This post came to me the other day riding on an exercise bike. Boring as heck. My mind, as it often does, began to chew on the past. To take a darker road. I became melancholy and angry too. Then I thought of Katniss and the kids, their happy faces wide-eyed with a deep appreciation of life.
Had I lost that? If so, why?
You’ll never completely loose the ability to be happy and filled with the love of life. If you feel that you have lost these things, no matter who the black haired, mustache twirling villain is or may have been, you only have one person to blame for keeping alive the flames of regret, anger and bitterness: yourself.
I smiled at the thought and peddled faster. I cleared my head and tried to solve a physics problem with some mental gymnastics. Poof, the 30 min ride ended and I couldn’t remember how I got so sweaty (ewwww).
Until quite recently I sat high upon my throne of suffering. A place as empty as a desert and as crushing, cold and dark as the depths of an ocean.
Like any barber chair, you can keep ratcheting yourself higher and higher until you see nothing below but an opaque fog. In the mirror your reflection is a person with gaunt eyes filled with defeat. Often you’re so bent upon a cry to the heavens, with a fist to the air, you miss the opportunity to just be.
A state of simply being.
To me that state is found by answering the question: “How do you be alone? Truly alone.” A state of being “alone” doesn’t necessarily mean being by yourself. It is a state of mind no matter who is with us. How many times have you had a hand waved in front of your face – “HELLO! Anybody there?” Unfortunately, more often than not you weren’t alone in your head, quite the opposite.
It’s not OK when our experiences drive us to be isolated and lonely. In fact, when in the throes of self-immolation you isolate those around you and then become truly lonely. This is when bitter grief and anger can grow unchecked. “No one understands me! I don’t need them.” This state is a place that drives us like the crack of a whip, while you pull the oars on only one side of the boat, spinning it in a circle.
I’ve had several “ah-ha” moments recently, and one of them came to me when I thought, “Who is the one person you’ll be with the most, throughout all your days?” Many might come to mind, such as your parents, siblings, spouse, or children.
Nope, lets be a little narcissistic here… yourself.
How much time do you spend between your ears? It can be your WHOLE LIFE! But, that’s the rub. Do you constantly have to be between your ears?
Here are a few examples of my own that suggest the answer is no, absolutely not.
A watched a blizzard for several hours when I was 9, sitting in front of a big bay window. I focused on the swirling white drifts and the blowing snow. Huge gusts of wind bent and shook some Boxelder trees in my front yard, as if they were shivering in the cold. There was the contended purr of my cat Scamp, the warmth of him on my lap. The day careened by and all I remember is snow and purring.
When I first moved to Ames I recall another wonderful blizzard. I sat with a window open, the cold air bracing. I was mesmerized by the snow globe effect of the streetlights. I may have sat there for 20 minutes, or hours, I don’t remember.
Endless hours of physics homework. Lost in the equations and the delicious complexity. Happy when I found the solutions.
In those moments I was alone – truly alone. I was nowhere to be found. I was not there. But I was. A silent observer.
If my mind is tumultuous, I can fall into the seductive lure that I can think my way to some solution, that wallowing somehow helps – that this path will usher in some kind of calm and happiness eventually.
BS – if you attempt to salve your troubled mind in this way all you are doing is recognizing yourself as stuck on that throne of suffering, helplessly looking at yourself in the mirror. This solution to finding peace is like filling a glass with the faucet full blast. All that happens is the water curls up and out and you achieve nothing but frustration.
When the mind is dark and you are on that throne of suffering, think of the difference between intelligence and wisdom. You’re smart enough to know a path leads you nowhere. So seductive, so easy to give in – the apple, the snake, the justifications and desire, the feeling of an external force pushing you down the wrong road. Yet you choose that path. You and you alone.
Be wise enough not to take it.
Give yourself the gift and pleasure of recognizing the solution to the art of being alone is to leave yourself alone.