Vulnerable Times

Still in the vein of living alone but with a thought that applies to us all: be aware of your vulnerable times.

When I was freshly grieving Trent, I discovered that the sadness came in the spaces in between. Not during the meeting, but during the walk down the corridor afterward. Not during the conference call, but after the call and before the next one. Not when I was checking out of my hotel room, but during the long drive back to Michigan.

It is important to be aware of when we are most vulnerable to that vile voice that lives in our head, the one that whispers with a pointed, piercing tongue. We need to anticipate that voice, anticipate the words it will use against us, recognize them, be ready for them.

The voice in my head speaks most insistently just after a wonderful time. Just after book club. Just after lunch with a friend. Just after an event downtown, as I walk home to my condo.

“I hope you had a nice time because you’re all alone now,” it says. The voice doesn’t stop there because its goal is to disable me, so that I put myself in a cinderblock closet where the voice believes I will be safe from hurt, not realizing that living in a cinderblock closet will kill me.

“You have always been alone, and you will always be alone. Alone and lonely.”

The disabling voice gives itself away when it speaks in isolating absolutes. “Always.” “Never.”

I used to entertain that voice, let it sway me, let it slow my feet, lead me toward the closet. That was a mistake.

Then I tried to fight the voice, defeat it.

That was a mistake, too.

What I do now is speak to the voice and move on. Last Sunday, as I drove home after brunch with my book club, the voice slithered into my ear. It started to whisper but I interrupted.

“I know you say these words because you want to protect me, to keep me safe. But if I feel a little sad when I leave my friends, it’s okay. It shows how much I care about them and how much they care about me. I am glad I have time with my friends and glad I have time with myself. I wouldn’t want to be with them all the time and I’m sure they feel the same about me. I had a good time at book club, and I will have a good time at home.”

Then I spoke words to the voice from Learning to Walk in the Dark by Barbara Brown Taylor:

“Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone. There is a divine presence that transcends all your ideas about it. ”

– Barabara Brown Taylor

Every morning I read an entry from Your True Home by Thich Naht Hanh. It has 365 short passages, one for each day of the year. Friday, December 13th was the 347th day of the year, and entry 347 said this:

“When we practice walking meditation for even a few days, we will undergo a deep transformation, and we will learn how to enjoy peace in each moment of our life. We will smile, and countless bodhisattvas throughout the cosmos will smile back at us because our peace is so deep. Everything we think, feel, and do has an effect on our ancestors and all future generations, and reverberates throughout the universe.”

– Thich Naht Hanh

That is an interesting thought to ponder. When I’ve walked alone, I’ve sometimes thought about angels or Trent or my grandmother watching over me. But I’ve never thought that my walking could connect me to future generations.

So I say to the little voice, “For all you know, I am never alone and never have been.”


Chewing the Cud of Good

photo of clouds

Thankful for airplanes and flight. I get to fly this week. I love to fly.

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