I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, November 29, 2020

An attitude of gratitude

Last rose of the year

 Yesterday, Melanie and Chris and I walked from the Farmers' Market to the campus at Western Washington University, making a loop walk of around five miles. Early in the spring, we had stopped at the rose garden on campus and enjoyed the wonderful flowers. This time, we saw one solitary rose still on the bushes, covered with moisture and smiling up at us, reminding us that beauty still lingers, even at the end of November.

You may not enjoy loneliness, because loneliness is sad. But solitude is something else; solitude is what you look forward to when you want to be alone, when you want to be with yourself. So, solitude is something we all need from time to time. —Ruskin Bond

 I've been thinking quite a lot lately about what it means to be lonely. It seems to be everywhere, with this pandemic keeping us from being with our friends. Do you feel it, too? I am blessed with my partner, who shares my days and keeps me entertained, and well fed, too. He doesn't allow me to forget the wonderful food I've managed to neglect in the dark reaches of the refrigerator, by pushing it to the forefront and sometimes even placing a smiley face on a container, as if to say, "what about me?"

We don't go to bed at the same time, hardly ever. I am a morning person and wake hours before he does, and I tire and fall into bed much earlier than my night owl partner. After a sweet hug from him, I climb into bed, the door closed and the room darkened. I listen to the sounds outside through the open window and think about things, about my life, my day, even my hopes for the future sometimes. It's a time that gives me the solitude I need to come home to myself. A time to visit the quiet place inside my mind that allows me to gently fall asleep. Usually it works without fail, but when I am anxious about something, it will come up and demand to be examined.

Have you ever felt loneliness at times like that? I know I have. And it might help to think that I could just get up and interrupt whatever activity my partner might be engaged in, and start a conversation. But I usually don't, since it seems a bit selfish, to pull him into a mental place that he isn't actually in at the moment. I know it helps me just to know he's there, available if necessary. But no, I usually stay in bed, knees pointed at the ceiling under the covers, and ponder what is bothering me.

And that is when I realize that I'm not alone. That the sense of being heard exists inside my own mind. If I lay out the dilemma, looking at it as if I were going to tell it to another, it shifts around and takes on quite a different complexion. I carry on a conversation with my spirit self, and if I listen, I can often hear what is really going on and what needs to shift in my perception. Before long, I am asleep.

Some people might say that I am engaged in prayer. And yes, that is what I call it, too, often when I am laying out the facts, as if on an altar, one bit at a time. I believe that everything I need is available to me, if I just look within myself for it, rather than outside. And being grateful always helps me to look around with new eyes.

'Thank you' is the best prayer that anyone could say. I say that one a lot. Thank you expresses extreme gratitude, humility, understanding. —Alice Walker

 Yesterday, my dear friend Lily invited me over to her place for a small gathering (four of us) to celebrate my upcoming birthday. I usually avoid thinking about these birthdays, since I've had enough of them already, I don't need more of them. Why this birthday and not last year? I also received a wonderful unexpected birthday gift from one of my blogging friends, who sent me some handmade crocheted wearables, which is very touching. She first sent me a book, many years ago, when I wrote on my blog that I had never heard of Aldo Leopold. For someone who loves the outdoors, she was surprised that I had never read his "A Sand County Almanac." She, it turned out, had plenty of copies of it and gifted me with one. I read it and truly enjoyed it. There are images from the book I will never forget. Some people are easy to be grateful for, and she is definitely one. 

It reminds me that one reason I don't believe I experience loneliness very often is that I have a plethora of books to explore, and many virtual friends who share their lives with those who read their blogs. Because of them, I peer into their daily lives and see how others are coping with the pandemic. We are all so different, and I often am learning to see the world through their eyes, which gives my own perspective a new angle. I am constantly reminded of how fortunate I am, with such a full life, and so much to be thankful for.

Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend. —Melody Beattie

And with that, dear friends, I think I have finished another Sunday morning meditation. It has been fun to sit here in the dark, with my dear partner sleeping next to me, the light from my laptop shining into the room, filling me with so much gratitude that it is spilling right into the world. This little light will, I pray, make your day a better one, filled with the hopes and prayers of all of us for a kinder, more compassionate world. Until we meet again next week, I wish you all good things. Be well. 


Far Side of Fifty said...

Good Morning! It is almost your birthday! So happy to hear that Lily had a small celebration for you. You are a special gal to many. I am so grateful you are my friend! I hope you are celebrated all week! :)

Linda Reeder said...

The sun is lighting up the horizon over the mountains. I slept well but woke early, so here I am seeking out your Sunday morning post.
I have felt lonely even with people around, but this year, this year of Covid, I have not. I think solitude suits me. I have certainly been very grateful for my life partner, more so than ever this year.
I do get itchy feet to want to wander off on an adventure. I would like to be free to travel more, but right now my body isn't cooperating with that anyway.
This morning we will deliver Jill's wreath to her and then do some walking at the Des Moines marina for a change of scenery. Then the preparation for decorating will begin. And then there is baking to do, and gifts to wrap. I have a Christmas letter to write. I have just updated my list of options from Netflix for evening TV viewing. There will be plenty to keep me as busy as I want to be.
And there are my dear friends just a keyboard away to keep me company and visit with. Thank you for being one of them.

ApacheDug said...

I enjoyed this read, DJan; it felt very intimate, so filled with introspection. I appreciate your honesty too, for as many years as I’ve been blogging I often feel like I’m only sharing one side of me. I wish I could share more as you do. BTW, how can I be so naïve at my age? More & more, I’m learning that every married couple I know—every one—go to bed at different times. It’s not a big deal, I guess (never having been married) I just assumed otherwise. Anyway, this was a lovely read. Thanks for sharing as always.

Elephant's Child said...

I always look forward to your Sunday musings. Thank you (so much) for sharing them with us.
My partner and I live in different time zones too. It will be another four or five hours before he is up again.
I relish the time we spend together but relish time on my own too. I process things much better that way.
I am more likely to feel alone/isolated in a crowd. I so often feel that I don't belong there (which is probably part of the reason I avoid them).
Snap on the gratitude for the presence of my partner and also on the 'not waking him' part of the equation.
Like you I am very grateful for my blog friends. So very grateful.
Happy very almost birthday. I hope your week to come is packed with good things.

Rian said...

"I believe that everything I need is available to me, if I just look within myself for it, rather than outside" I believe this also, DJan. And I too have these conversations with my 'inner self' (or possibly the God within - depending on how you look at it). And of course this could be considered prayer.
I also crave 'solitude'... time alone. And DH and I (although always there for each other)respect that. However we do almost always go to bed and get up at the same time. We turn off the TV at either 9 or 10 pm (depending on what's on) and go to bed. I read for about an hour or until the books falls from my hands... while DH falls asleep rather quickly. Our alarm goes off at 7:30 a.m. (Now occasionally I do get up and make a cup of tea in the wee hours, but always return to bed after)
And you are right about being grateful...
Happy Birthday!

Margaret said...

Although I live alone, I'm not frequently lonely. Evenings can be difficult sometimes if I don't have anything engaging to read or watch. My affectionate kitty helps by sitting in my lap or on the recliner arm, purring and wanting to be petted. When I was working, married and had two busy kids, I craved the solitude but now a little bit goes a long way. I'm very social, so this pandemic has been difficult for me on many levels.

gigi-hawaii said...

So many sad, lonely people out there. You and I are lucky to have a husband. Solitude is good for rejuvenation and reintegration. I am lucky that I enjoy my own company sometimes.

Arkansas Patti said...

I have live alone but can't remember being lonely. I figure all I have to do is reach for the phone or answer it. I did have something happen recently though that made me realize how much I have missed the flesh and blood person. Will make a post of it.
So glad you and SG have such a comfortable arrangement and you allow eachother some alone time. For some of us, that is necessary.

Marie Smith said...

Early birthday greetings to you, Jan. I wish you a joyful birthday.

Living with gratitude helps us live a joyful life. Gratitude is the only prayer we need!

Gigi said...

As much as I love The Husband and enjoy his antics when he is around, I do crave solitude at times - I suppose it's the introvert in me. And I guess that's why I usually surround myself in quiet when I'm alone - because whenever he's here, life is NOT quiet.

Red said...

Okay , loneliness. When I first left home I was extremely homesick. I had been taken away from all the places and people I knew. However, since that I don't get lonely. Some of my best times are when I have been alone for several days. I love my solitude. I find it very difficult to get to sleep.

Anvilcloud said...

I like how you meditate and think. I do suppose that there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. I have chunks of the former in our daily routines but, fortunately, not much of the latter.

Betsy said...

I rarely feel loneliness. I think because I have so many things to keep me occupied. I miss people. The hugs and kisses from my grandchildren. The visits with my friends. But I've always been a homebody and fairly solitary. Of course, my dear husband is always here with me when he's not working so I don't have the solitude that many have had to cope with this year. I'm grateful for that.
Thank you for sharing with us this morning. I hope that your birthday celebration is a lovely one with good friends and lots of laughter.

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Galen Pearl said...

You and I wrote about the same topic -- not a surprise, I suppose, given the holiday. A friend shared with me the practice of "ruthless gratitude." Loved your post -- and I'm grateful for you!!

William Kendall said...

I'm aware of feeling alone, but not really lonely.

John's Island said...

Hi DJan, Before I forget it, I have to tell you how much I loved 28 Summers! I listened to the audio book. I could not believe how great a writer Elin is. Thanks so much for the recommendation. I enjoyed this post. I hope your Birthday is excellent! John