Browsing Tag

loneliness

Guest Posts, No Bullshit Motherhood

The Loneliness of Modern Motherhood

December 2, 2016
loneliness

By Liz Vartanian

“Loneliness is a sign you are in desperate need of yourself” ~ Rupi Kaur

Truth be told, I always wanted to be the stay at home wife. I imagined my days to be filled with learning and adventures of a different kind. Learning how to make pasta, perfect the art of fermented foods, dive deeper into yoga, and maybe have a baby or two. In my late 20’s/early 30’s, I thought it would be grand to build our garden to grow more of our own food, then learn the art of canning and make my own baby food. In my mind, I could do all of this and more.

Now, years later, I look at the dreams of a childless woman and wonder how I thought I would get to “do it all”. To have the clean home, cook all the most nutritious meals (and have my child eat them!), to keep an amazing garden, spend my days socializing with all my mama friends while our babes play, to have time for my yoga practice or any other cup filling practice I may desire. All these things have one thing in common though, they all require time. Clean houses, raising babies, gardening, cooking, yoga, socializing, or cup filling all require some time from the 24 hours we get each day. Each require daily payments of our time. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Inspiration

Mirror, Mirror

August 17, 2015

By Anna Quinn

I want to write about the visceral dissonance my head and gut absorb each day as I scroll through images on social media—the pumpkin martini recipes and beheadings in Iran and cute cat videos and acid thrown in children’s faces and new iPhones and thousands of faceless bodies—women, children and men blown to bits, continents away. I want to write about the strange juxtaposition of these things and try to make meaning of it.

But what I really want to write about is that recent video floating around Facebook—maybe you’ve seen it—the one where women are in a department store, and one by one they look into a mirror, and the mirror begins to talk to them and the mirror asks each woman how they feel about themselves and the women don’t feel so great—one turns her head away, another feels like a dog, another shrugs. Then, the mirror gives the women personalized examples from their friends and families of how they are an inspiration to others, how they are so beautiful on the outside and inside. The mirror says things like, You’re beautiful! You’re enough! And when the mirror says this—You’re beautiful! You’re enough! the women’s eyes well up and a couple of them cry. I watch the way the eyes and mouths and bodies of these women soften and release, and I cry too, because of what it means to be human.

But what I really want to write about is how, in my messy conflicted mind, when I place myself in front of the talking mirror, the mirror shouts, “There’s no fucking way you’re enough!” and I know the mirror doesn’t say this because I’m ugly or worthless or broken. I know the mirror says this because it knows I can’t possibly be enough when fucking courageous as hell journalists are getting their heads chopped off while I fall asleep in a queen-sized bed with Garnett Hill flannel sheets, and one in four children are on food stamps while I’m at Trader Joe’s questioning whether or not the spinach is really organic, the salmon really wild, when mothers and fathers with babies wrapped tight to their chests fight to cross murderous borders, fight to find Safety while I fight to lose that last ten pounds.

But what I really want to write about is how, when I get like this, some of my friends say things like; for god’s sake, Anna, settle the fuck down. You’re so intense. What’s with all the guilt! Stop apologizing for stuff. You are right where you need to be. Focus on all those positive vibrations! Don’t take yourself so seriously. We’re just a speck in the universe! Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, motherhood, Women

On Wishing Things Were Different

August 14, 2015

By Jessica Zucker

I.

Mourning is hard for her. She’s loathe to sink into the anguish of that time and what it means about the woman who raised her.

Mother.

II.

Rather than feel the grief, she has spent the better part of her life gripping onto hope—an emotional contortionist—thinking that if only she were different than maybe her mother would treat her better, love her constantly, see her. Be there. These are the details that coarse through her unconscious mind day in, day out.

Anxiety.
Loneliness.
Shame.

After repeated emotional mishaps and arduous disappointments, history collected in her psyche, hardening her once soft edges. The antithesis of a wellspring of support, her mother’s behaviors left an indelible mark on her daughter, cementing her impression of what relationships are made up of, and what they are not.

III.

As a child she felt alone. She was alone. She turned her longing for connection into mock group therapy sessions for her stuffed animals, lined at the foot of her bed. “So, elephant”, she inquired, “what do you think about this story? How do you think the characters felt at the end of the book?” This type of playfulness exhibited her imaginative inner life and gave birth to an intimacy and connectedness she yearned for in actuality. Otherwise, in the context of the real people in her home, she felt stranded. Her house was missing key elements that she desperately needed to thrive: attunement, curiosity, reflection, unfettered fun. Continue Reading…

Family, Guest Posts, motherhood

Alone.

November 23, 2014

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

By Shannon Brugh.

My oldest son E turned to me today- out of nowhere, in the middle of lunch- and said, “Mommy? When I’m big, can I go everywhere with my family? I want to stay with my family. I don’t want to be alone. I’m scared to be all alone.”

And my heart broke into a million little pieces.

***

Earlier today, he and my youngest son W, ran ahead of my husband and me in the hallway of our apartment building. They jumped into the elevator before we had even turned the corner. They’re normally so good about waiting for us. But this time, this time they forgot. And as we turned the corner and the elevator doors closed, I heard E yell quietly in surprise, “Nooooo!!!!”

We ran as fast as we could, but we couldn’t get to the elevator before it started moving. They had already pushed the buttons inside when the doors closed. My husband bolted down the staircase and I waited where I was, in case they followed the directions I had once given them to stay where they were. I was hoping they would come right back. But they didn’t. I could hear E whimpering softly. He was scared. I listened as the elevator stopped at this floor, and then that one. I didn’t know which. And then I couldn’t hear them anymore. And I couldn’t hear my husband.

I started to yell through the elevator doors, hoping they could hear me.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Letting Go

Summer in Canaan Valley.

November 15, 2014

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By Jean Kim.

On an early summer day in 1988, PJ, our neighbor’s cat, went on a rampage.

Earlier that morning before the rampage, I had seen an adorable baby bunny frozen with fear, on the ground near our front door and next to some blooming azaleas. I’d never seen one so tiny, a fuzzy brown bundle you could fit in your hand but perfectly shaped. Its dark eyes were as still as its body, as they stared out in bewilderment.

The air was fragrant with June blossoms; it was the first truly warm day of the year, and it seemed everyone and everything in our suburban neighborhood was rousing to life. I had turned 14 a couple months earlier. Mom was gardening and said she’d seen another baby bunny.

Our amusement quickly turned to horror. PJ, a golden tabby, often strolled across the street to our yard. We noticed him darting around more quickly than usual. I heard my mother suddenly yell at him and try to chase him back. She waved a shovel. But it was too late.

Mom told me to wait in the open garage. (Overprotective as always, she still thought of me as a young child.) She scurried about the yard and was carrying something in her arms. She came over, and I saw she was holding two of the bunnies.

She said, “They’re the only ones left. There were more, but he ate them.”

Continue Reading…

cancer, Guest Posts, Pregnancy

Love In The Time of Drought.

September 28, 2014

By Cheryl Klein.

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

1. Sunday Story

A couple of weeks ago, I said to AK, “Can we talk about The Hospital List again?”

She said no. I’d just had minor surgery, and she felt like we needed to deal with that first. I felt like she was making excuses, blaming me and my difficult body. More about that in a minute.

This morning, one of the hottest this summer, we went for a hike in the foothills of Los Angeles. I was excited because most Sunday mornings, she goes hiking with her therapist buddies and leaves me behind. Today I had her undivided attention and I didn’t want to squander it, although I knew from past experience that Hospital List conversations were risky. She might prefer to discuss Attachment Theory with her colleagues than act out real early-childhood issues with me. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, parenting

Loneliness. By Lindsey Mead

March 22, 2014

Loneliness by Lindsey Mead.

It has been an enormous privilege to have my piece, 10 Things I Want my Daughter to Know, read by people far and wide.  It has also been interesting to see which points seem to most resonate.  It is #10 that draws the strongest reaction, and criticism, and I think rightfully so.  I stand by my point but absolutely agree I ought to have said it differently.

I was frankly more surprised by the strong reaction to #9, which cautioned Grace against trying to fill “a gnawing loneliness … inherited from me.  That feeling, Woolf’s ‘emptiness about the heart of life,’ is just part of the deal.”  Over and over again, people told me I was missing something essential, diagnosed me with depression, or chided me for having a desperately bleak outlook on life.  But the thing is, I didn’t think I was saying anything particularly inflammatory.  I thought everybody felt this vague loneliness at the center of their experience, this unnamed, ineffable emotion that waxes and wanes depending on the day, week, or hour.

There’s no question this is true of me.  The fact that I assumed this feeling was universal tells you how inextricable it is from my daily experience.  There’s something inside me, deep, inarticulate, but powerful, and I can’t control it any more than I can adequately convey the degree to which it shapes my life.  This truth, however, doesn’t make a sad person.  I could, and would, argue that it allows me to feel profound joy.

While I recognize that we are all tuned into this feeling of loneliness to various degrees, I still think it is part of what makes us human and that it exists in each of us.  Furthermore, I think that much of our addictive or distracted behavior (food, relationships, drinking, drugs, obsessive iphone-checking, you name it) is an effort to avoid awareness of this echoing emptiness.  Or this darkness at the heart of life.  Or this inexplicable awareness of something sorrowful that we can’t evade.  Even as I write this I think: I’m going to get more comments about how depressed I am.  And believe me, I’m not.  But there is a seam of sadness that’s stitched through my life, some hollowness that underlies everything, that ebbs and flows through my consciousness.  What I know now is that when I make an effort to really be here now, and to stop my frantic distractedness, that buried loneliness rises up.

Have you ever felt like the universe was talking to you?  That experience when random, disconnected sources come together to form an undeniable chorus?  And sometimes that chorus makes you feel less crazy and less alone?  Well, I have.  It’s how I connected Dr. Seuss with Mark Doty a while ago.  The reason this particular topic, the loneliness that lies under all of life, is in my head, is because of Louis C.K., Caroline Knapp, and Hafiz.

Louis C.K.’s much-shared explanation of why his children won’t get a smartphone, which I watched several times, contained these sentences, which made me gasp:

That’s what the phones are taking away, is the ability to just sit there. That’s being a person. Because underneath everything in your life there is that thing, that empty—forever empty.

Yes.  It’s through sitting with the emptiness, eschewing the behaviors that numb us to the darkness at the core of this life, that we learn to be human.  I could not believe this more.

It was in Caroline Knapp’s beautiful collection of essays, The Merry Recluse (thank you, Lacy) that I read her piece titled Loneliness.  Short and powerful, it made me stop, cry, underline, and re-read.

…sometimes I think I was born with it, born with a particularly acute sense of myself as apart from the world, as somehow different or lacking.

…the loneliness of my experience tends to be immune from reality, from circumstance or logic; it lies within me, a small, persistent demon that stirs in my quietest moments, during unplanned evenings, on Sunday mornings.  It is a sense of void.

Yes.  Just: yes.  I too have a small, persistent demon.  It exists in my chest and often functions as a glass wall between me and my own life.  I watch, nose pressed up against the invisible barrier, always feeling removed.  No matter how I shift and agitate, I cannot escape the painful reality of life’s impermanence.  The fact that even as I live a moment it’s gone.  The fact that no matter how much I grasp onto a particular season of life, photograph it, write about it, inhabit it, it slips through my fingers.

What’s new to me, at least in the last few years, is that this loneliness can be as valuable as it is undeniable and inescapable.  Hafiz writes:

Don’t surrender your loneliness so quickly.
Let it cut more deep.

Let it ferment and season you as few
human or even divine ingredients can. 

I can’t get away from this darkness at the heart of my experience, but maybe it also makes me who I am.  Perhaps I am learning from and shaped by it in ways I can’t yet articulate.  There is such liberation in this thought.  This emptiness, it echoes, but it also informs the way I see this world that I so dearly love.

It’s the same emptiness that both Caroline Knapp and Louis C.K. describe.  It’s the same gnawing loneliness that I referred to in my 10 Things.  And I thought everybody had it.  The reactions made me question that, but I’ve come to the conclusion that we all do, it’s just a question of how much we feel it.  For me at least, the answer is a lot, and often.

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Lindsey Mead is a mother and writer who lives outside of Boston with her husband and two children.  Her writing has been published and anthologized in a variety of print and online sources, including the Huffington Post, Literary Mama, Torn: True Stories of Kids, Career, and the Conflict of Modern Motherhood, the Princeton Alumni Weekly, and Brain, Child.  She blogs regularly at A Design So Vast and loves connecting with people on twitter and facebook.

*****

Jennifer Pastiloff is a writer living on an airplane and the founder of The Manifest-Station.  She’s leading a weekend retreat in May to Ojai, Calif as well as 4 day retreat over Labor Day in Ojai, Calif and over New Years 2015. All retreats are a combo of yoga/writing for all levels. She and bestselling author Emily Rapp will be leading another writing retreat to Vermont in October. Check out her site jenniferpastiloff.com for all retreat listings and workshops to attend one in a city near you. Next up is Costa Rica followed by Dallas, Seattle and London. She tweets/instagrams at @jenpastiloff.

Hearing Loss, loss, my book

Investigating Loneliness.

September 16, 2012

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and my teacher, Annie Carpenter, kept using the word investigate to cue us in the poses.

Investigate the backbend.

I liked the idea of being a detective when it came to my backbend, to the way my foot felt on the mat. I liked the way this verb felt in me, the way it rolled around and ended up in so many different landscapes. I planted the seed of investigation and what came up out of the earth of me was:

Investigating loneliness.

The old couple that lived next door to us for years in New Jersey, Kay and Jerry and how she got hit by a car in front of the church across the street and never came back from the hospital, staying there for months before she finally died of some complication. How he died of loneliness. How I think it must not be that hard. I’m investigating that.

Sometimes I sit in my apartment and get stuck there. Literally stuck. The quicksand of my desk chair. The sinking mud of my bathroom mirror.

The phone rings and the texts come in, the emails. All of it with its own little rythym of relevance: Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that! I stare at it them like little soldiers, these little missives and misfits and messages and patiently wait for it all to stop. Mesmerized by my ability to want to turn it all off, to make my nearly deaf ears a little more hushed. Noiseless as shock, I sit at my desk or in my bed and wrap myself in a feeling close to nothing.

What is this feeling? I have so many things to be done, so many people to call back, so many things I have let slip between the cracks of my mind and yet I can’t move.

Everyone is laughing and I might join is so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs frogs in throats. I might as well be floating on a piece of bark at sea with nothing but the clothes on my back and my thoughts to keep me from drowning. I have no idea what you are laughing at! I scream in my head as I laugh along, my hearing loss incapable of disguise. That feeling of laughing when you have no idea why everyone is laughing, that’s a kind of loneliness I want to tell you about also.

How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people? I imagine on my computer screen after this blog post, being sent in an email from someone feeling sympathetic somewhere. On the bottom, in the comment section below, platitudes like: You are never truly alone!  You may feel lonely but you are never alone! You are so loved.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago eating at Pasquals with my friends, the writers Emily Rapp and Chris Abani. We were chatting about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Emily’s baby is dying so these types of conversations are normal over Huevos motuleños. (This dish includes banana on top of eggs and while at first I thought the idea horrifying, I came around once I tasted Emily’s.)

Chris and Emily were saying that with sympathy people make it about themselves. Whereas empathy is truly about you, whoever you are. Makes sense. I agreed. That’s why sympathy doesn’t feel authentic, why it’s rejected like a banana on an egg. I don’t want sympathy.

I want a: Yea! Hey, I know what you mean. I have felt that as well. I get it. I understand.

That’s it. Enough said.

You can’t fix it. There is no fixing. I am investigating all the ways I feel lonely in a crowd,  what it feels like to be amongst the world and also completely not in it at all.

The thing is, I like being alone. I prefer it. I struggle to leave my apartment. I would rather read a book or write than go out and I have been this way since childhood. But much as I am investigating my backbend, I am looking into the intricacies of my aloneness and how it keeps me in my head and what a bloody bad neighborhood that really is.

I just read something by Iyanla Vanzant where she said “Who are you? Is not meant to be a question. It is meant to give pause for reflection. Who are you without whatever you hold on to?”

It is not meant to be a question but rather to give pause.

That’s what I am doing with this particular case, in my detective work, in my investigations. I am giving pause. I am not looking to solve the mystery, per se, but to look without judgement at the areas of my life I have hidden or buried.

I feel lonely often because I can’t hear. It’s a lonely world when you can hear sounds but have no idea what they mean.

So I understand how Jerry died shortly after Kay was hit by the car in front of the church because surely she was the only one who understood his sounds and what they meant.

What I have found in my investigation thus far is this: loneliness is the place we meet our hearts. And we hear our hearts for the first time. The beat slows down, the accelerated beat ceases and there is no panic or sadness or isolation only connection and  a deep knowing that you have waited your whole life for this.

In that moment, The Lonely Ones send their hearts out into the world to love and be loved, and maybe they will get broken, maybe not. But for a few minutes in the life of that heart there is nothing else but other hearts and their is a linking up which if you listen closely to it says the word Finally.