I spent the majority of my life settling.
Settling in situations and relationships, in love and with friends, caught up in thoughts like, “why hasn’t he texted me back?” or “I’m not answering because he took too long.”
I was handing out my heart to people who couldn’t really see it.
Is there anything lonelier than not being seen by the person we’ve planted tender seeds of love with, hoping they’ll grow?
I used to get this pang of loneliness, this empty hole that I’d try to fill with people who made me feel unworthy.
I don’t know that loneliness is always about being alone. I think sometimes, it arises out of looking elsewhere for a distraction from a hole inside ourselves.
A hole with a bunch of seeds. Ones that we haven’t been watering.
When this hole is in a drought, we attract people into our lives who treat us this way—watering us just enough to stay present in their lives. And we stay, just for the sake of “having someone.”
One day, the man who made me feel unworthy broke up with me. I had no other option than to crawl into that hole inside myself.
At first I found pain—a heavy, aching heart. And then I discovered my seeds.
The seeds were each a different interest. As I discovered one, I found 10 more, realizing I had an ever-increasing number to water.
The seeds grew when I tried different foods and films and songs and books and record stores and vintage shops and parks and hikes and beaches.
I experimented. I listened to different music, visited different places. I went on different hikes until I found my favorite one, went to different parks until I found my favorite swing, went to different coffee shops until I found my favorite brew.
I realized the seeds had been waiting to be noticed and nurtured all these years—waiting to be loved.
So I cared for them and shone a light on them. I figured out what books were more interesting to me, and which authors I preferred. Which theaters and beaches felt more like my own.
The seeds came to vibrant life, sprouting into beautiful flowers.
My loneliness had been in that hole yelling at me all along, saying, “Water me! Yeah, you! Not him! Not that!”
A lot of the trivialities that annoyed me about some things in my life were really my seeds begging for water.
Only I could nurture them.
It made me realize, if we don’t do it ourselves, we’ll continue to feel this hole within us as an open, lingering sore. We will continue to misunderstand it, thinking that we need more and more and more from someone or something else to fill it.
When I would try and distract myself from its ache, in no longer than a few hours, days, or weeks I’d feel the wound throbbing again, mistaking it for loneliness.
Interestingly enough, the true loneliness would come from the distraction.
I swear, I’d get high off of a text message, or a like on Instagram, or a call for plans at 11 p.m. on a Saturday. By Monday afternoon it was gone.
Really, it was just me that I needed.
We’re all desperately calling to love ourselves, and we misunderstand the call too often, putting our hearts and minds in other people’s hands.
But how can anyone or anything else be enough for us if we aren’t showing up as enough for ourselves?
And how f*cking brilliant is it that reading, music, nature, meditation, yoga, film, or whatever the heck our interests are, can be so deeply fulfilling and fun?
How brilliant is it that we can find ourselves in the things that we love?
How brilliant is it that when we do, we can find another who has dug deep into their own inner hole? Deep enough that they have the most beautiful flowers sprouting out of it, which they want to wrap in a bouquet and share with us. And shine a light on our garden, too—all at the same time.
All we have to do is water ourselves first—slowly, gently, watching as all our seeds begin to sprout and grow, then lovingly examining all the colors and patterns that arise.
“Perhaps the heart of our melancholy is that we miss the woman we were meant to be. We miss our authentic selves. But the good news is that even if you have ignored her overtures for decades (‘Wear red … cut your hair … Study art in Paris … Learn the tango …”), your authentic self has not abandoned you. Instead she has been waiting patiently for you to recognize her and reconnect… listen to the whispers of your heart. Look within. Your silent companion has lit lanterns of love to illuminate the path to Wholeness. At long last, the journey you were destined to take has begun.” ~ Sarah Ban Breathnach
Image: Emily Sams Illustration
Editor: Khara-Jade Warren