Val is a life-long student of unexplored human potential and many challenges that self-honesty throws at us on that path.
Many people will walk in and out of your life, but only true friends will leave footprints in your heart.
-- Eleanor Roosevelt
Lonely Immigrant Hearts
While solitude and loneliness may be synonymous with each other, in this article I am making a distinction between them -- loneliness to mean what it usually means -- a sad state, whereas to solitude I am assigning a somewhat spiritual character.
O.K., let me start doing it from little afar, actually several decades back in time, when as young immigrants my wife and I saw our first home turn into some sort of a popular "coffee place".
The news about the presence of these fresh newcomers must have spread very fast in our ethnic community, for sooner than we realized what was happening, our new "friends", acquaintances, neighbors, even neighbors' friends -- started frequenting at our place "because my wife was making such a good coffee".
Well, truth be told, at first we liked it, we needed company, a lot of company, especially of those of our origin, to fill that sad void in our hearts, after having left a big family behind, along with the only world that we had known.
If you never moved to another continent with another language spoken, now you may make an effort to empathize, because any prospects of a quick adjustment looked bleak as could be. Coming from a society with a predominant mentality of "everyone living everyone else's life", the cold western materialism kept hitting us at places where we were most sensitive.
Loneliness creeped up in our hearts, and I remember my wife crying a lot over letters that she was writing, in which she kept promising our return "as soon as we would make enough money for the plane tickets".
Well, that never happened, and instead we found the only remedy that was available -- a lot of people who liked coming over and inviting us to their places. That ice started melting in our hearts, but, as our friends were increasingly becoming a little too much to handle, we knew that the remedy would soon stop being effective.
Like the saying goes: "Too much of anything good is not good".
Especially so, as we started realizing how those multiple visitors actually needed our emotional support more than we needed theirs.
Namely, the great majority of them were of a mentality prone to boredom and nostalgic reminiscing that was resembling depression, with almost an openly expressed regrets that they ever had left the beloved homeland.
Since as early as I can remember myself, I have been an easy going dude with a natural knack for empathizing, and that was an additional thing, other than that "good coffee", which was attracting them in such a multitude. How could I ever forget one guy, in particular, telling me how I was a "brother that he never had."
Then we found a better place for ourselves at the far side of the city, and many of those "coffee customers" asked of us to call them as soon as we would get our phone connected.
I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.
-- Charlotte Bronte
Pleasant Surprise of Being Left Alone
For quite a while we enjoyed the change of having no visitors and visiting no one, while focusing on more practical aspects of life. Eventually we got to know a couple of families with whom we stayed friends to these days.
However, the above story was meant to show how not socializing doesn't necessarily mean being lonely. People are prone to view loneliness as a sad extreme, while idealizing those scenarios of a dynamic social life.
Well, life is hardly ever so generous as to cater to us with anything "ideal", and seeking something of that kind is bound to keep us disappointed. And then, there is something about spending time alone that deepens our souls -- which I was beginning to appreciate more and more those days.
Now, not that I hadn't experienced those moments of pleasant solitude before in life. Even as a teenager, I used to seek a quiet ambient, maybe climbing the forested mountain at the edge of the city, or sitting alone by the river and just watch the water pass while philosophizing to myself about life.
As we left all that big bunch of people behind, we somehow also stopped missing the big family in our native country all that much. Suddenly, there we were surprising ourselves upon realization how enjoyable it was not to be witnesses anymore to so much family drama -- which was actually a small part of our decision to emigrate.
But people are funny -- you leave the family because you want more space for yourself -- then you miss them -- to finally arrive back to that realization about the need for your space. Then you reserve missing them mostly for special days like Christmas, kids' weddings, birthdays, that stuff.
For the first time ever in our respective lives, we both started appreciating solitude, which now meant privacy, not isolation.
Indeed, a profound inner change may be initiated by requalifying loneliness into a meaningful solitude.
Again, didn't bother taking a peek in dictionary to see how much these two words are synonymous with each other, but to me solitude always had a sort of a dignified, poetic character, whereas loneliness was kind of tied to boredom and apathy.
My own solitude meant a time for deep reflection and serenity, for meeting and embracing my own human totality, also for reading, painting, or just walking in the nature.
There are such moments when I could swear that I was feeling the least lonesome when alone. Kind of enjoying my own company, exploring my own inner world of thoughts, imagination and daydreaming.
Somewhere I picked up the expression like "just appreciating my beingness", which pretty much describes that state of mind. It has reached its almost divine extremes at my regular deep meditations when I am sinking into my essence which is totally stripped of my everyday identity, my self-image, my ego -- whatever is left of it.
To go out with the setting sun on an empty beach is to truly embrace your solitude.
-- Jeanne Moreau
Solitude, Moments of Soul's Home-Coming
Long ago I realized how solitude would give me experiences and realizations which I could not share with anyone -- and I still can't.
From few clumsy attempts I learned that certain experiences could not be verbalized, like meditations and epiphanies and moments of heightened awareness. And it certainly wouldn't help much either if I tried to use the science lingo to explain that surge of orgasmic spirituality during kundalini practice with something like a "piezoelectric effect within my pineal gland enabling brain to shift into an alternate technology of processing the whole reality."
No, I am not copying this crap from a book now, it's something from my everyday thinking -- just to add to the above statement about inability to share what's going on in my mind, and my heart, and my soul, during the times of my solitude.
Even without anything fancy in that kind of thinking, it's almost axiomatic truism that words sound different between lips and in ears, and we are -- anyway -- just trying to somehow bridge our inner world with those of others.
So we write poetry, we compose songs, we create art -- or we try to say it all with our eyes, our smile, our tears, when everything else fails.
What gets born during our moments of solitude usually involves labor pains of fear that we won't be understood at that depth.
And then, at some point we may give up, letting it all stay contained within those moments. As I walked alone on warm sands of Hawaiian beach, gazing at the sunset's pastel colors divinely smeared over the sky, and smelled the breeze coming from the intimidating mass of the Pacific -- I just knew that many could have "their own" picture of it -- but not "my picture".
Those are the times that, when remembered, tend to define solitude as the most precious part of being spiritual. Indeed, that discovery of the divine in ourselves can't be matched with any kind of socializing, including the one with masses collectively looking up with palms touching in prayer.
Now, before some of you may be tempted to see me as any version of a "lone wolf" -- I can assure you, it would be very far from the truth. It happens while I am standing in long lineups in stores that I almost make instant friends with strangers.
Or during my walks in my favorite park-forest I may stop a dog-walker to compliment the dog, and then conversation veers off to everything else but dogs, ending up with an obvious both-sided temptation to exchange telephone numbers.
O.K., I won't play a mind-reader now, but just in case if you happen to envision me with always stopping a good looking female dog-walker -- hey, I am a one-woman- man, and only in my lively fancy am I one first class, incorrigible dirty-old-man.
The moment I stop being that -- consider yourselves invited to my funeral.
You've got to love yourself first. You've got to be okay on your own before you can be okay with somebody else.
-- Jennifer Lopez
For a Brief Epilog
Time spent in my solitude has taught me many things about socializing. One of those more important truisms is about solitude adding to capacity to enjoy the company of others.
Experiencing others from that intimate platform of sincere embracing the totality of my own humanness, I don't expect others to give me something that I might be failing to give to myself.
Also, seeking others' company does not mean escaping from myself, so it doesn't bother me if they "fail to deliver" enough entertainment as if to support me in that act of escape.
By being enough of a company to myself during solitude helps me to accept them as well, for, when we give our own intimate reality a freedom to be -- without a brutal suppression of what we don't want to face about ourselves -- then it stretches over everybody else.
So, let's embrace the person that we are -- at times when apparent loneliness is upgraded into a constructive and self-expanding solitude.
© 2022 Val Karas