What lies between you and me?

attentiveness

Loneliness is an epidemic. That heart to heart connection with others, our world, our communities is lost as we race from one To Do to the next. Superficial greetings take the place of deep conversation, and we substitute more for better.

When was the last time you felt truly heard by another person–not heard so they could diagnose you or give you instructions for how to do better–but heard as though someone paused to notice the real you, the deep down you?

When was the last time you paused to consider another person, not as a means to an end on your own journey, but as a person with their own dreams and heart desires, their own wants and needs, their own untold story hoping to be heard?

When was the last time you paused to consider the world around you, from the beauty of nature to the miracle of your own next breath?

Perhaps our loneliness epidemic would be eased if we all were to slow down and notice each other, pause to realize we are here for each other,  and be vulnerable enough to allow ourselves to see and be seen.

Mary Oliver’s poems open us in so many ways– to nature, to each other, to our own hidden places. Perhaps this one on loneliness will speak to you today:

Loneliness

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider
the orderliness of the world. Notice
something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket
whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

Stare hard at the hummingbird, in the summer rain,
shaking the water-sparks from its wings.

Let grief be your sister, she will whether or not.
Rise up from the stump of sorrow, and be green also,
like the diligent leaves.

A lifetime isn’t long enough for the beauty of this world
and the responsibilities of your life.

Scatter your flowers over the graves, and walk away.
Be good-natured and untidy in your exuberance.

In the glare of your mind, be modest.
And beholden to what is tactile, and thrilling.

Live with the beetle, and the wind.

~ Mary Oliver ~

 

 

 

Choose kindness.

kindgesture

So much of our suffering is invisible. Loneliness, sorrow, depression, not fitting in. We can bind up our own cuts and scrapes, but how do we bind up those kind of wounds?

There is an old parable about heaven and hell. In both, people are forced to eat with spoons that are too long to feed themselves. In hell, they are starving. In heaven, they feed each other.

When it comes to these invisible hurts, we are healed by kindness, one to another. We don’t know when we are being kind that it may help someone, but it certainly can’t hurt. And it may be just the long-spooned nourishment that someone else needs.

To inspire acts of kindness today, watch this video of a poor baby elephant stuck in a muddy hole. The gratitude its mother shows its rescuers will melt your heart.

 

Reach out and touch someone.

touchparts

Loneliness is an epidemic. Despite our superficial connections with social media, many of us feel a lack of connection with others. In fact, seeing people laughing and having a wonderful time on social media can make our own loneliness worse.

We miss simple touch. We miss that sense of kinship from a shared connection. We miss being part of a tight group like we felt when we were in school or were in a loving nuclear family.

The way out of this loneliness is both simple and terribly hard–reach out to others. (They are probably lonely, too.)

You are always with me.

thread

How hard it is to lose someone you love. There is so much that seems unseen or unfelt without being shared together. So many visceral, tangible reminders of your loss are everywhere. Sounds, smells, songs, times of day, stories, jokes, and so on. Everywhere you look. There’s no escaping the weight of the loss really.

The only thing that makes it bearable is to consider it not loss, but a gift. Moments shared colored your life and made it brighter and more nuanced. The threads of memories you shared become woven together with threads from all the people you’ve loved and become the tapestry that is your life. And that ever-presence becomes not a stab, but a comfort.

e.e. cummings captured it well:

i carry your heart with me(i carry it in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere
i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done
by only me is your doing,my darling)
                                                      i fear
no fate(for you are my fate,my sweet)i want
no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and it’s you are whatever a moon has always meant
and whatever a sun will always sing is you
here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud
and the sky of the sky of a tree called life;which grows
higher than soul can hope or mind can hide)
and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)
To all those we have loved and miss dearly, let us look back fondly, grateful for all the colors they brought into the tapestry of our lives, and repeat together:
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

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Are you lonely?

loneliness

Are you lonely? Does your heart long to be heard and understood? For someone to get you? And for you to really hear someone in return? Are you yearning to share your heart’s stories with someone else?

Loneliness has nothing to do, really, with being alone. In fact, the worst way to be lonely might be when you are with someone else but not feeling connected.

Is there a way to ease our heart’s loneliness?

One possibility is to open yourself up. Share your true thoughts and feelings, not the masks you wear in the world, but your true self. And then be a safe place for someone else to be naked emotionally with you. Scary, yes. But what good is it if you’re not being yourself in your own relationships?

To speak to that loneliness in all of us, take a moment to savor this beautiful poem by Mary Oliver and listen for the world calling you into your place in the family of things.

Wild Geese

by Mary Oliver

You do not have to be good.
You do not have to walk on your knees
For a hundred miles through the desert, repenting.
You only have to let the soft animal of your body
love what it loves.
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine.
Meanwhile the world goes on.
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain
are moving across the landscapes,
over the prairies and the deep trees,
the mountains and the rivers.
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air,
are heading home again.
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely,
the world offers itself to your imagination,
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting —
over and over announcing your place
in the family of things.