the intimacy of loneliness & freedom

A friend posted the image below on my personal Facebook page this morning… my friend knows what speaks to me. It made made me pause - the idea of loneliness and freedom being near neighbors – or near enemies – resonates with me.

To draw my line in the sand here, I don’t know what freedom is. I am however intimate with loneliness. My intimacy with loneliness is borne out of the conflagration of nature and nurture churning me out of the crucible of my early childhood experiences and my long continuing journey into adulthood.

But today, right here right now, I am Athena-like spat out of Zeus’s head, memory an odd mistress and self a strange inheritance of time, matter and space. At 45 years old on Sunday 26 February at 11:07am, I feel as though I have always been this person and loneliness my constant companion - my past, memories like smudged impressionist pieces that arise and dissipate like smoke and light, lilies and water - the future abstract art and plaster not yet cast in the mould - and all around the relentless march of time. Yeah, I'm lonely.

But freedom? What’s that? All the great spiritual teachers speak of it, something something something all things are connected yadda yadda yadda attachment is suffering blah blah blah observe your thoughts – do you see freedom in that? I don’t but apparently if you look long enough and sit quietly enough you will find it or it will find you... whatever. Me? I have cursed these enlightened who-might-as-well-be-aliens teachers as I sat on my meditation retreats feeling my insides scraped clean by the sharp knife of insight, wondering what the fuck was I thinking signing up for a endless weeks of silence and pillow clutching with only me, myself, I, shitty food and hard mattresses to contend with.

And worse, loneliness is a complete paradox. I am surrounded by love. I have parents and family and extended family who love me, I have children who love me, I have friends who love me, and I even have clients who love me. More so, I love them. I experience love for so many so how is it I feel loneliness at all, like a pervasive shroud dimming the joys and pleasures of life? How is it in midst of all this abundance do I still feel the creeping shadow of realization at the back of my skull that this is all tenuous, this will all change, this will all go away, nothing is forever. And yet this is the reality of the human condition. Perhaps then loneliness is an invitation to embrace that change is the only constant.

Perhaps the leap from loneliness to freedom is a bridge built with acceptance and surrender – historically two words I have fought against my entire life and two words which when I speak to my clients I often hear the trolling whisper of “hypocrite” in my ear. But then I remind myself, trolls live in a universe where everything is permanent and are entirely resistant to change. My personal hypocrite troll of course hardened in this ossified chamber of my loneliness is the avatar of my suffering. So yes wise teachers of course acceptance is the only path through this maelstrom called life of course surrender is the only option when experiencing wave after wave of experience bearing down on me. But have you met me, have you met my trolls? And so I am lonely. Sometimes through small glimpses freedom appears, cracks as Leonard said to let the light in. These dances of light hover fata morgana like on the horizon of my awareness. But as soon as I am tickled with doubt, they evanesce. I know I do not have faith but that comes from a lifetime of not being a fundamentalist about anything. Ultimately I understand the elegance of the human equation but ugh math!

Today, my heart is still emerging from the prickly thorns of its own lifelong process of flowering. This makes me difficult to know and sometimes difficult to like - such is the shape a life of loneliness can take. I feel it everyday, when I wake up and sit in the quiet of the kitchen, when I reach out to tell a friend I feel scared or sad, when I show up at a party, when I sleep next to my spouse - I feel it when I unmask, I feel it when I reveal, and I feel it most acutely when I express love.

But having tasted an amuse-bouche of freedom I think perhaps freedom is the open window of my heart, the feel of the cool clean air of awareness passing through it, the ever-pervasive cycling force which I breathe in and breath out. It is the feeling of my daughter’s hand on my cheek. It is the smell of smoke and the crackling of the campfire. It is the eagle flying overhead. It is the garden. It is the sunrise. It is the tide. It is the physics of the universe from the colossal expanse of the BOSS great wall to the infinitesimal miasma of leptons; and I know this down to the bone, to the atoms of my body which were formed in a supernova billions of years ago. I am lonely but I am not alone.