Sunday, July 23, 2017

The feelings of loneliness

I feel lonely today.  I live an odd life.  I don't have an office I go to regularly, and most of the work I do is temporary, and often out of State.  I spend many weeks not talking once to anyone I know.  Both of my kids are growing up, and going out into the world, as they should.  I think overly clingy parents make the process of separation, which we have made a necessity in this culture, much harder.  And I do wonder if "safe spaces" on college campuses are not an outcome of the effort to recreate in the world the feeling of being in an overly protective home.

Be that as it may, I decided to just let that feeling be.  Most of the time, when we feel bad feelings we fight them.  We dread them. I dread them, certainly.

But I thought: I'm not going to pull or push.

And here is what hit me: all of us have many feelings and sensations and images floating through us all the time.  When we focus on one, it drowns out the others.  If I say "I feel lonely" and focus on the loneliness without letting it in--if I just watch it through my window, if I keep it at a distance--then it takes on a fixed, homogeneous quality.  If I do this often enough, it becomes a programmed reaction, like that Matchbox 20 song where they sing "Baby, it's 2am, I must be lonely."  You stop actually going to the trouble of feeling what you are actually feeling.  There are many shades of all emotions, and all of them are nearly always mixed with other things.

And in the same sense that one bright light in semi-darkness can make everything else invisible, the focus on one feeling can destroy knowledge of everything else going on.  For example, I was really enjoying the sun today, the feeling of the grass, the quality of the air.  These are positive sensations.

And sometimes I feel happy even when I have no "reason" to feel happy.  Nothing "good" is happening.  I am alone, like always.  I'm not drunk and and not contemplating getting drunk.

But here, too, is something: what if a feeling of being perfectly happy being alone is trying to find its way through this dense fog?  What if--and I do believe this is true--that even though we are evolutionarily social animals, we can find ourselves blissfully content all by ourselves?  What if you can learn to be happy by yourself, and also happy with other people?  These are not states you think your way into.  They are not something you get to by rationalizing, by allowing one part of yourself to create lies, for the consumption of some other part of yourself.

Imagine all the frequencies of light shining on us all the time.  So often we focus on only one small part of this light.  We shrink to avoid pain, then make it permanent.

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