Therefore, dear Sir, love your solitude and try to sing out with the pain it causes you - Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet
When I tell my friends back in Chicago and elsewhere about my time in Cleveland, one of the first aspects of my life here is the alone time. I've been speaking of it as solitude, as chosen with the intention of experiencing growth and self-awareness. While there are days where this is how I experience it, more often than not, truthfully, I feel isolated in my spacious but still small bubble of an apartment. Music is playing in the background most of the time, and when it isn't, the relaxation fountain I bought (mostly due to maternal transference I experienced with my supervisor) is providing background noise (and hydration for my cats — a secondary side-effect). Members of my peer group ask me to do things, and I've made a couple of friends. But the truth is I often don't feel rooted... or maybe all of this is coming out this morning because I simply feel sad.
I wish I were good at being alone, at feeling comfortable only in my own presence. But that is when the void of my loneliness, inadequacy, and insecurity is most present, tangible, palpable. I feel more and more like the authentic me, and it's hard to celebrate the goodness there when my mind sees the cracks, the flaws, the shame and the pain. Many a time since I moved here, I've contemplated buying a car — a decision that would be unwise right now. I don't mind getting around on the bus, and I'm thankful for those who are kind enough to offer rides when I need to make a spontaneous trip. But when the car door shuts, when I walk up the stairs into my apartment and close the door, it's back to me and the cats, and, on those rare occasions when my spirit allows me to feel it, the presence of God.
Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second's encounter with God and with eternity - Paulo Coelho, The Alchemist
What are you afraid of? What's the worst that can happen? What's at risk? These are questions that have come up in therapy, in supervision over my now three units of CPE, in conversations with friends and strangers. I have some ideas, often too incoherent to speak... or too dear, too close... thoughts that only Ruach could speak for me. The sad truth is that being alone hurts, especially when one longs for connection so deeply, yet one's fear of true authenticity, true vulnerability feels crippling and debilitating.
What if I'm found out?
What if they see the real me?
What if they could see what I'm like behind closed doors, behind the pulled curtain?
We finished our first CPE unit of three this week. Final evaluations — the time when we present our self-evaluations from the unit to the group — went incredibly well. Personally, I felt very cared for, held, and supported. I felt like this was the most honest and truthful I'd ever been in my writing. If I were to sit down and compare this evaluation from that of my first unit, I imagine I would see two different people, or maybe one person who finally woke up and started to grow up. Regardless, I'm trying to let myself feel proud and accomplished of the work I've done, a task I've found very challenging.
Looking outside on this cold, wet, practically winter morning, feeling the calm of my apartment and reveling in something as simple as a cup of coffee, I'm thankful for how healing it can be to write and share. Truthfully, I don't know what the rest of the day holds, other than a vet visit for my new cat, Adam. Probably some reading. Maybe a movie. I might even do some more writing. Most of it, though, will be spent alone — perhaps even of my own choosing. Today, will not simply accept isolation. Instead, I choose solitude... and that's okay...
photo credit: Emre Ergin via Flickr