Exaltation + Indifference: Both Are Okay

On Saturday evening, I finished work after a fairly busy day (it’s always busier towards the end of the day, too, because of all the cleaning that needs done, so we typically end it feeling a bit frenzied) and felt somewhat at a loss.

Mothers talk about “empty nest syndrome”, when they are forced to forgo most of their caring responsibilities once their children leave home and wind up feeling empty. So, I don’t have kids but I swear what I felt after work that day was some vague echo of that. All day, I’d had some sort of purpose – and when I left, I found myself alone and listless on a Saturday night.

“A void” is how my counsellor described it when I relayed these feelings to him today. I couldn’t really figure it out at the time, but I pulled up the buddhify app on my phone and selected a guided meditation called “Lonely”.

It had been stormy that day, so there was a grey, clammy humidity in the air (which I absolutely adore because I’m always cold and it makes me feel cozy) as I walked home listening to this meditation. I can’t really remember what the narrator was saying but it calmed me down. It reminded me that I am not the only one who feels alone – and in that there is a connectedness. It prompted me to send out well wishes to anyone else who might also be feeling lonely at this moment in time. Walking past the chippy, I thought of the girl who’s made up my chip butty a couple of times and how she called me “lovely” or “darling” or something like that. I wondered momentarily if she ever felt lonely and sent her well wishes.

As the meditation drew to a close, halfway home, I was filled with this sense of wellbeing. I felt loving. I started listening to some music. No Contest by Tinashe came on (this song has one of the best productions I’ve ever heard in R’n’B, if anyone’s interested) – a song about not wanting to compete for someone’s love. When she sang: “I ain’t here for no contest, when it comes to loving you”, I internalised this as being about myself rather than some guy. I imagined performing the song – this love song – but directing all of it at myself and I was filled with so much joy. I walked along the street, smiling like an idiot, filled with more self-love than I’ve perhaps ever felt.

Gradually, it started raining. Big, fat raindrops – a species largely unknown to my homeland of Shetland – splattered on the street. I’d actually been intending to get the bus home that night because I was quite tired but there had been a 12 or 14 minute wait when I’d last checked, so I’d started walking. Caught up in my internal bliss, I didn’t think to stop at another bus stop along the road and check the times again, and I eventually saw my bus whizz past me. I started laughing. Who cares.

I held my hand out now, palm upturned at the sky, hoping to catch some of these raindrops. A couple of times I stopped, bending my head back, closing my eyes and smiling – just basking in it. This warm, damp air, punctuated by these fat refreshing raindrops felt so dreamy. It bears mentioning, I was walking along a busy road at rush hour and was probably subject to a lot of people driving past looking at me, thinking I was an absolute weirdo. But maybe not. Either way, I was completely oblivious to it.

At one point, now listening to Ariana Grande, I actually spun around in the rain with a smile plastered on my face. It felt like such a special moment to be alive. I just felt like, in that moment, none of the wanting or desiring or lacking or yearning mattered. I didn’t care about getting attention from anyone, or having things reciprocated, or being validated or approved of; I felt whole. Fulfilled. More than enough all on my own.

Although that feeling didn’t last forever and I sunk into my Saturday night once I got home with some YouTube videos and downtime – I didn’t feel lonely anymore. I felt…okay. Content.

Speaking about this with my counsellor today, he wondered if I’d have been okay with sitting with that loneliness rather than exalting it into joy. And that’s the thing. I had no intention of trying to spark some joy out of the loneliness – it just happened. I wasn’t thinking: “Right, how can I cheer myself up?” I just intuitively pulled up that meditation because I felt a niggling inside and wanted to investigate it. Maybe the universe thought: “Actually, she could do with a life-affirming moment – let’s give her a freebee”. But I would’ve been okay if, actually, after the meditation I’d felt clear-headed and calm as opposed to elated and blissful.

And that’s quite funny because how often have we heard that being happy is a choice? That you have to choose to be happy. Everyday. And here’s an instance where I made no intention to be happy other than investigating my negative feelings and was rewarded with boundless joy and self love for 20 minutes. That’s quite lovely to me.

I’ve written a post about peak experiences before and how they sometimes arise during spiritual practice. Although I know they are not the objective of spiritual practice and are not necessarily good or bad, right or wrong – they certainly are enjoyable. And I feel very grateful that I was gifted with one last week.

Thanks for reading!

– SMUT. ❤ xxxx

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