There are two types of being alone. You can be alone and lost in the pulling chaos of your desires, or you can be alone in a place with the universe present to you and free from the consuming fashions of your own heart.
After work one day, I sat alone in my apartment. The feel of the room was like the sedated air of a cave. My heart was crowded with its own thoughts:
“What if this happens? What if they find out about me? What if she does not really like me? What if I am not good enough? I heard him say that, but what if he meant this?”
And, “I know I am supposed to do that, but my couch looks really good. The TV and mindlessness are close. I need this.”
Heart, mind, and will grow sticky under the odd mixture of shame and selfishness. It’s a common and crippling feeling I’ve known often in my life. Shame creeps through everything. It enters you in silence, and it will take years for you to uncover its source. Even then, who knows if you’ll ever unroot it. Selfishness is natural, but it loves to couch itself next to shame. They sit together when I’m alone speaking in rationalizing consonance.
“I am not good enough, so don’t mind anyone else. Do what pleases you now.”
The apartment I live in is more of a home for cockroaches than people. There is a growing graveyard for them on the very desk on which I am typing. Often, I feel its dankness wearing on me reminding me too well of my own thoughts. The decaying wood and plaster rubs its ruin into me.
On this day the joy of every other moment I spent with people dissipated within these wall. Sometimes, I let this sensation rule for whole evenings, but on this day I walked away from it. I needed to get out of there, out of me. I went outside.
As I walked, steps began to form words, and my mind cleaved to meanings more than to the previously crawling feelings. Hard shapes formed in my motion. My senses snatched stories of the universe outside of me as I slowly tread in my raggedy shoes around a couple blocks near my apartment.
The immediate smell of spring’s fecundity trampled the plastic stasis of my self-contained thoughts. I crunched on thousands of scattered seed pods thrown about by the will of the trees and wind who seemed intent on ruining cars with their loamy stains. They remained on the concrete smashed into brown-green stains and reminded me of nature’s hopefulness. In this concrete desert the trees still cast their life to the ground because life is meant to be given from one to another even in the face of certain failure, it’s never meant to be self-contained. The whole world of life honors this, why wouldn’t I?
As I walked further, I became lighter. I was surprised. There were so many robins. One picked up a worm but then let it drop to look at me. It stopped to see what I’d do. I watched the earthworm wriggling out of the moistened mud then took three steps away and witnessed the robin happily return to his meal. Even the death of an earthworm and the life of a robin made me think of things outside of me. What life and death in this world means is always hard to figure, but being present to it even while alone is being open to the the life outside of us: the only life that will bring us joy.
I marched on through busy honey bees buzzing about in the white flowers of a shoulder high bush. They bumped about me as if I were one of them. People run together and into each other like this most of the day. We are happy to be busy, happy to be amongst others passing through this cacophony of life and death, and our thoughts do not crowd into us like the ruin of my apartment crowds into me when I am alone. But when we are alone, we get to order our lives and our thoughts. We must choose to mark our moments with a thoughtful intention to enjoin the universe with our lives or be left to dankly decay in our own fickle desires.
I walked home leaving the weight of my formless, self-devouring thoughts along the walk around my block. I prayed to be reminded of this all again tomorrow.
So many great lines and images in this one, Sam, like “In this concrete desert the trees still cast their life to the ground because life is meant to be given from one to another even in the face of certain failure, it’s never meant to be self-contained.”
I’m so glad that you went outside!