“Change is always changing,” says one of my favorite yoga instructors on my preferred free yoga website (aka I am too cheap to pay for real classes). Her quip — delivered with an infectious smile — is so true and simple I almost want to laugh.
Oh and the changes I’ve had; I used to be married, now I’m single. I used to back country ski three or four times a week; now I work six days a week and a night or two and log in enough time skinning Arapahoe Basin that I should probably be paid for it. I used to crave alone time like a stoner craves grub; now I have so much solo time I barely know what to do (not true — I regularly discover a reasonable bedtime losing ground to my piano keys or ruthless book edits).
One of the strangest, hardest changes is being physically alone. After being coupled for about eleven years, married for six, coming home to an empty house felt like culture shock in a foreign country. But time is a sweet balm, and nowadays I find myself satisfied arriving to a quiet home, building myself a fire, pouring a glass of Dillon Ridge Liquor’s finest boxed wine, choosing some Grateful Dead or Ryan Adams to keep me company.
Alone-ness is not something I ever feared, although I know many do. It’s not surprising — even if we try not to listen, we all sipped the same Kool-Aid: that there is one person out there and all we have to do is find them, and then we’ll be more golden than a wedding band. I canceled my subscription to that idea some years ago, even having supposedly found my “one.” Luckily, I have always been my own unique brand of independent woman, and a hearty thank you to Whomever I should thank for adding that to my recipe.
During the first month after Tyler and I parted ways in Asia, I was forcibly alone and not entirely prepared to be. I hadn’t wrapped my head around being single, although I do believe now it’s one thing I have wanted for some time. Even after we were officially halved, I was alone — and not just feeling alone, although that’s part of the process, too.
I don’t mean to say I have been hiding out like a Hillary supporter in the dirty South. No — I have been enjoying the plentiful company of friends and dating handsome strangers here and there.
But all the while I have consciously continued spending ample time with lil ol’ me in order to finally fully understand myself. Because understanding, I discovered, is one of life’s most fantastic arts.
One of the people I “met” during the initial stages of this wild ride was Vietnamese peace activist and poet Thich Nhat Khan — I believe I’ve mentioned his name and I’m sure to do so again. Thich Nhat Khan has written a quiver of wise, beautiful books, including “How to Love” which has been my faithful companion throughout these shifting, wondrous days. He explains the importance of understanding far better than I can:
“Understanding is love’s other name. If you don’t understand, you can’t love.”
He goes on to say that the soil in which love itself grows — and hopefully flourishes — must first be established within ourselves.
“When we feed and support our own happiness, we are nourishing our ability to love. That’s why to love means to learn the art of nourishing our happiness.”
Ka-pow! What a lesson to finally and truly learn at the ripe age of thirty-three. Especially in a culture that totes “You complete me” candies on Valentine’s (the kind that crack your teeth like a joke) and pumps out rom-coms where the protagonist is purposeless until her Freddy Prince Jr crests the hill. How incredible to embrace that to love others is to understand them, but in order to understand, we must first be happy ourselves. And to sprout this happiness, we must know what we need in order to make it grow. How do we do this? We sit with ourselves, learn how to heal ourselves and find our own joy.
If you don’t already, try to sit with yourself in some fashion — I use exercise and journaling as two conduits for introspection. And I like a bath so hot it makes my skin look sunburned, with enough candles to either heat a tiny house and/or burn a tiny house down. Tea makes a fine companion, but of course wine is better. A book or a journal suffices as well, but often times I’ll just sit. Oh, I know some of you out there are itching just thinking about sitting in a bath, doing nothing. Shouldn’t we be doing something more productive? I think not — but that’s another blog entirely 🙂
As you sit with your thoughts, emotions will come and go like the chapters of a book you can’t put down — and you shouldn’t.
Feel them, acknowledge them and — like a flock of Pegasuses (Pegasi?) if I were ever to come across any and have the chance to release them — let them fly away into the mist.
After a time, the emotions which had to burst out first like a Barking Dog Brown Ale burp will subside and maybe, like me, you’ll find yourself getting excited about all the wonders life has to offer. And how many of them make you so very happy! It’s really worth ruminating on, and repeatedly. I’ve even hung up an obnoxiously bright pink sticky note on my mirror that says:
Lately, it’s been a rich combination of playing the piano, writing, journaling, exercising, planning upcoming travel, practicing Italian, trying to ignore how badly I want to go thrift shopping and hanging with friends.
So, what makes you happy? If you already know and you’re knees deep in happy plants like a good Coloradoan amongst the latest strain of Mary Jane, you’re more evolved than I am 🙂 Or maybe you’re like me and you’re spelunking in a familiar cave to unearth the jewels of happiness you buried there however many years ago.
The real gem is happiness is attainable by every one of us at any point in life. Just remember:
“There is no way to happiness — happiness is the way.” – Thich Nhat Khan