To the Power of One

“Being alone has a power very few people can handle.” ~ Steven Aitchinson


My peace sanctuary’s remodel is almost complete and I’m so grateful.  By next week, I’ll be getting my things out of storage and moving out of the guest room that, with a bed and television only, has started to feel like a prison cell.  Since I moved to my awesome Ozark hilltop, I’ve had a constant stream of visitors and an art studio filled with potential and in-progress projects to fill my time in between visits.  Until my remodel started, I considered myself living in solitude and I was pretty proud of myself for how well I handled it.  Since starting my remodel and having little to no contact with others for days at a time and no art projects to keep myself busy, I’ve discovered that I actually had no idea what solitude really looked and felt like before now.  And I’m humbled.  I am weepy.  I am sooooo alone.

One of my dear neighbors and friends is a retired professional chef and an artist.  He lives alone in a cabin in the valley below my hilltop and spends most of his time alone; secluded from others with a bed/tv/microwave setup much like the one I’ve been enduring these past several weeks.  Last week, after a full three days with zero human interaction, I texted him and asked “How do you do it?”  A couple evenings later, as we visited while the sun sat behind us, he told me his secret…it never really bothered him.  I have to admit, this secret just made me feel a little worse.  If it never bothered him and he didn’t have to go through some personal growth process to achieve contentment in solitude, then maybe I’m just lacking a gene or the personal strength to endure what he makes look so effortless?  Am I weak?  Am I unable to harness the special power of being alone that very few can handle?  Will I always feel so utterly and desperately alone without the company of others on my hilltop?

As I prepare my things for a trip to Colorado to watch the youngest of my nibblings graduate from high school, I’m full of mixed emotions.  I am looking forward to getting away from my suffocating seclusion and loneliness but I’m also dreading the idea of being away from my hilltop and surrounded by strangers.  What a paradox…what a hapless existence this feels like sometimes.  I want to wallow in my confusion and call my friends to hear their voices and reassurances that I’ll be okay and everything will be better when I get back and have a chance to get moved back in and settled with my paintbrushes and canvases.  I want to laugh with others, talk with others, and make memories with special people, but I don’t want leave home and that, I’m realizing, is just too damn bad.  Because while I’ve found some semblance of peace on my hilltop, the same seclusion that makes me feel peaceful also makes me feel lonely.  And if I’m going to life my life well, I’m thinking I probably need to adjust in two obvious ways: I need to learn how to be alone without being lonely and I need to learn how to be away from my loneliness without feeling overwhelmed.  It sounds simple enough and I’m sure at some point I’ll look back and wonder what the big deal was.  But for now it feels impossible that I’ll ever achieve the balance I need to truly be happy in my own existence – wherever I am and regardless of whom I’m around.

I guess if I had to count even the smallest of victories, I can be proud that I haven’t allowed uncomfortable solitude to lead me into unsuitable companionship just for the sake of not being alone. Maybe that isn’t a small victory…maybe that is actually a huge achievement?  Meh.  I’m not sure.  But one thing I am sure of, as with all the other times in my life when I endured, fretted and eventually survived times that rubbed my soul in all the wrong places, I will grow from this experience in some way and be grateful to have experienced it.  Not yet but someday.  In the meantime, I’m just going to blow up my air mattress again and try to remember that I’m stronger than I give myself credit…and work on harnessing that power that so few others can handle.

I just pictured myself whipping loneliness like Wonder Woman with my lasso of truth.  Maybe I’m onto something here…

Happy Endings

“God is great indeed
If you believe, in the everlife
Yeah we gotta
Make some sense of the piece that’s not defined”
~Kid Rock

Seven years ago my world was rocked so violently that I was completely shattered and I’ve been rebuilding my mind and soul since. For the most part I’m pleased with my new self but I’m still surprised on a daily by discovering things about myself. I think the most accurate way to describe recovering from a complete mental meltdown is to compare it to trading in your old car for a new one. You still know the fundamentals of driving, the rules of the road haven’t changed and for the most part you can navigate without being a great risk to yourself or to others. But at some point you’re going to try to dim your brights and end up squirting wiper fluid; startling yourself and messing up the clarity of things for a little bit. This is what it’s like to rebuild your mind…sometimes you just have to relearn how to do something that, in the past, came naturally and without a lot of conscious thought. The biggest difference is that, unlike a new car, your new mind doesn’t come with an instruction manual. And if you find yourself squirting when you’re trying to dim, you just have to take a minute and figure that shit out before you wreck yourself.

So for the past week I’ve been trying to figure things out. As I started to write tonight, I found myself at a loss for words. Not because I don’t have anything to say…because as my fierce tribe of women would attest, I have plenty to talk about. In fact, I’ve been rambling and discoursing almost nonstop. I’ve dissected, discussed, theorized, deconstructed and analyzed ad nauseam and yet I’ve failed to arrive at any real answer or solution that brings me peace of mind. I still have so many questions, so many points of confusion, so many things I want to know for certain. And finally, after a week of soul wrenching mental gymnastics combined with the strain from my continuing home remodel, I’m simply worn out. I can’t keep asking the same questions. I need rest. I need peace. It is time to acquiesce and accept uncomfortable uncertainty. It’s time to stop trying to figure this one out.

As frustrating as it is for me to accept, my spiritual path has once again led me to a very uncomfortable space. I don’t like uncertainty. I don’t like unanswered questions. I don’t like doubt. Anyone who knows me well knows this. Before I watch a movie, I read the full synopsis on IMDB so that I know the ending. If it’s an unhappy ending, I won’t watch it. Before I read a book, I read the last two or three pages so that I know the ending. If it’s an unhappy ending, I won’t read it. If someone is telling me a story, I refuse to listen until they assure me there isn’t bad news at the end. And while I’ve always seen this a nothing more than a funny little quirk of my new mind and personality, I am starting to recognize that it runs much deeper than that; because it isn’t just movies, books and stories. Over the course of the last week I’ve come to a difficult realization… I cannot find happiness and peace in the present unless I know with certainty that everything in the present is perfectly aligned and on course for a happy ending.

I think it has taken so long to discover the significance of this new aspect of me because this is the first time in many years I considered a happy ending beyond peaceful solitude. And, quite honestly, being too conservative and mindful in my decision making has never really been a problem in my past life of “what the hell” decisions about all things life.

I look back on my 48 years on this planet and I can identify many beautiful moments and life choices that would have never happened if I had required certainty of everything turning out perfectly. I would have never pursued my college degrees. I would have never moved and lived in different states and towns. I would have never auditioned and experienced the exhilaration of singing and performing in a chorus. I wouldn’t have pursued and earned my successful career. I wouldn’t have been able to spend my mom’s last days reconnecting with her. And, most importantly, I would have never been so blessed to become a mother to my own beautiful children. And while I will be the first to admit that many of my past choices were reckless, irresponsible and off the chain, some of my greatest joys, memories and achievements are the direct result of me not thinking too much about how things would work out.

So once again I’m reminded. Happy endings occur every day when you stop to look around and be grateful for everything you have and everything you are at any given moment. Because each moment in itself is all that we have. And as long as you’re focused in the right direction and living your life in a way that is authentic and fully reconciled with your soul, each moment lived well is a happy ending. And as long as you have and recognize these little itty bitty happy endings every chance you get, nothing else is really needed.

I believe.