Making Peace

I sit in the half light of a rainy Sunday morning. The only other wakeful beings nearby are the cat, who shifts occasionally but otherwise sleeps, and the dog, represented only by distant clicking of claws on hardwood. It is as though I were in a cocoon of rain sound and greenery with all the soft comforts of the familiar.

I love this solitude. It's rich and soothing and nourishing to my soul. I celebrate each element that makes it up, marveling at how they all flow together into the perfect space. This is the peace of the world, for a few precious moments.

I have always known myself to be someone who enjoys solitude. Even when the solitude is less peaceful, for it is not all Sunday mornings with books of poetry, open journals, and mugs of coffee.

What I have been less comfortable with acknowledging about myself is the huge, black abyss that I've locked up into a closet, that Dementor of Dementors, which is my loneliness.

Supposedly - so I've read - people who report feelings of loneliness are likely to consistently do so throughout their lives, regardless of whether they are indeed alone or are surrounded by a tight-knit network of close, long-term relationships. That is a bleak thought indeed, but it also shines a light on the chaos of thoughts and feelings that swirl around the void.

No one can be the solution to loneliness. I think we can get into some incredibly destructive relationships believing otherwise, believing that this or that person is somehow staving off the darkness and filling the void with their presence. Loneliness is not shaped like a particular person. It is a greedy mouth that steals and feeds on joy, that thrives most when we try to pretend it's not there.

I don't want to dwell too much on the beast, but that last line brought to mind the image of Ungoliant, when Melkor brought her into Valinor and set her upon Laurelin and Telperion. She drained the life-giving sap of the two trees and belched forth black vapors, turning their light to darkness - and still, she craved more.

But where is the light then? What glass filled with the light of Earendil can I hold up to blind the foul, ravenous creature when I stumble into its lair?

I think it's a slow and patient process. No, no person can fill the void. For one thing, relationships, however good in their time, do not last forever, and sometimes what seemed like it could hold the darkness at bay threatens to unlock it and unleash it, stronger than ever.

But only if I tie my value to that and think that I am not worthy of friendship and connection. Only if I lose sight of the love that I have for those close to me and the love that they return.

I think the process is one part speaking truth to the darkness and one part a sort of quiet acceptance, practiced consistently in the present, of the uncertainties of life. If friends leave for other places, perhaps our relationship will change and the ties will weaken, but I am glad for them, for the possibilities that have opened up. And I am open to new relationships, new possibilities for myself. I do not lose what I have gained; I simply celebrate what has been and reach out for more.

To be clear, I do not advocate accepting the darkness. I agree that there are some nights into which one should not go gentle. I think it is meant to be subdued. But perhaps not with rage, save for righteous wrath - Samwise drives the sword deep into Shelob's belly, Ehud slew the gluttonous Moabite king Eglon with a dagger to the bowels - which is a rapid deliverance that still cannot undo the years of suffering that preceded it. What we are to accept is the circumstances that might otherwise be cause for grief, recognizing that they are not a reflection of ourselves or our value, but simply one out of the many parts of a life in which, for all its abundance and beauty, we will experience loss.

That is the fire, to me, of those sweet words, "Behold! I make all things new." The healing of the pain of separation. To know, deep down, that you are not alone and never will be.

In the meantime, however, we must make do with what is given to us. And what has been given to me today is love, friendship, joy, a little bit of grief, and the sweet, gentle music of this peaceful Sunday morning.



On broken feet
We make our way
By friends:
At their loss.
By family:
At their choices.

Yet though we limp
Through the pain
To be felt,
Our eyes,
Their vision
By tears,
Look up:
The stars remain.
We are blessed by their light.


Sabbath ii

Sometimes I laugh at my cat when she sits and she cries before the only closed door in the entire house.

Sometimes I stop laughing, pause, and wonder if I haven’t been guilty of doing that myself.