January 08, 2008

Thoughts on Loneliness

I find myself lonely tonight, as I occasionally do. It makes me wonder now – what am I really running from?

I have the habit of over-scheduling my time. I make commitments. I take jobs, sign up for classes, schedule meetings, join clubs, find extracurricular activities, try to save the world one line at a time in my appointment book. What time is left I fill with homework. I leave myself and hour or two ever day or so for errands or television shows or a magazine I want to read, but rarely more than that. I have always thought this was to keep myself busy. I have a strong lazy streak and left to my own devices can spend an entire day reading a book and eating junk food, as I’ve done more than once these past few weeks.

Now that is passed. It seems I have gotten lazy out of my system. Now I am ready to be busy again and have set to work rearranging my apartment, cleaning, brushing off my resume, writing articles and papers. But I still have nowhere to go, no one to see, and I find myself very much alone. And I wonder. Am I really running from laziness – or loneliness?

It’s this slightly sad, slightly frustrated, not quite right bit of heartache deep down inside. A hollow echo of a feeling which I am sometimes not even sure is there. It strikes me, even as I chastise myself for being lazy, I’m generally still happy. I nag myself while wearing a naughty girl grin and curling up with a mug of hot chocolate on the couch. But then the sun goes down and I start to get a little bit restless. Especially on nights like this, with nothing really pressing to ready for tomorrow. Then I realize, I’m not happy anymore.

I know exactly what it is, of course. I haven’t been reading that shelf full of Dharma books for these past few years for nothing. It’s want. I want something – something other than what I have at this very moment – another person. Someone to confirm my existence, to feed my pesky ego, to tell me I’m actually here and I’m smart and funny and pretty, in that order. That’s what lonely is.

To make matters worse, knowing all that doesn’t seem to make matters better. It was easier when I didn’t know myself quite so well. When I could brush it off and tell myself I’m just bored and horny. Even in my more honest moments when I might admit that I, my proud, strong, independent self, am actually lonely, that was still okay. The problem was simple. The answer was simple. Get out there, find someone. Schedule more meetings and dinners and etcetera until I actually meet someone. (Not that that has proven a worthwhile strategy thus far, mind you.)

Ah, but now! Now I know that happiness is not to be found in another person. Now I know that my suffering is not caused by anyone else or lack thereof. So what’s left but to laugh at this rotten predicament I’ve found myself in? To curl up on that couch with that hot chocolate and watch some appropriately sappy romantic movie.

Standing still doesn’t make that heart hurt less.


Sit still, like meditation, but with intention. Deep breath. Say it out loud, to the empty air.

I am grateful for this life.

I am grateful for this house.

I am grateful for this cat.

I am grateful for these clothes.

I am grateful for these people driving by, though I do not know them.

I am grateful for this city and its sparkling lights.

I am grateful for these paintings, so different and yet which go together so well.

I am grateful for my family.

I am grateful for the Dharma.

I am grateful for the Buddha, who spoke it.

I am grateful for the Sangha, who remembered that I might know it.

I am grateful for my couch.

I am grateful for my computer, which gives me purpose and lets me work.

I am grateful for the internet, which lets me share.

I am grateful for this cat, who is noisy and loving and soft.

Laughing is an easy thing.

I am grateful for this loneliness.

Harder now.

I am grateful for this sadness.

Hurting now.

I am grateful for this sadness, for it lets me learn compassion.

I am grateful for compassion.

I am grateful for compassion, for it gives me the motivation to help others.

Breath a little.

I am grateful for this loneliness.

I am grateful for this sadness.

I am grateful for this cat, who attacks my foot for no apparent reason and tickles me and makes me laugh instead of cry.

Yet, still, that heart sunk feeling.

I am grateful for this sadness, for it gives me compassion.

I am grateful for compassion, that I might know the suffering of others.

I am grateful to know the suffering of others, for it gives me hope.

The heart lifts a little.

I am grateful for this loneliness.

I am grateful for this sadness.

And life goes on.


greenfrog said...

Perhaps you perceive the intention of a bodhisattva to be of benefit to all beings, starting with one?

TK said...

Alright, dammit, we are here to confirm your existence. You are smart, funny and pretty. There, do you feel better now? You probably need a handsome young man to tell you that, but, thanks to the Internet, you can imagine one. :-)

Seriously, you remind me of myself in my 20s, endlessly commuting between boredom and restlessness. These are all chemical delusions within our three pound universe that can be temporarilly fixed with a "pill" - oxycodone, validation, companionship etc - or permanently fixed with "right effort". I have not arrived at that permanent equanimity ("only youself as the refuge with no external dependence...") yet, but I have a faith that I'll get there. Meanwhile, the best I can tell you is to keep practicing letting go. It's not terribly hard once you recognize your additions.

Monica said...

Thanks, boys! You're both Johnny Depp to me!

greenfrog said...

You've seen Sweeney Todd, right? ;-)

Monica said...

Nope. I like Johnny, but Tim Burtin is another matter. I hear it's good though.

Danny Fisher said...

This is a very affecting post. Thank you for sharing so much of yourself.

Raymond said...

That is exactly how I feel from day to day. Though I'm not buddhist, your words have made me feel much better knowing I'm not the only one feeling this way. I always knew I wasn't the only person but it's nice to hear someone else open up. Thank you :)

Ben Payne said...

I just randomly happened across this post. It's beautiful and so well put. Thank you :-)