on turning loneliness into love

I'm a big fan of emotions. All of them, as long as they're strong ones. Palpable on the fingertips and sour or sweet on the tongue. I love the way joy can spread fast through your ribs, your arms, exploding out like a patch of vines in your chest. I love the way deep sadness can tangle and dance with passion, when you're moved so fiercely by something - a song, a film, a sunset - that you almost can't tell one feeling from the other. I love noticing anger, and then rising above it. Dipping my toes into lust, longing, desire.

I know it's the job of a Yogi to separate the mind & body from the spirit, to recognize emotions merely as amplified & energized thought patterns -- illusions, so to speak. But my God, I can't get enough of them.  It must be the writer in me.

And it's only because I love emotions so very much that I find myself inspired by the fact that I am remarkably lonely.

I remember being younger, six or seven maybe, and waking every morning to help my dad pour the cream in his coffee.

"Just until you see the clouds," he would say, handing me the jug, and I watched with wide eyes as bursts of white rose and fell, entire galaxies created and destroyed before my eyes.

Since then, we've both grown older, taller, less familiar with each other. My dad left my mom, remarried, and began a new life with a woman whom I've never quite grown fond of. And, as these things tend to go, he's become somewhat of a stranger in the same, pale skin. He only has one photo left from my time as a child, and he keeps it on the top shelf in the spare room. If I look hard at the photo, and then back at my father, I can almost see the shadow of an earlier him. That round-face smile. A cowboy hat. Tossing me over his shoulder and helping me to steal cookies from the kitchen.

Almost.

Last weekend, on Easter, I called my dad at ten, and then again and one, and finally, I heard the phone ring at nine, after the day had slipped back behind the hills. He could tell I was angry, and I tried to explain, "It's just a holiday, and sometimes that makes it harder to be here. Away from family, you know?"

"And you're Miss Needy," he joked, but I felt my cheeks turn pink.

"No, I'm lonely, dammit. I'm so fucking lonely."

He was quiet for a second, and then he cleared his throat and said, "Hold on a second, I have to get a picture of this dog. We're walking down to the store, and wait - hold on - call you back."

And then he was gone.

Loneliness has become a familiar word in my mouth since we moved from California to Texas two years ago. It's something that sits on my chest when I go to sleep, that shakes me awake in the morning, taps on my shoulder again in the evening and tucks me into bed at night. And yet, though incredibly potent, my loneliness does not cause me pain.

Like all the rest of the world, when I observe the surface of my life and trail my fingers across the muddied waters, I can see that I am, in the end, completely alone. I was born alone, and I will die alone. Of course, being so far from any friends and family (1,677 miles, to be exact, but who's counting) amplifies this emotion. But this great challenge of aloneness is as real for you as it is for me.

That's just it, isn't it - skin deep, we're alone. And yet, if we peel back those layers of illusion, the things that aren't really there, the past, the future, and reconnect with Spirit -- whatever that means to you -- we see that we're not alone, not really. We've never been alone. There's a humming center within.

The I Am.

Often, we unknowingly become consumed by what Eckharte Tolle calls the "pain body."

It's the ugly creature that's manifested in the mind after many hours (or days, or years) of negative & destructive thinking (read: worry, fear, mulling, anxiety, regret, etc).

Though we might not realize it, this illusion we've created only feeds on pain -- it cannot survive on joy, love, peace. And so, our mouths suddenly begin to water for suffering. We self-sabotage, we wish pain onto others, we want to ruin our own plans, break our own hearts, become angry at the ones we love and sour our sacred relationships. When we're feeling lonely, we subconsciously do things that will make us feel more alone, like hide away indoors, or recount the miles between us and the one we love over and over and over again.

Instead of giving in to the body of pain that we've spun into existence, I think that we must honor our emotions; our gripping loneliness. For when you become aware of the delicate ways in which these emotions dance around your psyche, you will disconnect from them. Realize that they are separate from You (with a capital Y). Only then can you find joy.

So, I honor my loneliness. I celebrate it, in a way. Love it for all that it is -- be it an illusion woven by my mind, or the curious whispers of my pain body. And rather than caving into my craving for suffering, I choose to starve my pain with joy. Instead of covering my head with the sheets and truly making myself alone, I will pick up the phone myself. Call my father again, and again until he answers. Call my mother. My aunt. My best friend in California. I'll tell them that I'm lonely, that I need their love, their joy. I ask them how they are, ask them to remind me of happy things, to wipe the stains off my heart and show me that the answer has been within all along.

Yes, I am happy to be having this human experience.

To be so damn fragile.

Happy that I have the choice to smile at my emotions, all of them, watch them closely enough that they leap from my heart, and onto the page in ink.