“Solitude is the cure for loneliness. Like cures like.”
— Caroline Casey said that.
That sentence leapt out from the pages of a book or an email newsletter, circa Fall, 2001.
Alone (and definitely lonely) more than I’d ever experienced, combing through books from spiritual teachers in search of comfort. Answers. A way out of my misery that did not involve some kind of addictive episode.
It was a year of too much quick and unexpected death. Of the literal kind. People I loved died.
The metaphorical deaths had to do with everything else: business, home, relationship, best friend, livihood completely blowing up at the same time. Also unexpected and shocking.
Caroline Casey is an astrologer, and I’m sure I was looking for some cosmic reason why Pluto or Saturn or Someone was squaring my life so harshly. I did not find an answer.
Peace Pilgrim, a woman who walked alone back and forth across the U.S. with nothing but the clothes she wore, said indignantly about astrology:
“I’m not going to be pushed around by some star!”
But still. I was seeking to make meaning out of pure annihilation, and this all went in to the mix.
Making sketchbooks…that was my primary therapy.
The photo is from one of the sketchbooks I kept at the time.
It’s tiny, fits in the palm of my hand. The pages thick with collage and paint, bursting the binding. Even that particular sketchbook has it’s own story, but I’ll save that for later.
I want to talk to you about loneliness.
Isn’t that the line of a Mary Oliver poem?
I want to talk to you about loneliness. Yours, and mine.
I think so, but I am not going to go look it up before I hit publish.
Maybe she said, despair, not loneliness.
There’s a vulnerability experiment I started a couple of years ago.
It’s about loneliness.
I had just moved back to Mexico after being away more than a year.
My life a nomadic existence. Not staying put. Rootless.
Roaming sometimes activates this old wound of being abandoned by my parents and not belonging to anyone.
A childhood existing all over the place, with constantly changing cities, places, people, families, strangers, group homes.
People I still have nightmares about and places so intolerable that I can’t remember whole years. The hard drive of my memory erased.
Fragile threads of family ties unraveling, while something else binds tighter. My gut. Holding my breath.
The Orphan fighting to survive. The Wanderer always seeking her true home.
Of all the places I’ve been, Mexico feels most like home to me. Or at least it’s the only place I keep coming back to.
When friends got in touch they said – Oh, how awesome to be in Mexico. Don’t you love it?
More like a statement than a question.
Do I dare to tell the truth?
Yes, I love Mexico, traveling, being an independent artist who can live anywhere there is decent Internet.
“I feel so lonely so much of the time.”
Something I’d never told anybody before. And which I’ve never blamed on Mexico.
Wherever you go there you are, all the spiritual teachers say.
Which is to say I have felt lonely everywhere I’ve ever lived. Truth.
Even though… I am living the dream held close in my heart since childhood: to be an artist traveling and living in foreign lands.
Even though… I fill my own well by being alone, and being with others too much drains me.
Making art is solitary. It can be isolating. Like travel.
For all of the press on solo women travelers, I haven’t met more than one or two while traveling. Where is my peer group? Something I’ve wondered from no matter where.
Paul Theroux writes, in his book, The Tao of Travel:
“Chekhov said, “If you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t marry.” I would say, if you’re afraid of loneliness, don’t travel. The literature of travel shows the effects of solitude, sometimes mournful, more often enriching, now and then unexpectedly spiritual.”
The vulnerability experiment idea sprang from night dreams I had while reading Michael Meade’s book, Fate and Destiny. It was as if my dreams were saying: here’s what to do. You’ll be terrified. Do it anyway. This is how you’ll get what you want. It’s how you’ll heal that old wound.
Telling the truth about my experience of loneliness, I feared rejection. To be judged as ungrateful or simply depressed.
Instead, the person always responded back with,
“I feel lonely too.”
And then they would add: Even though I’m married or have kids or don’t travel or go to an office every day or teach big workshops or am a bestselling self-help author.
And that would open a whole universe of conversation and connection…
Like cures like.
I no longer am an Orphan seeking home.
I feel at home in my own heart and expression.
Documented in these journals and sketchbooks.
Guidebooks of a journey that pulled me toward the better life experience I knew was out there somewhere.
It is here. Now.
The blank page a fresh start, invites us to dream on paper.
To cultivate the root of our experience as we
say yes to the leanings of the heart.
And go gently.