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Posted by Philip on 22 December 2015, 12:43 pm in , , , , , , , , ,

Grappling with the alone (all-one)

This time of year is difficult for me. To say I dread it is an over-statement, but I do steel myself for it and it's an exercise in endurance getting through it.

I struggle with being alone. I'm not lonely though, don't get me wrong. And I don't want to surround myself with people.

Struggling with being alone — and liking, in fact needing it — particularly at this time of year, is a kind of existential paradox. It's part conditioning of mind and part circumstance and preference.

Allow me to explain. No, perhaps elaborating is more plausible.

Conditioning of mind

Our minds are conditioned – that is an obvious fact – conditioned by a particular culture or society, influenced by various impressions, by the strains and stresses of relationships, by economic, climatic, educational factors, by religious conformity and so on.

— Jiddu Krishnamurti

Christmas and New Year are cultural rituals, characterised by celebration, being with loved ones, having fun etc. We see this in advertising, on television, in movies, online. They are the stories we tell ourselves about this time.

The reality is they are stressful, expensive, duty-bound and mechanical habits. We do what we do at this time of year because we can't not do it. To not do so would be rude, unconventional, weird.

Yet there are billions of people that don't even recognise these western, Christian rituals, exaggerated by cultural supremacy, media monopoly and political patriarchy.

I, like other westerners, have had 48 years of this conditioning. My mind tells me I should be celebrating with loved ones and having fun. But I'm aware it's just conditioning. 

Circumstance and preference

I was going to separate circumstance and preference but, as I began writing, I couldn't distinguish between them, because they are products of each other. Circumstance creates preference and vice versa. To think otherwise is to be a victim of circumstance. So:

  1. I live alone, well, apart from Meg my dog and my boarder who's away.
  2. I use a wheelchair.
  3. I feel most comfortable and relaxed at home.
  4. My home is the easiest place for me to be.
  5. My birthday is on 25 December, which happens to be the biggest western celebration ritual of the year.
  6. I don't go away because of 2., 3. and 4.
  7. I don't go to big New Year's parties (2., 3. and 4. again).
  8. I'm single and gay.
  9. I don't have children, not necessarily because of 8.
  10. I'm not into Christmas and New Year's celebrations.

You may now be seeing my paradox. While part of me is conditioned, another part is unconditioned.

To quote Krishnamurti again, “The ability to observe without evaluating is the highest form of intelligence.” When I sit on my own, in my house or on my deck, I am observing and evaluating my aloneness.

My evaluation is I'm missing out. But I'm missing out on something I don't want.

I spent an hour with my shaman therapist yesterday. We came across this "alone" issue, via a different route, and I'm elaborating as well as processing while writing. She introduced "all-one" as a reframe of "alone" and I'm still making sense of it. She also suggested that I learn to love being alone and all-one — and my struggle with them both.

It's not a new thing for me. I realised afterwards I wote this song, Alone, in my 20s and put it to music in 2011, adding the final verse and choruses.

I share all of this for several reasons:

  • We don't often share our inner processes, because it displays our vulnerability. I'm vulnerable.  We are all vulnerable.
  • Processing like this is ongoing. Writing has helped and I'm still processing.
  • Self-awareness is vital in understanding diversity, leadership and change.
  • This is a lonely time for many people.
  • There is no shame in being alone or lonely. It is just something to learn to love.

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