Monday, July 20, 2015

Alone

Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.
                                                                                   -Abraham Lincoln


How often do we look for opportunities to be alone unless we are completely overwhelmed? It seems that most of us have a great fear of being alone. We stay in stagnant relationships or we make bad choices in roommates or we emotionally blackmail people or children to stay with us. Being alone is a great fear many of us carry. 

If we look at the word, alone, we can see that in taking it apart in two syllables, it is al” “one. We know that in our heads we are really all one, but feeling our oneness and connection while we are by ourselves is another matter altogether. Many times this comes from the impact on us of imperfect parenting experiences. Many of us had aloof, or distant, or depressed, or sad mothers. Many of us were raised by one parent, or an abusive parent or suffered a great loss of a caretaker or parent at a very tender age. At those moments, we felt separate and lonely. As we grow older then, we consciously and unconsciously remember the pain of being and feeling alone. When we were young, our very existence depended on our caretakers. We remember that feeling intimately. To lose a connection with another individual can feel devastating to us, and we may not know exactly why. At those moments of crucial decisions then we frequently choose ones which keep us with poor relationships rather than brave the new world of being with ourselves alone.

A story comes to mind of my father, and also of my nephew as I write about our experiences with our aloneness. Actually, a great place and time to connect with us intimately is when we are alone. It certainly feels like the opposite. I was having breakfast with my nephew and my sister on our Sunday breakfast, keeping up the tradition began by my father. So he is with us at those moments in spirit while not in fact. My nephew was and looked sad. He was distracted and looked everywhere but at me when I was speaking with him. He had brought a toy with him and chose to play with his toy.  He is ten years old and rather than engage with my sister and me he was focusing on his toy. I tried to engage him in discussion but I was working too hard and gave up and my sister and I spoke with each other. When we were through with our meal and sitting together, I told him directly that he looks sad. That got his attention. He said he is fine. I asked him if the prospect of going back to school the next day had anything to do with his mood. He told me yes, he didnt want to go back to school. I asked him why, and he explained to me how he has trouble understanding and gets bored. This led us to a discussion of what we can do to help him through this. He began to smile a little. The words that came to my mind which I spoke to him were ones which I was also telling myself. I told him that when we most need people to help us, in our selfishness, we actually disconnect from the very people who can help us. We make ourselves alone; separate, when we dont have to be. 

How often do we do that? If we honestly look at ourselves, we see that we all at times cut off from others when we most need them. We are unconsciously recreating an early situation in our lives when we were cut off, and we keep repeating that pattern. Silly of us and yet also true. 

With my father, we would meet with him at least once a week on Sundays, especially after my mother died. We kept the Sunday breakfasts alive. Through those times, I saw intimately how lost and alone he was after the death of his wife. The truth is that he was alone most of the time, even before her death. He kept himself separate from the woman he loved the most, and then he felt lost and lonely without her. He was often angry with her and spent the majority of his days at work  through almost of their years together. She kept the household going and he was free to concentrate on his work. He would work at least 12 hours a day, was available by phone to his patients at all times of the day and night, and continued in this vein into his 80s when he couldnt sustain that anymore. Suddenly now when he came home from work, he was alone, no one was there but him. 

He became like a lost little boy. When she was by his side, he seemed like the strong and independent one. Upon her death, it was clear to all of us how lost, alone, and weak he was and had been. He had hidden this part of him and showed it only to his wife. We used to wonder why she most often didnt want to go anywhere without him, or leave him even for an overnight. We, my siblings and I, thought it was her weakness. Now we can see she was taking care of him. He couldnt be alone, and yet he felt so alone. 

In his early life, as I have written about previously, his mother became ill just after his birth and she was often sick in his early years. His father was jealous of him, and was never close to his son. Dad lived in a perpetual state of feeling separate and alone and not good enough. Those early years haunted him his whole life. Even though he dealt with these issues with his patients, in his Mr. Magoo ways, he carried this blind spot within himself.

The more we can look at and feel the effects of our early experiences and accept them and heal from them, the less we feel separate, and the more we can feel our all oneness in life. Being alone can be a very liberating experience. We, in fact, are all alone, and through our full selves lays the path to our growth, health, and vitality. As we can stop repeating those early patterns, we also stop them from repeating for our children. 


Recommended Resources:

There is a book my father wrote called: Mr. Magoo is My Role Model. If you can find it, I recommend reading it. It has some pearls of wisdom he gleaned from his years of life, and also it speaks to our blind spots. He identified with Mr. Magoo, which says a lot. His identity was bound up in his blindnesss. When we do that, it is impossible for us to see those aspects of us which we most need to see for our growth. 


Now take a minute and think about how you feel when you are alone. How is it for you? Do you look for opportunities to not be alone? When you are, what comes up for you? What feelings do you begin to feel which you might want to run from? If you can, write down your findings and have them next to your bed where you can read them upon rising, or before going to bed. If you feel like sharing your experiences, I would love to hear from you.