“So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.” – Pema Chödrön
The sky has been emptying itself for so many hours now. Last night I left my window open and lay in bed to listen as torrential rain flooded the earth…unrelenting, powerful. My soul recognized the merciless purge…the pouring out…the expulsion. I, too, have been gutted. The rain has since turned to sleet, but continues to fall from a dreary and desolate above.
Despite the wet and wintery cold outside, a hot loneliness burns in the pit of my stomach today. I woke up both alone and feeling lonely…a decidedly miserable combination. My dreams last night were filled with old loves and old friends and the sense that I was occupying an exceptionally full and joyful and familiar space, though I’m unable to see any of it clearly now. There’s a scene in Titanic – Jack and Rose are holding hands and spinning in a circle…the rest of the room is a blur as they’re only able to focus on each other. It felt like that. In my dream, I went spinning through my life…focusing on certain people or memories…holding hands with my story as we spun and spun and spun through time. The spinning ended; I saw myself come to a stop, barefoot on a dimly-lit dance floor. The room was vast and dark and cold and empty. The joyful giddiness was gone; no one from my memories remained; I was alone.
When I woke up, the hot loneliness was palpable, suffocating. There was no one to pull me into their chest, to kiss the top of my head and hold me tightly in their arms…there was no one to wipe away the tears that began falling to my pillow. There was no one to reassure me that I was okay…that it was a dream…that I am loved. There was no one to call or message. I curled onto my side and into myself…wanting more than anything to send the hot loneliness away.
I don’t feel like a warrior today. I feel like the gray, sorrowful sky. I feel exactly as alone as I am; the vast majority of people I’ve ever known are so far gone now. I feel small and sad and aching.
Having severely strained a muscle in my neck, I also have the added bonus of tremendous physical pain today. Noticing my suffering, a co-worker offered me a prescription pain killer – one of those nifty, highly-addictive, post-serious-surgery pain killers. Silently, I held out my hand to accept it and closed my fist around the little white pill. I walked back to my office as though I were carrying a tiny nuclear bomb.
Pain killers terrify me so I’ve never dabbled…not even when prescribed. It’s too slippery a slope; I’ve heard too many addiction horror stories, and I’ve never actually experienced a kind of pain that can’t be managed with one or two Motrin. Were I less neurotic (or aware?), I would have just popped the damn thing and gone about my day.
But as I stared at the pill on my desk, I realized I wanted to ingest it…and not solely because I needed to address my physical pain. I was also curious. I wanted to see if one little white pill could help me feel numb for awhile. I wanted out of the hot loneliness.
I quickly grabbed my coat and my keys and headed out into the gloomy and depressing freezing rain. I scraped the ice from my car. I drove to Rite Aid. I wandered around aimlessly…I stared at the Motrin and the Aspirin and the Advil. I decided any of those was a better choice…a less jeopardizing and probably more-adequate solution. I got back in my car and drove back to my office. I returned the pill to my co-worker, and because I know I need to tell the truth, I simply said: “I’m too afraid to take this,” set it on her desk, and walked away. Because it’s true. I’m afraid of losing myself. I can’t risk numb anymore.
Days like today are teaching me that this path isn’t about drinking or not drinking or taking pain killers or not taking pain killers or binging on Netflix or not binging on Netflix. This path is about choosing to stay with myself…refusing to abandon my soul…sitting with the hot loneliness instead of running from it.
I’m still sad. I’m still lonely. I’m still aching. But that’s the magic, isn’t it? Whatever the end of that sentence, it’s the I’m still… that’s important.