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.

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.