Friday, May 18, 2007

Reflections on NOT using other people to make yourself feel better


"So be lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience. But never again use another person's body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings." From Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman's Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia by Elizabeth Gilbert
My friend b is reading this book and emailed this quote this morning. I plan on reading the book someday... I guess Elizabeth Gilbert, went through a miserable divorce and decided to go travel for a year in order to recover. She gets hit on by Italian hotties and she refuses to sleep with any of them because she has taken a yearlong vow of celibacy. And then she reflects on loneliness (this is what I hear anyway).

I think these words are wise. They are similar to a line I try and tell myself, which is "Don't use other people to make you feel better." I have been prone to this, I think it's human to be prone to this. I am mindful of my longing not to do it.

There is pain, but also wisdom and depth and "alchemy" (gold making materials) in loneliness. And I've sat long enough with it to know that when I can sit with it I am so much better for it. But I can't tell you it's easy!

I find if I can force myself to sit still in silence for about 20 minutes and feel lonely or sad or whatever emotion I'm trying to escape from, that a number of things tend to happen.
  1. I might grieve what's going on and that "cleans me out" and allows me to tell the difference between calling someone because I want to see them and calling them to make me feel better.
  2. I might find some sort of stillness inside and really enjoy being by myself. Usually this turns into a painting fest or a time of writing in my journal or reading. I always feel really peaceful after these "dates with myself".
  3. I might come to more clarity and be able to verbalize a healthy direct request for exactly what I need/want and get my needs met that way. eg. "I'm feeling ______ right now. Would you ______."
This third one, directly asking, is huge for me. The difference between asking for help (care, listening, hugs...) directly from someone who would like to give it AND sideways trying to get someone else to do whatever it is we think we need (from sex to listening), is the difference between using and not using people. I know why I do it, indirectly (sideways trying to bond with someone. It's because I am afraid they will say no or don't want to be with me. But that kind of "getting" doesn't work for me. Directness is always more on target as far as actually "sating" whatever I need. The other is like emotional cotton candy. The clincher of the deal however is that I need to be able to hear and grieve a "no" when I ask.

I think I'm intentionally remembering these things because it just seems wise in the increased intensity of dating.


1 comment:

~Deb said...

Same goes for being very angry. Give yourself 20 minutes alone to 'cleanse yourself out'- so well put! I totally agree with you. Do we always do it? Not all the time, but when we allow ourselves to feel the grief and pain or anguish of anything that happens in our lives, we're able to see with new, clear eyes.