There is certain artistry to being alone. Into the delicate sunset tonight I gazed, quiet, in absolute admiration for the dusk of another day. Fuchsia, pink and orange painted the gray clouds on the horizon, melting together in a neopolitan array of pigments reserved only for a most brilliant farewell to the sun. Happy little birds in a nest above my doorway chirped as they waited for their mama to bring another unfortunate grasshopper for the evening’s tenth meal. My two lazy cats meowed at the door, wanting another scoop of food from the bucket in the laundry room – I called them to me and enjoyed furry company on either side of my perch on the cement pathway. No children bellowed from within our home. No phone calls came down the wire. Alone, with just my thoughts and the serenity of nature…
It occurred to me I do not do this enough. Surrender to solitude takes courage, because once the mind is centered fully within one’s thoughts, nobody and nothing else can be to blame for what occurs next. What happens is the decision to either race with agenda; the house needs cleaning… bills – overdue? … I miss John… I need to find a job… Or to quiet the mind, internalize nothing but the present moment, and fully succumb to the notion that it is okay, no, it is beautiful to be responsible for nobody, and nothing else, but yourself and the minutes as they swiftly pass.
This practice for some is literally a meditation. A focused, named thing someone does to let go of everything but what, for them (it could be anything), matters most.
For me, I label it solitude.
The issue is, although I am independent and prefer to do things, most of the time, with no agenda, no schedule, and nobody to answer to, the mere idea of being alone turns my stomach. I enjoy companionship, I enjoy conversation… I prefer the distraction of music, and although for the warmth and pure joy I find in melodies and lyrics, music is the greatest distraction for me – from my thoughts.
You see, because it takes focused determination NOT to get caught up in the agenda of life. The fickle emotion of missing someone you love, and weighing that heartache against everything else one could be doing. The stress of a dwindling bank account. The constant work of picking up after little ones as the sole caretaker and proprietor of a dwelling. The search for employment, and everything else tied into what happens if one is not landed soon… Then, more than these more obvious thoughts come the private ones, the things I ask myself that lead into why everything else just mentioned is the way it is: Am I good enough, smart enough, pretty enough… Am I worth the life I seek, because if I am, why haven’t I got it yet?
Silence screams at me everything I fail to achieve, fulfill, and pray about in the narrowest parts of my being – so, to do it forcefully – to be alone of my own free will, choosing this moment to spend my time with myself and nobody more, well, for me, it takes strength.
As I sat there, staring up at the fading sunlight into the darkening skyline, I reminded myself to breathe. Simply. Breathe.
Slowly easing into the comfort of no agenda.
Reminding myself it is okay to be alone, and I can make this time useful, worthwhile – not fear it, and not bind myself to the rigid notion I have grasped tightly for years that I have to worry, or else, nothing changes.
What a strange realization, then, to witness in myself what happens when I continuously remind myself to let it go. Let go of the control, the need to know everything, the need to understand others and be understood, and plan and plot every single avenue on the bend of tomorrow – to let that go, really surrender to nothing else but the present moment – it was hard, at first, but the more I focused on my breathing, and reminded myself it was okay, the quieter the voices became.
The ones that remind me of the circumstances of my life, and my insecurities. The ones that linger more often and louder than I can say. The doubt. The frustration. The unanswered and often unanswerable questions.
With each breathe, focusing on that sunset, the purpose of the moment faded to nothing more than simply being there.
As if I found a place where God dwells, in the peace of absolute surrender, I long even now as I write this to return there. But more than that, to take with me into each coming moment the knowledge that life does not have to be so loud, and I do not have to know everything right now. It is okay for things not to make sense, and it is okay to trust in something bigger than myself – knowing, believing, that I do not have all the answers.
What a surrender to freedom, really, because how much of a burden do we place on ourselves to get everything right?
I am allowed to be a flawed, emotional, sensitive woman – it does not serve me to compare myself to other women more put together, more beautiful, more at ease in their skin. I am allowed to raise my children how I see fit – it does not serve me to compare myself to mothers whom have the most well-behaved, best dressed children in church. I am allowed to make mistakes, and to fall hard if that teaches me and helps me grow – it does not serve me to compare myself to people who make more money, who have never been divorced, and who seem to have it all figured out. I am allowed to miss John – it does not serve me to think he’s handling this better than I am, and that he gets along just fine without me and hence doesn’t need me.
These parts of myself, the “I am allowed” things, they are the truth – and everything that comes behind each statement is the lies that cloud my mind, and keep me focused on what simply DOES NOT MATTER.
I can be, think, do, act, and feel exactly as I need to – in a way that suits who I am, who God shaped me into being, and I can do this unapologetically – because this is my life, happening right now, and I am tired of making feeble excuses about who I am, to myself – To myself, I am beautiful, and in the silence of this evening, in the nothingness of surrender to the moment, I realized that is a blessing.
I spent this entire day doting on my youngest daughter. We walked to town square, shared an ice cream cone, fed the ducks, and I let her hold my index finger as we strolled down Main Street for a good few hours.
I focused on her every move. Attentive, as a bird on a high perch, watching her smell every single flower as we moved slowly past it. She reached down into the dirt, eventually taking a seat right in the middle of a grassy patch near a big old tree. She laughed and called out the bugs. She quack-quacked at the duckies, running as fast as her wee-legs could carry her – almost sending me into cardiac arrest for fear she’d fall right over the bank ledge – she stopped, instinctively, and called out to the various ducks and geese in the water, purely satisfied in the beautiful wonder of that moment, in nature, without a care in the world.
As adults, we forget what we once were. We were unscathed by scars and bruises of lost love and shattered expectations and now, instead, tied down by supposed responsibility, and the need to keep up with the Jones family in the bigger house next door. Life becomes a deadline to meet, a quick text to say hello when we’re literally sitting beside each other, wordless. Nothing matters but getting ahead, surpassing the status quo, and finding happiness in material wealth and acknowledgement.
I don’t know about you, but I feel like I learn more from watching my youngest darling and her older, beautiful sister explore and adore this world than I do from any person in my circle.
They are innocent and casual. They ask for nothing but the meeting of basic essential needs. They love without fear, and forgive without resentment and bitterness. They are present in each moment, and do not focus on the future, or even in most cases, the stresses of life as it happens.
Tonight, as I breathed watching the sunset, I decided to do life differently, little by little, until eventually nothing but right now matters. I decided to trust God fully, and to be open to change, and love, and wholeness. I decided to forgive myself for not being perfect, and to accept who I am, right now, as exactly who I am supposed to be, right now.
I am so thankful for this time alone, because it is teaching me what matters most. Peace and the present. And the absence of fear to simply, completely dwell in it.