I know I am not alone when I share with you that I spent a huge chunk of my life dwelling in feelings of loneliness. A HUGE CHUNK!
So much time, actually, that I can remember when it changed.
It was 2006, and several friends had been killed or traumatized by the Capitol Hill Massacre in Seattle, WA (USA). I won’t go into the details of what happened, if you like, you can read about it on Wikipedia here.
I can share what happened after.
While I was out of town, I received a phone call from my closest girlfriend asking me to check in on dear friends that lived at the home of the killings. I had no idea what had happened. And being on the other side of the country, I felt powerless to do anything.
My partner at the time urged me to stay where I was and do my best to have fun. There would be plenty to take care of when I got back home. Less than a week later, I found myself in the middle of a collective grief so strong, it changed our lives forever.
Yearning for a big family
In the 14 years since that happened, community has become the centerpiece of my life. I don’t come from a big family. Other than my mother, brothers, and two fairly distant cousins, there are no other blood relations. Mom is an only child that dreamed of a big family. I think she passed that desire on to me.
As a kid, I would randomly “adopt” family members. Given that my brothers are much older than I am, their girlfriends became my “sisters”, my brother’s bandmate in high school continues to be my “cousin” to this day, and my friends’ mothers became aunts and step-mothers. It was my dream to have those friends that would randomly come over to the house just to hang out, becoming the close siblings I never had.
But that wasn’t my reality. Or better said, it wasn’t the way I saw my reality.
In hindsight, I had so much more community around me. I just couldn’t see it because I immersed myself in the definitions television and movies were giving me. Best friends like those seen in St. Elmo’s Fire and Friends distorted what I experienced, allowing my expectations to cloud my ability to relish my reality.
Feeling loneliness in a group
Throughout my school years, I lived the double sided nature of my ability to “find commonality”. Some days I was a geek and some days a rocker. Misfits, braniacs, artists… you name it, I hung out with them all. I can strike up a deep conversation with just about anyone, focusing on their passion as if it were my own. And other than the “cool kids”—which I’ve never been able to penetrate, now that I think about it—I can comfortably flow from group to group with ease and skill.
But…. there is always a but… the converse of that skill, is that I don’t really feel a part of any group. No identity ever stuck for a long period of time. This made my dream of friends like family that are a part of your life for years seem out of reach. Hence, my loneliness.
I labeled myself an outcast with the ability to briefly step into new worlds, while never really a part of them. One foot in, one foot out, never getting the jokes that come from experiences shared together.
Listening to my stories now, you’d think I had a billion friends. But while I lived it, I felt utterly alone in my thoughts. I had one friend at a time. A friend I loved fiercely. And after the cycle of our friendship would end, that friend would fade back into their “real group” of friends (or so I saw it), leaving me, once again, alone.
A new definition of community emerges
So it’s 2006… no, wait, let me start in 2004.
You’ve heard me talk about 2004 before; the year I left my perfectly manicured life to get back in touch with my creative roots. By 2005, I was living in shared housing, creating community events, and dipping my toes in the unexplored worlds of tribal hippies, body-modifying circus freaks, and free-for-all burners.
Online, social media was just taking hold, and the most popular site in my world was appropriately called, Tribe. How I loved Tribe! Way before Facebook, Tribe was the alternative version of Friendster and MySpace.
Tribe represented the underground culture I was just entering into. There, I could become a part of tons of groups divided up by interest. The difference between the Tribe of then and the Facebook of now, was that in some way many of us crossed paths. You can say that Tribe highlighted the fact that we were all connected, rather than focusing on the divisions.
I remember being at a festival where a very popular Tribe personality, Sobey, played a game. He would mention the name of a Tribe group and the members of that group would step into the middle of the circle. The more groups he called out, the more connections we saw. And it was here that I realized that over the last year, I had created the elongated community family I had craved my whole life.
It took a tragedy to redefine loneliness
Stepping physically into the energy of the Capitol Hill Massacre, those neat definitions I used for so long to separate myself from others melted away. Our community, in its widest definition, came together to protect, console, heal, understand, grieve, and every other emotion you can possibly imagine in light of the tragedy.
But one emotion never came back: loneliness.
Even as I wept in my bed alone for the lives lost and the innocence stolen, I never felt alone.
Being the founder of one of the main music identities affected by the tragedy, I slipped in and out of social circles to do whatever needed to be done. And even when I was hiding from the weight of it all, I never felt completely outside. I think what I learned more than anything, is that you don’t have to physically be a part of every single moment in order to feel included. You don’t have to share everything. You don’t have to be the same. On the contrary, it was our differences that allowed us to alternate in taking care of one another, which sometimes meant leaving the other alone.
There it is… there is the key. Giving space to be alone does not mean feeling alone. The space is there to allow yourself to feel your inner voice even while holding the hand of another.
Space is love. And in that split second, I finally understood that I didn’t feel included because I interpreted the space given to me through a lens of fear—the fear of being disregarded or refused. And this caused the loneliness. Instead, I was given the space to do other things because they loved and respected my diverse talents.
Your True Nature is never alone
The plant world—as you probably guessed—turned my fear of being refused into the conscious awareness that I was actually being given the space to be who I am.
It was in a Biomimicry assignment where I had to observe an organism in nature. I chose grass. (And yes, this is where my love affair with grass started.)
Try as I may, I could not find any area where just one type of grass grew. Grass always grows in clusters with various types of grasses, small plants, and sometimes even mosses. Then there are the insects above and below ground, not to mention all the “invisible” organisms. I sat there for so long with the realization that it is the togetherness of all these organisms that makes grass so healthy and strong. And that even when you see a single blade that has blown away to go it alone, Ki can only do it thanks to the ecosystem Ki originally came from, and in some ways beyond our visible eye, is still connected to.
The connections in the little area I studied created the conditions for many plants and animals to thrive. They also created the conditions for my own existence. It is their silent nourishment that allows for my life to flourish: mentally, emotionally, and physically.
I laid back on the grasses, and let my mind wander. It’s not just living together. It is a way of being that evolves loneliness into unity without boundaries. And nothing has made that so obvious as this period of “physical distancing”.
For more than two months, I have not left my home. And yet, I feel closer to my family and friends around the world than I have ever felt. When I put my hands in my garden, I feel close to the mountains I have not been able to visit. When we discuss #epicvisions and #oops in an online group, I feel close to the worldwide members that populate it. We don’t have to see each other physically to be there for each other energetically and emotionally.
And that is the unity that dissolves loneliness and provides the strength to change the world we live in.
The deep realization that “I” is not singular has completely changed my relationship with myself. And this reverberates out to the relationships I have with others and Mother Gaia herself. I am made up of the multitude of organisms and connections within and without me. And when I accept that “I” is plural, I can consciously live in the understanding that I am never alone.
And that everything I am and do is with you and for you, because you are me and I am you and we are nature.
YOU ARE NOT ALONE!