I started today sitting on my front porch reading, writing and reflecting. Just trying to start the day in a good frame of mind. Always, there is this question - what will this day bring? And in retirement, I often do not have a clue - what I am going to do and what events will occur. As is often the case, my first thought was - I hope I don't waste time and over eat.
As I started to write I got in touch with an inner loneliness that I try to avoid. In this case I started wishing I had someone to play raquetball with or go to a comedy club. But it is more than that. Now, I have a lot of friends. Yesterday, for example I went to book club with women I have been sharing books with for over a dozen years and I had lunch with two "Wellstream" friends. And then there are all of the relationships from churches over the years. And my oldest and longest friendship with Susan in Arizona.
And having acknowledged all that, there is still a place of inner loneliness within me. Which I don't like to admit to myself and certainly not in a blog because it makes me seem like a loser or a whiner. But really, I suspect that loneliness is pretty universal if we are honest with ourselves. I have been slowly reading through When Things Fall Apart by Pema Chodron and as luck (actually God) would have it, the next chapter was called "Six Kinds of Loneliness."
She writes about hot loneliness and cool loneliness. When we have hot loneliness, we have a desire for resolution. That is what keeps us covering up the pain - and some of my ways are with phone calls, tv, computer games and of course - food.
She writes about having less desire: "the willingness to be lonely without resolution when everything in us yearns for something to cheer us up and change our mood." She quotes the Zen master Katagiri Roshu who said "One can be lonely and not be tossed away by it." Contentment as she describes it is being able to settle down with cool loneliness. I guess it is a question of just acceptance of what is. We don't have to get busy to avoid the pain but just know that is part of this whole business of being a human being.
What was interesting this morning on the front porch was that once again I had a familiar insight as I observe the "lessons" of nature. I watch the trees go light and dark as clouds cover and uncover the sun, I hear the sounds of cicadas that increase and decrease in sound from forte to pianissimo and I watch the birds and the squirrels go back and forth from roof to flower to ground and back again. The wind is still for a moment and then the slight movement of leaves fluttering and then still again. Always there is movement of light and dark, back and forth, as I sit there breathing in and out with Ginger watching attentively one moment and distracted another.
And I realize that my moods are similarly fluid as I might move from anxiety to peace, from shame to gratitude, from despair to awe. The feelings of loneliness come and go as well. I don't have to run away from it, but just wait in it and notice the movement.
And trust in God's work always in the midst of it all. I will end with a quote from Pema Chodren
"When you wake up in the morning and out of nowhere comes the heartache of alienation and loneliness, could you use that as a golden opportunity?
Rather than persecuting yourself or feeling that something terribly wrong is happening, right there in the moment of sadness and longing, could you relax and touch the limitless space of the human hearts?
The next time you get a change, experiment with this."