Up on the Mountain Top. Down in the Abyss.

Yesterday I spent a significant portion of the day crying and confronting the abyss of sadness that 2020 gifted us: isolation. Typically my life as a parent is involved enough that I don’t have the luxury of crying as a pastime. But yesterday Senya and Juniper were about a mile into the woods playing, Collin was busy working, and so I just crumpled myself on the kitchen floor and let all my sadness out. I sobbed and sobbed until I was physically tired from crying. One thing about living on a mountain in Vermont during this pandemic is that there aren’t a whole lot of distractions from what is. And sometimes the best option when facing a huge, negative experience (whether psychologically or as an external experience) is to simply be present with what is. So I was.

Being present with what I was feeling and thinking allowed me to cut straight to the chase. So, when I confronted the reality of how isolating these past 8 months have been, it didn’t take long for me to connect the dots and see that this type of suffering is part of the human condition. We, the self-aware homo-sapiens that we are, uniquely have to confront the fact that we each exist in separate bodies with separate consciousnesses. Therefore to a certain extent, our journey is our own. I used to think I was afraid of death until yesterday through a lot of tears I realized it’s actually the part about having to make that transition alone. Which is why that old Death Cab for Cutie song “I Will Follow You into the Dark” always struck such a chord with me. (Also, I’ve always feared that if there’s any navigational skill involved in getting to an afterlife, then I’m certainly doomed. So I really do hope Collin follows me into the dark at least long enough to show me which direction to go.)

Ever since the Big Bang that sent us all outward from a singularity, we’ve been somewhat alienated from each other. We live our lives fleshed out in these individual bodies and minds. And yet, we are all part of this unique human experience living on this interconnected planet Earth. There is camaraderie in that if we let it settle into our hearts. We are never alone in our experience because we ARE part of something bigger by virtue of the fact that we are here, breathing, alive, and part of this world. Sometimes that is very difficult to remember and even more difficult to feel. When it is, we can foster spiritual, emotional, and social practices that reconnect us to each other. Meditation can be helpful to this end. The simple act of connecting with one’s breath can help us touch into that pulse of existence, that breath of life. 

Additionally (and more accessibly for some of us who have difficulty staying with our breath for any number of consecutive seconds) reaching out to a friend or loved one is helpful. Being authentic in our struggles, our joys, our journeys—that is key. The more authentic we are with one another, the more real the connection can be. And when we do try to connect with others in an authentic way, it’s amazing what a difference it can make to remind us that we really are all connected. In fact, we humans are equipped with special powers to aid in that interconnectedness. Mirror Neurons. This special feature allows us to feel what others are feeling; we are wired for empathy and connection.

So, after my accelerated midlife crisis episode 12 entitled: “We All Die Alone,” I made my peace with death and the finitude of life and realized that even in that, we all are connected. And even death is connected to life. Everything is connected, and there’s a profound reassurance in that for me. After all, against the backdrop of cosmic time, the human lifespan is brief. We get such a small window to live, to find meaning, to be architects of beauty and love. It makes sense that for this reason we crave to be tied into something more than just ourselves (aka transcendence).

Some would say that if this need to be connected to more than ourselves is innate, then perhaps—in the same way that our thirst is quenched with water, our hunger satiated with food, and our exhaustion is cured by sleep—that there must be something to satiate the need for transcendence. Perhaps we aren’t just trying to “feel better” to make things appear less grim. Perhaps the deep need for meaning and transcendence indicates that there is a solution to this need.

SO, after all that crying and feeling and being present with what was, I woke up and found new inspiration in the day. So here I am, sharing with you the words of encouragement and authenticity that I have found at the bottom of my (kitchen floor) soul searching: 

We are all connected. No matter how alone you feel in your experience, you are never alone. You are never outside of the human experience. You are never outside of the reality that we all share. You are part of an “us.” We are all connected.

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