What comes up for you as you read those words?
If you find either of those concepts unsettling or scary- you are not alone. Many find it uncomfortable to be alone, either for short or long periods of time. The longer time frames may cause inertia, depression, and a feeling of isolation whether being physically alone, or in the midst of others. (Which can definitely be more painful and challenging.)
There is a poem called “The Invitation” by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. If you haven’t read it in its entirety, I highly recommend it. Two lines really stick out regarding the two concepts above. The first is:
“I want to know if you can disappoint another to be true to yourself; if you can bear the accusation of betrayal and not betray your own soul; if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.”
This line has really gotten some bad press. The first part is understandable, yet so difficult to carry through. Disappointing others is something we are hard wired NOT to do. There is such guilt associated with it- and from such a young age in most of us. We learn as children the uncomfortable feelings that come from disappointing our parents or others in authority. It becomes a part of us, this need to not disappoint others. We get so good at it too, which leaves us disappointed in the decisions, actions, and relationships that surround the act of avoiding disappointing the people in our lives. The clincher? We are the ones who have to live with the effects of this in our most important relationship. The one we have with ourselves. Internal conflict isn’t easy to live with, and it certainly makes for a challenge if one of the things we desire in life is to be happy.
The line that so many have wanted to change is “if you can be faithless and therefore trustworthy.” She meant it just this way. It basically means, if you can be faithless not faithful, to others, and therefore be faithful to yourself before all others. If you can be faithful to yourself, and people know this about you, you can be trustworthy. People will know where you stand because you are honest with yourself first, and also with them. It means that you also have faith in yourself. Life is a journey that has its challenges, given to each of us in different measure. Who we travel with in our journeying makes all the difference in the world, starting with ourselves. Having faith in yourself makes it far easier to love yourself.
Just what does it mean to love yourself?
One of the most important aspects of loving yourself is to be gentle with yourself. We are so hard on ourselves! We hold ourselves to standards that are so impossible to attain! We demand that we always do our best, and don’t take into consideration that our best is different in every moment! It is one height when we are feeling “in the zone” and all systems are go! It is quite another when we are sick or feeling less than our best. Sleep deprivation causes us to be less than stellar. Yet no matter what external forces are in operation, that internal measuring stick seems to point at us yelling “NOT GOOD ENOUGH!” Ah, be gentle with yourself, knowing that in every given moment you are doing the best you can with what you have, and how you are feeling physically. You would never be so hard on someone else that you loved! Why are you so hard on you???
It also means caring for your physical being and loving good health, food, and rest. Taking care of all of the needs of your mind, body, emotions, and spirit. Feed each of these aspects of yourself. All of you deserves love and attention. When we neglect any part of these, our bodies will grab our attention by showing up as an ache, illness, or something that is meant to gain our loving attention. Make sure that you honor what is being shown to you, because if you don’t, it will only increase until you are forced to deal with much larger issues.
The second line in her poem goes like this:
“I want to know if you can be alone with yourself and if you truly like the company you keep in the empty moments.”
There is one person you can never get away from- you. You are always there, no matter where you may roam. The journey is more beautiful when you love yourself. Being alone is not so frightening then, but rather an opportunity to get to deeply know what is in your heart, what you most desire. You begin to understand what you believe, rather than what others want, or think you should believe. Joy can become a more constant companion. That comes more easily when you are faithful to yourself; when you know your Truth firsthand and can express it with kindness.
Sometimes it isn’t easy to be alone. We were created to be social beings. We are blessed to be able to seek out those we consider friends when we feel the need to be with others. Yet I know, with everything that I am, that it is far better to be alone and feel lonely, than to be in a relationship and feel the depths of loneliness. This is the extreme pain felt when you feel so unknown and unseen, unheard and estranged, from the one person who is supposed to be there for you and know you the most. I will take being alone over that- any day of the week and twice on Sunday!
Love yourself enough to know that you deserve so much more than that! Being alone doesn’t have to mean that you, or anyone else needs to be lonely. Gently love yourself every day. Be joyous that you are alive and can love yourself and others freely.
Over the years I have been amazed at the number of people that have never done anything alone because it seems so strange to them; things like eating out alone, going to a movie or concert alone, to name just a few. These are things that people typically do with others. Try doing it alone sometime. It can be fun to people watch, to meet new people, and to be with your ideas and feelings in a new way.
Here’s to the joy of being you, and having faith and trust in yourself to be the best YOU ever!