The first time I stepped foot on a plane I was a little over two years of age. I don’t really remember it and if you ask my parents about my first trip abroad the response is always; “She wouldn’t leave the apartment during the day, hated the heat and came alive at night once the sun went down, insisting on being brought to the swings. She took ten or eleven days to finally come outside and then didn’t want to leave to return home”. Maybe it was back then that I found a part of myself that wasn’t so content with sitting in and watching life happen around me. Whatever spark was ignited in those last days in Majorca, my itchy feet have been with me ever since and have gifted me with a lifetime of new places, people, cultures and a never-ending need to see and experience more.
What I have realized is what comes with embracing the external world so much is a wonder, an adventure and also a feeling of inherent loneliness. When P.S. I Love You was released I was sitting in a cinema off Georges St in Sydney, Australia in floods of tears as I watched Hilary Swank wander through the Wicklow Mountains meeting the man of her dreams along a country road. The movie was atrocious but there was something about seeing my homeland on a big screen that made me feel an overwhelming sense of loneliness inside. Thinking that Ireland would fix it I moved back shortly after and lasted six months before London called. My itchy feet have served me well and no doubt will continue to over the coming years but a little under three years ago I was called home to Ireland once again and for the first time in fifteen years I stayed.
Staying has been a challenge, there was a dream of a new life on a new continent at one point, followed by the continuous restlessness inside me always searching to see where I could live next, where things would be different, where I wouldn’t feel so lonely and where the man of my dreams would wander down a country lane and ask me if I was lost and did I need rescuing.
“At the innermost core of all loneliness is a deep and powerful yearning for union with one's lost self.”
Brendan Francis Behan
Last week I walked the Camino, my final weeklong retreat of 2017 and as I returned to Ireland, I felt at peace. I was texting a friend and commented how nice it felt to be coming back to my own place, that I finally felt like I had roots of my own. It struck me that I just wanted to be in my apartment with a cup of tea watching the world go by from my window. I was once again transported to that two year old inside of me, who had been happy to sit in her holiday apartment with her colouring pencils and books, watching from the window, feeling content with life exactly as it was.
In this age of readily available knowledge we spend our lives looking at how people live and love. We know what friends and family are up to by checking out a social media feed, we rarely pick up the phone to call someone as we feel as though we are already connected and know everything about their life by seeing their updates. It’s wonderful and it’s heartbreaking at the same time. We are more connected than ever before but we rarely have real conversations and when we do we end it with; “We must do this more often”, and yet another six months or a year passes before it happens again making these moments all the more special. We seem to live in a time sensitive parallel universe where we are constantly searching for something outside of ourselves to connect with and to, to help alleviate the pain of feeling alone inside. Some of us believe that being in a relationship, having a family, building a strong community aka the Hallmark Channel life will solve this, and yet I speak to people who have these gifts in their lives and there is still something missing, something that is not quite right. We travel the world searching, we meet new people, have new relationships, start new businesses, create the life we always wanted and we come home at the end of the day and there is something we can’t put our finger on so we have a drink, eat chocolate, watch TV and numb out. In this world where everything is on offer, it’s still not enough.
And I am as guilty as everyone when it comes to this. For the first time in a long time this week when I spoke with my Mam, and shared my reflections of feeling content, she asked me what was it about coming home that resonated so much. After considering her question I realized that it wasn’t about being at home in my apartment that felt good, it did, but there was a deeper realization and sense of feeling at home within myself. The fear of feeling lonely and coming home to an empty apartment wasn’t there. In fact I couldn’t wait to come home and simply sit in my room, burn sage, have space and time to read and write and connect with myself. I didn’t have a burning need to have someone there waiting for me.
"You do not have to leave your room. Remain seated at your table and listen. Do not even listen, simply wait, be quiet, still and solitary. The world will freely offer itself to you to be unmasked, it has no choice, it will roll in ecstasy at your feet."
Now, it doesn’t happen all the time and there are days that I need external connection and time outside on a swing, but I have realized it is important to also honour and embrace the little girl who sat content with her colours enjoying her solitude in that hotel room so many years ago. If we can allow ourselves to cultivate daily gratitude, celebrate the beauty in the small things, embrace solitude when we can and become friends with ourselves, we in turn can be better in the world, knowing that we like who we are and we enjoy spending time with me, myself and I and therefore others, will in turn, enjoy hanging out with us. This in my experience is what helps with the loneliness and yes sometimes a large bar of chocolate is also needed… its about creating inner balance so that there is awareness of what we are doing, who we are being and how we are reacting to the feelings inside.
"Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone, & Solitude expresses the glory of being alone."
As we move into the time of year that asks us to be still and find home in the darkness, to embrace the energy of Grandmother Moon, how does this sit with you? Is there a fear of the darkness and a want for it to always be longer days, or do you relish the thought of sitting in on the colder evenings embracing the hearth and home? Take time this month to sit with yourself, journal, meditate, colour or do something that simply makes your heart sing and allows your best friend, aka THE REAL YOU, to sit with you.