Week 31: Facing Loneliness

Week 31: Facing Loneliness

(This is Part 2 of a two-part series. See Week 30 for Part 1.)


Was it even real?

In the days that follow my spider encounter, the deep feeling of lonesomeness I felt on the trail arises and awashes me. I have never felt this depth of lonesomeness, and its deadlier counterpart: loneliness. I often feel this during my first days in a strange place when I don't have known people around me, but this time its depth is cutting.

Without trying to sound too woo-woo or victim-blaming, I do believe that people often unconsciously invite real-life situations that mirror their internal states, or facilitate - through external events - bringing something to the surface that's lurking underneath. And it's a good thing, like a blister rising to the surface: we can become aware of and then let go something that is holding us back.

I call a good friend, one who is fluent in seeing life's nuances, and talk to her about what happened: this spider episode that is so removed from reality - and during the eclipse, no less - that it feels like a bad dream. But the parallels between this short incident and my life path are stunning.

Even as a child, I've always felt that I'm alone in facing my obstacles. It's a feeling that's inherent in my person in adulthood - so much a part of me that I don't notice it - and yet it's so hard for me to feel this feeling at its core.

I often am in situations where I need to disregard my impulses, like I did on the trail. And of the ways that this spider episode mirrors my life sits the crown of them all: double binds. 

A double bind is essentially a situation in which there is no optimal course of action; anything one does is suboptimal in some way, or the demands one is faced with cannot be reconciled with each other. In the Olle Trail situation, turning around, freezing, and running ahead were all suboptimal. Of course, being in any tough situation is not optimal, but sometimes there is an obvious choice, and sometimes the demands one is faced with can be ironed out without one subverting the other.

Through my own healing journey, I've come to understand that my life path has a penchant for double binds. My journey so far has been through a minefield of them, and they can have a very isolating effect. There's something about them that I need to learn how to work out, but I'm not sure I understand those lessons yet.

I also tell my friend about my broader situation, the Olle Trail hikes I'm attempting to complete. When I say, "I'm trying to find a new path every day," she hears me talking about the context of my life. I realize that this perspective is equally valid. Perhaps that's even why I'm trying this Olle thing out - because it's a way to project my inner struggles on life. Could it be? Doesn't what's inside of us always come out, in some time and in some way?

Loneliness is at the root of grief, at the root of sadness. I wonder, when I miss someone, if the sadness I feel is because of the lacking space within myself more than it is about genuinely missing the person as they are. What does deeply feeling the absence of another truly mean?

I wonder if I use people to fill my own void but then make it about that other person, as if I'm using them as a band-aid to hide a feeling I don't like to confront within myself.

So many times we've heard that when we love another, it's because we can unconsciously see the reflection of our own beautiful qualities in them. Not in a narcissistic way, no - simply because we can recognize in another what we have ourselves. You know, the 'it takes one to know one' principle. So is it reflections that glimmer when we miss someone, when we feel an absence? Is it us covering a void within ourselves with the plug of another? Is it us ignoring a presence within ourselves and believing it is another that holds the key to our fulfilment...if only they were here?

My own understanding is that when love is completely pure, missing is also completely pure; we can miss someone for who they are without involving ourselves. Without considering our own happiness. But which soul in this world loves with this depth of purity?  So what about a regular person, like me? What about 'common' missing? Are people puzzle pieces that fit together? Or is every person whole within herself? To me, it's both, and the irony of this is that when a person feels complete in herself, relationships become the most fulfilling joy of life. And being at the holy grail of enlightenment isn't necessary: even when a person is on the way there, the burden of unceasingly wanting from another can abate.

Conversely: when someone is looking for personal fulfilment in relationships, there is always a twinge of burden, even though it may be covered when things are going well.

I'm trying to feel the loneliness, now. There is a saying that goes something like, "The time when you feel lonely is the time you most need to be by yourself." I don't completely agree - I think that when one is lonely, it is best to have connection with another in a way that doesn't try to subvert the loneliness. There is no substitute for a well-wisher that sits with you in the presence of difficult feelings, allowing them to express themselves and then pass, and it is very different than feeling them alone.

But there is truth in the idea of needing to feel emotions, instead of run, and I'm trying. It's not easy and I often do distract myself. For some reason, the obstacles these spiders posed on a lone path really pulled it out of me, and my friend was there to talk it through.

I believe the hardest and most resilient thing a person can do is to wait. To wait for difficult situations and emotions to pass, to watch them parade by, especially when they seem to withstand.

Waiting is fluid, dynamic. It doesn't have to mean waiting, transfixed, for morning to come in the middle of a jungle. It could mean pressing through, step by step, not yet seeing a light but knowing it will come. Maybe in the form of a tennis court light appearing through a forest clearing.

Week 32: Couchsurfing

Week 32: Couchsurfing

Week 30: Olle Trails

Week 30: Olle Trails