I often ask myself "What is the lesson" when I'm in a place that feels challenging. I ask that because I don't want to have gone through something that is difficult without emerging with something that made it worthwhile to wander around in the muck like that. I used to kind of kick my feet and wish I didn't have to go through these things, I used to whine and wonder why me? I remember clearly a time when I thought it wasn't fair that it was so easy for everyone else and so hard for me. I remember thinking that it would be better if I'd had an easier childhood, if someone just loved me the way I needed to be loved, I'd feel whole and therefore I'd be able to be ME!
But what I've come to realize over the last ten years, and in the last three especially, is that I don't think that's what its about. Looking for a place to blame, looking for a place to say, well, I would realize my potential if only... or its not fair that this other person gets to have a lucky break when all I get is hard times... all that does is screw you down tighter into that place.
And when you are screwed down tight like that, there's no wiggle room. A deep breath doesn't lift you off the screw, you can't ever move forward because you are trapped by your desire not to be where you are right now.
Something profound changed for me when I realized that, as Amy says, "You are right where you need to be to learn the lesson that you need to learn. And where you need to be is not always comfortable or pleasant." So now, when I feel that uncomfortable place, the first thing I've learned to think is, "What am I supposed to be learning right now?" This does a couple of things, but the most important one, I think, is that it gives me space between my fear about what feels uncomfortable, different, or painful, and the actual event. It gives me a moment to let go of being pulled around by emotional fish hooks, and look at the moment with curiosity.
Like smoothing the wrinkles out of a sheet with your hand, there is some clarity there.
I'm thinking about this a lot right now, because one of the biggest issues that I've worked on over the years, is fear of being alone. And I've been writing about this quite a bit in the last few weeks, because for only the second time in my life, and for the first time in thirteen years, I live by myself. This will end in about two days when my room mates move in, and I'm almost sad about it.
Living alone has been wonderful, and scary. The loss I feel of my kids is tremendous. I look at their photos, I feel Bodhi's pain from so far away, I know he's struggling and sad, today he told my mom "I miss my mommy. I want her here. I want to talk to her." and today he told me that when he sees me we are going to roll on the floor hugging for hours.
Missing Mike is hard, too, our connection is strong and deep, and we've worked hard to nurture it. Now that his trip down here is over, there is a huge hole where he was. Who knows how long it will be till I see him again, and it may be even longer till I see his kids.
I know that there are worse, harder, more difficult things to survive than being alone, and I've survived some of them in my life. But its interesting to me that the deep hole that challenges me the most is this one. If I'm alone, am I loved? If I'm alone, am I enough for me? Can I make good food, just for me? Can I write, can I pay my bills, can I live my life because I need to, I want to, and not because someone else is watching me do it and saying, "well done" or "you could have done that better" or "you need to do this now."
Its embarrassing to admit in public that this has been a big struggle for me. But I know I'm not alone here. I think being alone in our skin is one of the biggest challenges that many of us face. We can walk around in the world and feel connected, but when we are in our own skin, with nothing distracting us, we sit with the truth of who we are, what our motivations are, and our choices are very clear. With out the anesthetist of television and internet, the volume is turned up on those things.
Sitting by myself in my house, with no television, no internet, there are no distractions from that pain that comes with feeling acutely alone. The loss of those kids, even for these two months, is like the loss of a limb. But while its hard for all of us, I think that it has been a tremendous opportunity for me to learn to become more whole. I am okay being alone. I didn't die. I can get out of the bed, and make myself good food. In other words, I have discovered that I am enough for me. While its very easy for me to get up and make a fun and fantastic breakfast for the kids, I was worried that I wouldn't be motivated to take care of myself the way that I take care of them.
But that hasn't been the case. I'm doing ok. There are nights when I have curled up and let the longing for them wash through me like a burning river. I don't really know what to do in those instances. I see Bodhi's beautiful face, I feel Ethan's gentle breath, I see them laying in their beds, finally asleep, and I long for them in a way that feels acutely painful. All I've learned to do in that case is to let that feeling move through me, to be grateful for the bond that we have, to know that it hurts this much because I love them this much, and to be grateful for the opportunity to know I am strong enough to survive separation like this.
And soon, very soon, we won't have to feel this way anymore. And the result of being alone, being apart, will be that the mom that they come back to is even healthier, stronger and more sure of herself. So it hurts to learn to be okay with being alone, it hurts to let go of my fear of being alone and kind of embrace it. But every time I let go a little more, I feel more capacity for love, I feel more grounded, I know I can accomplish more, with less judgment and more compassion.