Archives for category: loneliness

I enjoy the thought that my Traveling Partner and I are sharing this journey, walking a shared path. Now and then I am reminded that it is, however pleasant, an illusion. We are each having our own experience. We walk our own path. Survive our own hard mile. We endure our own dark night of the soul. We, each, alone care for our innermost heart, and nurture our tenderest wounds. The reminder was powerful, and I am so grateful I was merely a bystander to two paths that suddenly diverged on a Saturday morning. I don’t know if this is a sad story or not, maybe it is, maybe it isn’t – certainly it is a story of change.

I was having coffee with a friend. We get together now and then, on a Saturday morning, and catch up on life and things. A couple, strangers, came in shortly after we sat down, and sat near us, sort of off to the side, definitely within our view, and close enough we could not avoid hearing their conversation, which I’ll share as accurately as memory permits…

He held her chair. This ordinary looking man of apparent middle-class means, allowed his companion to get seated, and they ordered. She thanked him for picking her up from the airport, and for taking her to breakfast. How thoughtful. She smiled. He shifted uncomfortably before speaking.

“So… welcome back..?” He laughed uneasily. His smile was fleeting, and somewhat nervous.

“Are you okay?” she asked, without looking up from her phone. This seemed somehow significant to her companion, and his posture straightened, and the look on his face became resolute, and more sure of himself.

“Yeah. So, about that. I’ve decided to end our relationship.” She laughed with a bit of disbelief, then looked into his eyes and her face sort of… froze. “I wasn’t sure how you’d take this, so… the least I could do was take you to breakfast…”

“You wanted to be in a public place so I couldn’t make a scene!” she hissed, leaning in close. Her face was tight with tears she was fighting. He… was still calm.

He inhaled deeply and sighed. “You’re right of course. I’m sorry. I needed to feel… safe. This is hard. Hard for me, too.”

“Why?” she demanded with a quivering voice, “someone else…?”

“No.” He sounded sad, and lost. “I just… there’s a lot I want to do for myself, to explore on my own. I just… I want to be myself, no compromise, no obstacles, no negotiation, and I haven’t felt able to. I’m sorry.”

They both sat quietly for some time, just drinking their coffee. My friend and I sat drinking ours. Occasionally looking at each other in a soft, sad, “what the fuck?” sort of way, each in our own thoughts, about our own partners, our own paths, our own lives.

Eventually, the man at the nearby table busy quietly breaking up with his partner spoke again. “So… I’ll need the keys to the apartment before I go. I … um… I had your stuff packed up and put in storage while you were out of town, and… um… yeah. I don’t want you to come back to my place, at all. I packed your clothes and things and they’re in your car… I’ll… I’ll just pay the check and take a car service home… is… what I planned.”

She sat looking astonished, helpless… I sensed that it might turn to frustrated fury at some point, and hoped that everyone would keep their heads, and find that calm center in their storms. “Is this happening?” she said quietly, in a child-like voice, as if disbelieving. “Five years, and then… this?”

“Yeah.” he said, “It’s happening. I’m going to go now. Please don’t call, I’d like this to just be… over.” He hands her an envelope, and her numb hands accept it.

“What is this?” she asked.

“It’s an inventory of your things. Please email me if I missed anything. Also… I, uh, paid off your car. I mean… I bought it, but, um… it’s yours.”

“You’re not taking it?” she accused, almost snarling the question.

“No. Why would I?” he asked patiently, “I don’t hate you. I’m just… done. Okay? I mean… I hope we’ve over this really fast, and we both move on with better… other things. …I’ve got to go.” He put his jacket on, and looked around as if he did not expect to see the place again, ever, and left.

The woman sat quietly, staring into her coffee. The other customers seemed also uneasy. Conversations seemed quiet, muted, as with a respectful silence. I know I was, myself, uneasy. I sat with my friend, each of us taking a turn at small talk, both of us thinking about two people – any two people – at any airport, seeing each other again, after some time apart, and suddenly, one path takes a sharp turn for a very different destination. Now and then I glanced her way, although I don’t know what I was trying to see.

My friend and I finished our coffee. We hug and agree to “do this again soon”. We both know we don’t really want it quite as it was, this time… I walk away feeling introspective, and a little bit blue. What if it had happened to me? What about you? What would that be like…? What would you do? I sigh, as I unlock the door of my car, ready – so ready – to return home to see my Traveling Partner, again…

…My “Traveling Partner”… nonetheless, we each walk our own path. We’re fortunate, any of us, to share the journey for a while, aren’t we? It’s not likely we’ll share the journey “forever” (that’s a child’s fantasy, I suspect). I spend the drive home contemplating love, thinking about what it takes to build, maintain, sustain, and nurture love. Thinking about what I’m good at love-wise, and what I still need so much work on. I think about all the things in the world I would like to see and do and be and experience along the way… and I think about sharing it with my Traveling Partner. I think about not sharing it with him. Would I love life any less if our paths diverged? I like to think not…but it would be so painful to find out. I put myself in her shoes, imagine myself sitting with my coffee, alone unexpectedly, no plan, no place,… I breathe, exhale, and relax, grateful that my path, for now, is different. No assumptions. No expectations. Aware that change is a thing that can happen unexpectedly, to anyone, at any time. Firmly, studiously, I am not taking love – this love – for granted. There are verbs involved. Choices. No map.

I took comfort in arriving home to welcoming arms, and a chance to begin again.

I sat. Then I sat some more. Eventually, I noticed I hadn’t hung up my pants after changing into jeans after work. So, I did that, still feeling pretty frustrated, kind of numb, and fairly disappointed with the evening (with myself?). Even now, I’m feeling pretty raw, sorrow holding on around the edges. I sat here, awhile, fingers resting gently on the home row of the keyboard, just staring at the monitor, not moving, just breathing. Suppressing my agitation and distress with pure will, heavy, stoic, and just barely adequate. Communication failure. Connection failure. Right now, doing “my best” does not seem enough.

So, I sit in my studio. Waiting for understanding. Waiting for peace to be restored within my core being. Waiting for my face to stop feeling frozen. Wondering, now and then, how to drag myself from here to there, and whether that takes some measure of forcefulness I don’t fathom?

Rough bit of path here. My heart aches. I mean, being real, a moment of heartache, frustration, and a resurfacing of despair is grim and exceedingly unpleasant…but… I’m breathing. I’m not in any physical danger. For most values of “I’m okay”, I am very much okay. “Move along, folks, nothing to see here…”

Still. I’m feeling a mix of unpleasant emotion, and more than anything, I’d rather not be doing that. I’d rather be hanging out with my Traveling Partner right now.

I’m fatigued, and my communication skills are reduced. Small annoying mistakes compounded by how very difficult it can be for people to talk about feelings in the first place sent the beginning of a quality evening skidding sideways in a very different direction than it seemed it might. So. I sit in my studio, unwilling to keep at earnestly (haplessly) making it worse while trying to do anything at all that might make it better so unskillfully that no good outcome could be obtained. I sit quietly. I write a thought. I sit quietly-er. Piece by piece trying to think things through and understand more clearly. I’m not doing all that well with it. It’s too early to go to bed. It’s not helpful to sit around crying.

I look around the studio and think about the things I’d like to get done, tomorrow. I guess, first, I’ll have to begin again. Right now, it’s not feeling so easy. There are going to be some verbs involved.

I didn’t sit down to write until nearly 9:30 am, after a leisurely shower, and close to 12 hours of sleep. Rare for me. (I didn’t sleep continuously through the night; I woke up twice to pee. lol) When I woke, I was unsure of the day, and considered just going back to bed…

…but, there’s an entire day, and a long weekend, ahead of me to enjoy this brief solitary time, a few days with the house to myself, and a lot of quiet (some of it quite lonely). So, I stayed up, showered, put on clean clothes, and finally started hot water for coffee. Oh, hey, I hear the click of the electric kettle just now… be right back!

A ‘coffee flower’ – each as unique as any other flower. I enjoy their brief existence, blossoming as I make my coffee, gone in an instant.

The heat comes on just as I return with my coffee. The 72 degrees that felt so chilly at the end of the evening, last night, feels almost stifling this morning. I turn the temperature down to 60; I won’t yearn for the comfort and warmth of a warmer room until later in the day. Hell… how much of the day will I even spend right here? It’s a chilly autumn morning, fiercely windy, and it might be nice to get a decently long walk in today. The thought puts a smile on my face at the same time that a tear streaks down my cheek. I think of my Granny, and walks we took together on autumn days. South Mountain, Pennsylvania… Cambridge, Maryland… Grants Pass, Oregon… thoughts and places roll past like a slide show. The tears fall softly. Honest tears of sorrow or regret, tears of heartfelt loss, these don’t trouble me at all, they are only more love than my heart can contain – and no one to share it with (right now). I’m okay. She was a splendid strong woman of great character, flawed, human, and of tremendous heart, and I miss her in this autumn moment, considering a walk that, once upon a time, we could have taken together. 🙂

I sip my coffee, comforted by the ordinary routine. I listen to the traffic beyond the studio window. Last night I felt very motivated to paint through the weekend. Just now, though? I am filled with eagerness to tidy up, to create order from chaos, to check off tasks from my list, and to do those things while keeping half an eye on the autumn leaves falling to the deck beyond the glass door, watching for squirrels. It’s that time again; the colder weather, the autumn breezes, I’ll begin putting nuts out for the squirrels and chipmunks, and suet for the birds. 🙂

My thoughts drift to my Traveling Partner and his adventures, and I hope he is doing well. I’m eager to see him when he returns home. I miss him greatly.

I had also definitely missed this solitude, and I had failed hard at the self-care skills needed to ensure I managed to get the quiet time I routinely need, or to seek, or create, the stillness I need to maintain my most chill and contented self. I smile, and forgive myself for my obvious limitations. lol I will continue to practice. Keep working at it. Keep learning and growing. Keep speaking up when the need becomes too great. Keep communicating my needs in an open, honest, and gentle way. All the things. There’s a lot. If I try to write down all the tiny very fine details of “how to” care for oneself very skillfully, from the perspective of what I understand, myself, it would be such a long detailed list that it would almost certainly appear ludicrous to even contemplate! In practice, though, it’s just practice. Do a thing. It worked? Repeat that. It worked again? Pretty reliable. Try it a few times more. Still working? Awesome; now practice until it is quite natural, almost effortless, and it has become part of “who you are”. 🙂 Add another thing. Repeat the process. Simple enough. Stop doing what doesn’t support your emotional well-being and general good health and contentment. (That’s surprisingly a bit harder, and may take more practice.)

I sit sipping my coffee, barefooted, in my studio, with four lovely relaxed days ahead, suitable for my leisure needs. I have not decided what, specifically, to do with them (besides sleeping, showering, and sipping coffee – those I guess I can count on). I listen to the traffic, loud beyond the window. There are dishes to do. Things to put away. A container garden on the deck to “winterize”. There is this heart full of paintings with which to shout what I don’t have the words to whisper. I am hovering in that place of indecision, without urgency. There are no “wrong answers”, only an opportunity to begin again. 🙂

The possible (likely) impeachment of the US President? I don’t care right now, at all. Local weather? I’m indifferent; it’s meaningless. Work? Connectivity? Housekeeping? The appointment I have scheduled later? Nothing matters beyond one small (huge) thing; I’m sitting alone, heart aching, while my partner is elsewhere, also alone (an assumption), and probably having a less than ideal experience, too.

…I’m not even sure what went wrong, exactly. We started down the path of a conversation… we converse daily, often, and manage both deep conversations, and light-hearted banter (and lots of things in between) quite effortlessly, most of the time. Was I pre-disposed towards frustration, after spending a morning frustrated by technical difficulties, on a rare day working from home? Was he having his experience from within a context that had him potentially predisposed toward difficulties, himself? Is this even “about” either of us, at all? We are each having our own experience – this much is reliably true. I feel, at the moment, sort of bitter, rather heartsick, fighting off tears I don’t want to deal with, and feeling that I am a failure as a partner because – how can I not manage something so fucking basic as a conversation??

In all respects it was a lovely morning to start with. I sit staring disinterestedly into this 3rd cup of coffee, trying to hold onto the morning’s delights. Elusive. Those moments feel as if they were only a dream, now. I am acutely aware I have a “routine” check up with my therapist coming in a couple weeks, and I find myself struggling with a feeling of shame over maybe really needing that time, even after so long, and so much progress. It flares up as resentment and anger, then recedes as a sort of sad gray shadow over my experience, and a hint of despair and futility. “Doesn’t it ever stop…?” My demons attack where I am weakest, that’s a given, and I’m unsurprised by the bleak feeling of doubt, the sense of loss, of abandonment, the feeling of hurt and unworthiness. Damn, this is shitty.

…I hope he’s okay (he’s probably feeling shitty, too).

I look into my coffee mug again, as if I were even going to drink it. I put the cup back down. I also don’t care about this cup of coffee – not compared to how much I care that I am enduring this moment, or that he is enduring his… or that we ended up in this place, in the first place. This coffee doesn’t even smell good. I made it the same as always. No interest in drinking it now. It just sits. Same as me. Just sitting here, mired in this mess. I tried the “walk away and calm down” approach to handling miscommunication and frustration… it does not seem to have provided any useful benefit. I mean… I suppose it’s better than waiting around poking a hornets’ nest until one or the other of us seriously lose our temper. I can’t stand raised voices. Instead… oh sure, it’s fucking quiet, but… I am isolated with my despair… my most dangerous personal foe. “Misery loves company”? Nah. I don’t buy that. Misery doesn’t love a fucking thing, it’s grim, stoic – a loiterer who takes everything pleasant and destroys it without hesitation.

…I even know the steps to take to not be here… and can’t raise the motivation to do a thing about it… like giving up. The futility becomes a quiet waterfall of hot tears. A lifetime of frustration and learned helplessness clench my jaws. My back aches with the weight of it. This? This right here is another very human experience. (“It’s just a moment”, I hear my internal reminder on autopilot, “this will pass. It’s just weather, not climate.” I can’t hear it; it feels very distant and irrelevant.)

Too fucking human. So… what’s to be done about it, then? Yeah, um… I don’t know right now. I’m too busy feeling hurt and filled with chaos and damage. Let me get done with all that, then I’ll move on to doing something else… probably sort myself out at some point… maybe even begin again.

I woke to the alarm, switched it off, and lay quietly for some time, eyes open, lingering in that place between waking from a deep slumber, and truly being “awake”. It feels luxurious to be so deeply well-rested. Savoring that moment of unfolding realization that, indeed, I am “well-rested” this morning was so worth the time (and risk of falling back to sleep). 🙂 The hotel in-room drip coffee tastes delicious this morning; it is flavored with contentment, and a sense of satisfaction. No idea why this particular morning feels so good, but I’m not going to argue with it.

LA dawn, poolside breakfast.

…I’m looking forward to breakfast. It was a very good start to my day, yesterday…

Considering the stress involved in my arrival, on Tuesday evening, this has been a remarkably pleasant and productive trip so far. My time feels well-spent. I feel valued and appreciated by colleagues. I’m getting things done that I’d felt were needful, and that feels very satisfying.

LA, itself, is a strange place to find myself. lol It has a polished weirdness and vaguely persistent feeling of artifice that is hard to “see through”. Yesterday morning, I watched a woman twirling on her balcony… which seemed even more peculiar when it became clear it was part of her morning workout. On my way to work, I walked past a tv show being made, which only heightened the sense of artifice that seems to permeate this area of the city. Maybe it isn’t this way everywhere in LA? Even the homeless people, at least in this particular neighborhood, seem to take their lives to the level of “craft”; their pitches are fairly similar to the approach a carnie might take, trying to bring passers-by to their schtick, before packing up and moving on to the next city. It rises to the level of performance art… definitely weird. People in the office discussed the latest “cleanse”, and seemed to be fairly serious about it. I managed not to smirk at anyone over these details; people choose the lives they live, and it’s not really for me to choose for anyone else. My teal-blue-aqua hair got more stares in LA than it ever does in Portland, which struck me as seriously humorous. However seriously silly LA sometimes strikes me, Portland is also fairly weird, and we’ve all got more in common with each other than we often care to notice. LA is, most assuredly, more… tan. lol

By the end of the day, I was surprisingly exhausted. Grand plans of walking to the marina or catching the sunset on the beach, or hanging out with local friends, or doing, really, anything at all not work-related, quickly gave way to a newly ambitious plan; having an adequate, healthy, meal, and going to bed. LOL 🙂 LA… you win. I can’t keep up. 😉

I got back to the room, put the phone on the charger and lay down “for a minute”, which became a couple hours. I got up, grabbed a bite of dinner, and returned to the room, feet aching. I took the time I needed for self-care: time in the hotel gym, a shower, meditation. I felt rested, at ease, and comfortable with myself. I thought about the contrast with my Las Vegas trip, a couple years ago, for a work conference. The self-care really matters. I exchanged a few words with my Traveling Partner – who is at home, while I travel – and read awhile, before sleep caught up with me, for real. It was a lovely day, overall. 🙂

…Here it is, time to begin again. Half an hour before breakfast will be served in the hotel restaurant. Another hour before I head to the office for another work day. I give thought to the plan for the day, and work ahead of me. I check the calendar and remind myself what day of the week it actually is (Thursday, as it happens). I contemplate making the world a better place, and what that really means – and requires. I think about narrowing that down to the work pieces, and how best to craft, nurture, and maintain a truly exceptional (and good) place to work. I sip my coffee. The day, so far, is off to a good start.

My thoughts touch on love and loving, and suddenly I feel a deep yearning ache, and I’m swamped by a moment of loneliness – I miss my partner. The words form in my thoughts, and bring tears to my eyes unexpectedly. I take deep, even, breaths, and soothe myself; it’s a short time away, really, and I’ll be home tomorrow evening. I finish my coffee, and dry my tears; it’s already time to begin again. 🙂