I’ve been thinking about “walkabouts” lately. In the past I’ve always assumed that the most challenging aspects of these Aboriginal rites of passage would be in facing dangerous wildlife alone at night.
But after a few months spent in my first-ever season of solitude, I’ve learned there is another challenge that would also confront these young men: facing themselves. How often are we really, truly “alone” with ourselves for any significant amount of time?
I’ve had an aversion to my bed since Steve died. So I changed my bedspread, in hopes I would be spared the unsettling feeling of looking over and being able to so clearly picture him there. It helps a bit.
But I think the primary fear feeding my bed avoidance is this: I’m afraid of being alone with myself. When the T.V.’s off, the Facetime call with my daughter is finished, and I’m done puttering around on my computer, I know the next stop is bed. Alone. With nothing to distract me from me.
So this is when the most honest thoughts and emotions push up into my awareness, as if they’ve been waiting patiently outside the gates, hoping to have an audience with the one in charge.
Sometimes I’m thinking back through my day, chastising myself for important things left undone or other mistakes made (with no one to blame but myself), praying for help in making the shift to acceptance and grace. But most often it’s a leaden blanket of sadness… a profound sense of alone-ness that comes up from behind and wraps itself heavily around my chest. And then it sits there. And I sit here. It seems to want to be heard. Because once I look it in the eye and speak its’ name–sometimes releasing the tears that say “yes, this is real”–then it tends to slip away, satisfied, back into the corners where it will patiently wait for me until another opportunity to approach.
There are some nights when I keep the gates closed and never allow it access. Instead, I will read or pray (or both). And that’s okay. Some nights that’s exactly where I should be. But I think if I never allowed it in, I would be cutting myself off from something vital, a gift in disguise. My hope is that, with time and a thousand layers of healing, I will gradually become more and more comfortable in its’ presence. In my presence. And then I think I will have learned the central lesson of my own personal walkabout.