of space to himself, or what if I want to live with him and he doesn’t” Which one of these thoughts are really me? When I am thinking the former thoughts I feel ok about myself. I feel independent and when I think the latter thoughts, I judge myself for being needy.  So realizing this, again, I decide to not judge the thoughts, but see them as my children.………  if you are here, you belong…. It’s ok for me to want more closeness and if he doesn’t, then we want different things and maybe I won’t be with him ….. it’s ok… it’s ok… it’s ok…. It doesn’t make me needy or lesser or not as strong….. it’s ok” 

And that’s exactly what happened. After having this brief moment of accepting all my children; the needy, the scared, the confused, the one in doubt, the one who wants to pull back, the one who may want more closeness than this guy may want, I reached some moments of clarity. 

I realized that the opposite of this could be true as well. In fact I’ve also been there. I could be with a guy,  and he is dropping his life to be with me every moment. He is only wanting to spend his time with me over his other friends. He is telling everyone I am his girlfriend after only some weeks of knowing each other and asking me to do the same. He is planning his entire life around me….. and I can easily imagine the thoughts I would have at that time. Of course I would initially be happy that someone I so admire, is so in to me but I can see that I will probably have thoughts like “do I really want to be with him everyday of the rest of my life? Do I really want to only be with him and have such an exclusive relationship where I am not free to meet and experience conversations and friendships with other men (and I don’t mean sexually but even just friendships) ….. I started to remember my first relationship of almost 10 years and how enmeshed our relationship was….. no room to meet anyone else, no room for new experiences, only me and him all the time and our small circle of friends. I know I don’t like that. I know I’d feel suffocated in that. 

And then the clearest thought hit me. These are all just thoughts. None of it is real. The mind is always looking to improve our situation by pointing out possible “threats”. In the first scenario my mind is trying to look for how I can get hurt, how I can be more attached to him than him to me and can get hurt that way, how my needs may not be met. In the 2nd scenario (remembering my first relationship), the threat is losing my independence, losing my experiences of fun and new, being bored, mundane-ness. 

But what is real? Reality is that at this very moment, I am sitting very comfortably on this seat, typing my thoughts on my laptop, in this adorable, cozy cafe where everywhere I look gives me a good feel, sipping really good coffee in no physical discomfort.  Looking up, there is a few people here in this cafe. There is a plant hanging, a dog curled up comfortably sleeping on the floor, the barista busy pouring coffee, a woman at the bar sipping her coffee. It’s a cold day here and I have my jacket on and feel warm. 

What is really missing? What is the problem? Nothing. 

And what was the problem this morning when I was having all these thoughts. Nothing. I was in the shower, warm water with perfect pressure pouring over my head. Nothing hurting in my body. I had soap, shampoo, everything I needed. And yet, my thoughts about what could be in the future, and what that or this means is exactly what was taking me out of realizing the comfort of the present time and in to discomfort of the unsatisfactory imagined future. 

Really it comes down to this; observe your thoughts, question them, don’t identify with them and in my case, don’t hate on yourself for having the thoughts. As one of my favorite teachers, Byron Katie says “I love what I think, and I’m never tempted to believe it.”

….. and if I can be brave and honor where I am, then also talk to the person I’m in this relationship with, ask him my questions from a place of kindness, and trust what unfolds.

This being me… whoever that is

It was many moons ago but I remember the conversation like it was yesterday. I was on the phone with my sister, asking her what I should text this guy I had gone on a date a few nights prior. I was asking if what I had planned to text him sounded good (I guess a mix of witty, cute, sweet and yet not too sweet, that shows I like him but not too much, etc, etc). This wasn’t unusual in my circle of friends where we’d be hanging out and someone would ask if their planned text message was good enough to send or if they should say something different. On that day though, instead of her usual response, my sister surprised me and asked “Why do you think I would know better than you?” I didn’t think much of what she said at the time and went on with my quest for the perfect text. 

But in the past decade or so, her words have come to me at times and more so recently.

As the etched words of Bob Dylan on my necklace remind me “All I can do is be me, whoever that is” 

All these efforts for self-love over the many years had not really driven this point home as well as recently when I went to a Byron Katie School of work. And while there, sitting with myself, questioning some belief, I started to realize how incredibly relaxing and freeing it is to let myself be. Whatever comes out. 

I recently met a guy I like and as we were texting back and forth, I found myself thinking if the text I had just sent him was good. What if he misunderstands it or thinks I am too much of something or not enough of something else and likes me less. And it hit me, perhaps for the first time that the words that I had just texted, was ALSO me, however perfect or imperfect it may be to him. Obviously when I sent it 30 seconds ago, it seemed good enough to me and yet 30 seconds later I am not so sure. 

The title of Byron Katie’s book “A mind at home with itself” gave me this idea…..  What if, god forbid, I accepted my mind? The crazy, monkey mind that has fear and anxiety- causing thoughts in it…. Of course I don’t like my mind when it gives me self-deprecating or fearful thoughts. And yet, what if I accepted it? I mean, these thoughts are running through my mind anyways and hating on them and trying to ignore them doesn’t work for me (It may work for others but not for me). Resisting them and hating on them doesn’t make them go away. They circle right back again. Yet, questioning their validity with kindness makes them slowly lose their grip on me and evaporate and not circle back as strongly. 

I remember an episode of the TV show “Friends” where Chandler is getting ready to go on a date and the group’s advice to him is “Just be yourself, but not too much yourself”. That’s the kind of advice that can subtly drive me crazy. A part of me thinks I am too much, too open, too nice, too independent, too needy, too naive, too a lot of other things. 

So in this journey of self-acceptance, I have realized that when I am sitting here thinking of the perfect text and writing, deleting it and re-writing it, that I should just send what I am thinking as corny or dorky or whatever as it may sound cause that is ALSO me. Sometimes my words are witty and funny or whatever is acceptable to myself and sometimes they are not and yet it is all a part of me. And someone who wants to be with me, will inevitably see all of it. 

It feels so much more freeing and relaxing since I have adopted this. The minute a self-doubting thought comes to my mind about what I said the night before, I think it was THE ME at that time and it was supposed to be like that.  And if I turned this guy off because he didn’t like what I said or did, then he wasn’t meant to be. I’ll be sad to not see him, but I will get over it. After all, if I don’t like my own company including my own thoughts, how can I expect someone else to like it? 

And I know as clear as I feel about what I am writing here today, that next month, I may totally be driving myself crazy over what I said and how I should have said or done it better. Hopefully if that happens, I can come back and read these words that my sane mind is writing right now and remind myself that it is all ok because all of it is part of me and this being human.