Friday, May 31, 2013

Me Here Now

Being alone and being lonely are not the same thing. That's a concept I've explored throughout my adult life because, even if I grasped it intellectually, I didn't always feel it viscerally. There have been periods of time when solitude has been my most welcome and treasured friend, and other times when it was all but intolerable.

As children, it's natural, effortless and genuinely pleasurable to be alone with ourselves, making up games, letting our dreams play out on the stage of our imagination, innate creativity simply pouring through us. We live for ourselves, we live authentically and in our true state of grace. It's divine. Then we begin to develop attachments to people and external distractions and stimulus, and for some of us, a dependency forms. We take on the standards and ideals of others as our own. We forget how to be alone and the joy it brings, and as a result, we fill our days and our lives full of things and people that don't necessarily fill us up in a meaningful way. 

But meaning is subjective. Each of us, a unique soul living a unique earthly life, finds meaning in different pursuits, experiences and relationships. And in the course of that life one's own definition of meaningfulness is likely to change. What once thrilled us no longer ignites the same spark. The love so warmly felt toward another grows cold. Goals that seemed to worthy of all our efforts just to reach them suddenly lose their importance.

Lately I've been reflecting often about what and who I fill my life with. Why am I doing what I'm doing? What do I really want, and who do I want to be? My definition of meaning has evolved radically, especially over the last few years, even the last few months, and it has prompted me to look hard and deep within.

I've been balancing what, by most standards, is a very successful career with the pursuit of my passions for yoga and travel. I'm about to have my eight-year anniversary with my employer. I earn a respectable salary, especially for a single woman with no children, and I get to do a corporate job, with its benefits, from the comfort of my own home and rack up personal airline miles from all my business travel. I teach and take multiple yoga classes a week. I've been able to travel to beautiful, far-flung destinations and have amazing experiences thanks to all my job has afforded me. I've even been able to slowly nurture my side business, Ocean Om, to the point where it is really gaining traction and growing. Not a bad deal, right? 

For a long time I certainly didn't think it was. I thought it was a great deal! I considered myself so very blessed to strike that balance and live such a full life. Especially after my divorce, it was gratifying for me to see just how awesome of a life I could provide for myself all on my own. I thrived. My social circle expanded exponentially. My passport got quite a few new stamps. I'd never been happier.

Then began the shift. It started slowly, making brief appearances, bringing on the hazy veil of a funk or the nagging urge to shake things up. So I'd take a trip or I'd start a new project or I'd find myself newly enamored of my latest flame. And that would clear the fog and the funk away, for a while anyhow. But it would come back. And I'd repeat the same remedies. You can get the gist of the cycle. And perhaps you've heard what they say: the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again, yet expecting a different outcome.

I'm not insane (or so I think!) but living that way certainly was. Then a light went off for me, and suddenly I realized I was living a life dictated in large part by priorities that were no longer current or meaningful to me. I began my career as a young newlywed who unfailingly wanted to start a family. I was determined to have a stable, lucrative professional life so my future children would have whatever was within my power to give them. I hadn't fully tapped into my spirituality, heck I'd barely scratched its surface at that time of my life, and I was so afraid of being lonely that I couldn't fathom the thought of being alone. 

That is not the woman who is writing these words right now. This woman has reconsidered her ideas about marriage and family, taking a much softer and broader approach to the many shapes they can come in and the timing involved. She is deeply committed to her spiritual path and practice, and knows living fully and authentically in that faith, letting her every offering be one to the greater good, is what she really wants to work toward. She has learned to embrace and enjoy the pleasures of being alone, and to distinguish loneliness from solitude, honoring her desires for connection, intimacy and partnership alongside her need for private space and time.

That woman is me now. I know who am I and where I want to go. I know what holds meaning for me. And I know there is a major leap of faith on my horizon in order for all of this to fully align, in order for me to feel full and fulfilled by each aspect of my life. While our definitions of what is meaningful might be very subjective and change along the way, the end game is the same for us all. We seek nothing more and nothing less than happiness. That is our true nature. We are all on a journey back to that place. And if we can get clarity around the self-imposed fears, limitations and attachments that stand between us and our happiness, it is ours to be had.

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