Yep, I’m feeling kind of blue. Not bright, azure sky blue, something darker, not quite indigo but close. And while a part of me wants and is trying to resist it, my deeper wisdom thankfully has the upper hand, keeping me with it, reassuring me that everything is okay and reminding me to let things be. I’m even trying to release that ever-present determination to get to the root of it, to understand it, to pro-pro-process it all.
He opens himself to all influences — everything nourishes him.
Everything is gravy to him, including what he does not understand —
particularly what he does not understand.
Thanks, Henry! Enough! There’s nothing ‘to do’ about it – just feel it, and trust, as Bear just recently wrote on the blog, that the tide goes out and the tide comes back in … and so it shall be – it always has and it always will and there’s absolutely nothing I need to do to interfere with the process.
No matter what you’re feeling,
the only way to get a difficult feeling
to go away is simply to love yourself for it.
If you think you’re stupid,
then love yourself for feeling that way.
It’s a paradox, but it works.
To heal, you must be the first one
to shine the light of compassion on any areas
within you that you feel are unacceptable.
Stupid? No, I don’t feel stupid. But I do recognize that compassion is the answer, no matter what it is that I feel. And right now it’s a deep sense of loneliness, of longing for contact and connection with the known and the familiar, not surprising feelings to come up as I move into my 5th month out here. No, not surprising, but hard nonetheless.
This body that we have, this very body that’s sitting here right now in this room,
this very body that perhaps aches, and this mind that we have at this very moment,
are exactly what we need to be fully human, fully awake, and fully alive.
Furthermore, the emotions that we have right now, the negativity and the positivity,
are what we actually need. It is just as if we looked around to find out what would be
the greatest wealth that we could possibly possess in order to lead to a decent,
good, completely fulfilling, energetic, inspired life, and found it right here.
With Bear’s metaphor, I’m reminded of when I was further south on the Mekong Delta, in Vietnam. As I sat there on my porch watching the tidal effects on the river, I was struck by the morning river current traveling in one direction and then watched as the afternoon brought it in the exact opposite direction. I’ve never seen tidal influence like that on a river before. It captivated me, this simple process. I sat there watching the riverbank for hours, watching it fill up and then recede and reveal the sandy shores over and over. There was something calming, reassuring somehow, about this simple cycle, this coming and going – like the sunrise and sunset; like the phases of the moon; like the sun shining, then the clouds coming to cover it up, the rain appearing and then the sun returning once more; like the buds popping out in springtime after a long, dark winter and turning into the full blossoms of summer, only to die off as autumn comes. These natural cycles of life, these comings and goings, these births, these deaths – all a necessary and vital part of what simply is so. As I witness nature in these processes, they also overwhelm me, not only with their teaching, but with their utter and complete beauty.
I think it pisses God off if you walk by the color purple
in a field somewhere and don’t notice it.
People think pleasing God is all God cares about.
But any fool living in the world
can see it always trying to please us back.
And that beauty is not only in the wide-open blossoms or in the bright sunshine. It’s also, as we know in Hawaii, in the pouring down rain that gives rise to the abundant growth (“No Rain, No Rainbows!”). It’s in the new moon as well as the full, in the vibrant leaves of fall as the trees go into hibernation. Although we can count on regularity in some of these natural cycles, some of them are not predictable at all, just as they are within us. The lava flows with ferocity toward the ocean and then for no apparent reason, completely stops. I’m riding a wave of delight, excitement and easy flow and then suddenly, it crashes, pushing me down into empty darkness.
It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view,
and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words:
“And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride!
How consoling in the depths of affliction!
I feel pregnant with tears right now, and I am laboring to bring them to life. I haven’t had a good cathartic cry in too long. They came yesterday, suddenly and unexpectedly, as I was walking through the town here of Nong Khai. I held them back, though, could feel myself tightening around their release as I didn’t quite feel comfortable walking around crying. But tomorrow I will take a bike ride through the countryside and that may be the perfect time for them to wash over me and for me to release them to the winds.
I like the snot to run a little, the tears to accumulate
a bit before I reach for the handkerchief.
Then I know I’m really crying.
Crying just isn’t crying unless it’s messy.
Well, maybe I do know a little bit about them. I know that loneliness has hit me hard in these last few days. I know that I miss intimate contact with the people in my life that I love and who love me. There’s a sense of invisibility when days and days go by and I don’t have any appreciable contact with anyone. While I’ve been so grateful for and have reveled in the sparks of connection that have ignited with people who’ve shared parts of my journey; I feel myself longing for the comfort and familiarity of the loving friendships in my life which give me such a sense of meaning and belonging in the world.
“If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?”
If I move through the world feeling as if no one sees me, am I still here? Do I still exist?
Yes, I know the existential answers, that of course I do and of course I don’t. Like everyone, I’m eternally connected to everything else and all is one; yeah, I get that. And I also get that “I” is an illusion, “I” don’t exist separate and apart from anything/anyone else. But existentialism/spirit aside (and yes, I know it can’t be put aside, but indulge me for just a bit here!), we’re social creatures, us humans. Since forever, we create and rely intensely on community to give meaning to our lives. I’m not talking about completely defining ourselves externally – we all know the dangers of that. But we also know what it feels like to be deeply connected to each other. We know the pleasure that comes from union with the beloved and how it is a path to connection with the Divine. We know the joy that comes from simply looking into a loved one’s eyes, feeling their touch, and wordlessly knowing and being known. It’s about the shared experience of life together that has brought us to this moment of who we are, no matter the nature of or how we define our relationships. And it’s about the cumulative nature of that, what happens over the course of our shared histories, experiences and lives – witnessing, growing, learning and loving together through the course of life’s unfolding. For me, there’s no equal to that experience; nothing feeds, enriches and grounds me like that kind of love. So while I know and trust that those connections are still very much alive even as far apart as we are, I find myself longing to engage and feed those relationships more directly than this distance allows. I long for the comfort of those anam caras, spread as they are across the country, for the reflections and support and encouragement we give to one another. After all, love truly is everything. And love works really, really well when there’s someone around to share it with!
And while I love this journey in so many ways – I love the spirit of adventure and passion and freedom that lives within me and comes alive so vibrantly in me when I’m out here. I love learning and being challenged and stretched in new ways by other cultures and people and ways of being in the world that are so foreign from my own lived experience. I love that I can and do open my heart to new people and experiences and feel safe and welcomed most everywhere I go. I love that I have the courage and tenacity and yes, Mary, the sticktoitiveness that won’t quit. Yes, I love that. But I’m finding that going it alone out here doesn’t sustain me the way that other kind love I’m talking about does, the kind I’m longing for and missing so much. And that’s a really, really good thing to be learning about.
Because in that longing, that aching, I come to appreciate that love even more! The loneliness then, gives rise to deep gratitude and then, deep joy, too, for the fact of all that love in my life. It’s true, it’s true, I get to be thankful for the loneliness that opens me to all the other feelings. And I’m reminded that if I resist feeling it, I also lose out on all those other feelings!
While it’s not quite like being in real time together, the recent contact I’ve had with my sister and with friends – Mary, Flea, James, Bear, Hutt, Amy, Richard, Daron (and others with whom I haven’t been in touch recently but who still live so deeply in me) – has remarkably and profoundly held me out here. Sometimes with just a word, I am brought to tears, to a sense of connection I felt I had misplaced in my loneliness. And with that, I’m reminded of what I hold most dear in this world.
In the depths of winter, I finally learned that within me there lay an invincible summer.
Interesting. Just in the course of this writing, some of the darkness lifts and softens. Ohyes, the tears are still there, demanding their expression. And they will get it. But now it seems, they’re not only giving life to my sadness, but to the joy I feel, too. I’m reminded what love means to me, what life means to me and how precious all, all, all of it is! Does this sound schmaltzy? Am I starting to sound too Hallmark-ey? Forget I asked that. I don’t care how it sounds. I know how it feels and that’s far, far away from schmaltzy. And it’s nothing you can buy in the card department at Long’s Drugstore.
And now, simply because this is part of how I move through the world, I’ve got to insert some humor in here because even as I cry, I laugh. And even as I sit here alone, I feel you all out there, right here with me laughing as you read these next lines! (I’m still giggling as I re-read them!)
Arnold Bennett visited Irish playwright George Bernard Shaw
in his apartment and, knowing his host’s love of flowers,
was surprised that there was not a single vase of flowers to be seen.
He remarked on their absence to Shaw:
“But I thought you were so fond of flowers.”
“I am,” said Shaw, “and I’m very fond of children, too,
but I don’t chop their heads off and stand them in pots about the house.”
The Little, Brown Book of Anecdotes
Last night I was sitting out on my balcony, reading and writing. It was late, close to midnight and quiet and calm all around me. Nong Khai is a sleepy village and it goes to bed early. The Mut Mee Guest House is no exception – while there are people around, I don’t quite seem able to make much contact with them, so I spend a lot of time here on my balcony or walking the town alone. I don’t know why there’s such difficulty in making contact. I smile at most everyone and most don’t smile back in return, they don’t even make eye contact to receive my smile. I even say “hello, good morning” and still, some don’t even respond to that. I don’t get it. I’m trying, hard, both not to take it personally and not to criticize or judge them for what seems like unfriendliness, but what I know I can’t begin to understand. And I try not to let it keep me from continuing to reach out and be open. But I digress.
Back to my balcony. There I was, sitting quietly, enjoying myself when I saw the shadow of someone in my room. Yes, in my room! Someone had come up the stairs and let themselves in without knocking or anything! (I had the door open, but the screen door was closed <my mother would not have approved!>). And there she stood, one of the local ‘lady boys’ smiling pretty at me and asking me if I’d like to “spend some time” (and money, no doubt)! As I had been sitting only in my sarong which was falling down a bit, I quickly untied it so I could retie and pull it up and around me, she looked at me expectantly as if perhaps I was all ready and about to undress! Sorry, darlin’, no such luck for you tonight – I quickly and as politely as I could walked her to the door and said goodbye! Offer # 3 has come my way and still I’ve turned it down! I guess I’m not all that lonely after all!
Today I told the American guy working here at the guest house about her. He apologized, said she’s been hanging around a lot lately and that she even crawled in another guest’s window one night! He then felt the need to explain to me that she wasn’t really a woman, didn’t I know. I resisted the urge to get into ‘that’ discussion, but told him that I would at least and certainly respect her with the pronoun of her choice. He just raised his Arkansan eyebrows and smiled. Perhaps she should find her way to his room and teach him a thing or two!
Soon after I got her to leave, I was greeted by yet another visitor – this time it was a pussy of the 4-legged variety. A black and white one, no less. Pono immediately came to mind, naturally, along with my sorrow at his disappearance. But I greeted this pussy more warmly, petting her as she squirmed her way over to me and rolled on her back. She was about the best company I had for the evening!
As to the Seven Deadly Sins,
I deplore Pride, Wrath, Lust, Envy, and Greed.
Gluttony and Sloth I pretty much plan my day around.
Oh, and here’s the final laugh for the night. As I was back there on the balcony, simultaneously still enjoying and still in my loneliness, I thought it might be fun to watch a movie. As it happens, I couldn’t think of a particular movie to search for, so I googled Glee and thought I’d watch an episode or two. I picked one randomly and it came on, with a young woman singing “All By Myself”!
♫All by myself, don’t wanna be, all by myself!♫
Not one of my favorite songs, ever, but there was nothing to do at that point but laugh! Does the Universe have a twisted sense of humor or what?!
So there it all is … laughter and sadness, loneliness and connection, far away from everyone who matters to me and knowing that ultimately nothing separates us.
I’m off to sleep, wondering who my guests this evening might be!