Sitting by a dancing fire on this cold rainy Sunday, I feel lonely. Lil gently rubs the back of my neck. Robert and Phil strum guitars and sing ballads of loss, loneliness, and change. I sip dark red wine and am warmed by flames, alcohol, and love. My heart hurts, although I love and am loved. I do not know what I hurt about, but I do prefer this sadness to the numbness that preceded it. Sadness sobs in my stomach, chest, throat, mouth, eyes. I am heart sick. I feel myself longing for something or someone. I don’t know how to convert this sadness into something else. I realize as I complete this thought that I do not want to change my sadness; I would rather feel it.

I spend a good part of my existence avoiding “unpleasant” feelings. Especially lately, as much old pain surges up, I avoid without allowing myself the awareness that I am avoiding. As an unaware avoider, I am totally swept away by my escape techniques. In other words, my desires become so strong that I feel controlled by them. I feel much better and less desperate when I am an attentive avoider. I don’t act differently, but I know what I am doing.

This observation can be like the impartial scientist watching the subject. I describe to myself what I am doing, thinking, feeling as I do, think, feel. I describe without trying to alter myself. As I do this, I become more aware and centered. I experience who I am as an alive changing process rather than as a need to be fulfilled. I usually feel better because I stop being afraid once I realize that I am afraid. And whatever exists in me on the other side of the fear feels much more alive than the deadness that my fear produces.

Sometimes I observe by being in touch with my center, that place, that part of me that seems so still and infinite. This part of my being (perhaps my soul?) seems, in some undefinable way, eternal. I am not exactly watching myself, but time seems slowed down, moments so full, that I act and react with what feels like perfect ease. I feel buffered from the events of the world in such a way that my responses are all careful decisions, even when I act instantaneously.

The dichotomy that I make between positive and negative feelings keeps me seeking the pleasant and avoiding the less pleasant. I realize that my attachment and desire to feel good keeps me from being myself. I chain myself to the ways that I try to escape the hurt, loneliness, anger, fear, craziness. These avoidances are so obviously temporary and inefficient, yet most people that I know expend much time and energy trying but not quite escaping themselves. We consume food, drugs, money, possessions, power, sex, each other: stuffing ourselves in our hunger, rather than letting in and out that which would truly fulfill.

Our hearts are walled in scars, our minds clogged with worries, shoulds, desires, and our bodies sick and tense with poisons. Security is surely the crux of the problem. We are constantly trying to protect the incredible frailty of our lives. But rather than nurture our beings, we destroy ourselves. We often mistake poisonous extremes for pleasures, confusion for highs, and sex for intimacy.

I know that I, you, we are trying. You would not read these words, whether you agree with them or not, if you weren’t. One reason that I write this column is that I believe that we have the power to heal ourselves, to become unafraid and whole. When we are afraid, we are alone and separate. The world is “us and them” (them is everything that is not us). If we make this distinction, we expend our energies either keeping them out (protecting ourselves) or letting them in. I begin to learn that this distinction keeps me in pain rather than prevents the pain. I end up fearing being vulnerable and being vulnerable at the same time.

If I keep a green bough in my heart
The singing bird will come
                                    — Chinese proverb

Kierkegaard writes: Faith in God is accepting the absurd. I realize that I am absurd to accept the paradox, the absolute contradiction, that We are all the same being (this being includes every form of life and “non-life”). Accepting God (“God” is the word that I use, but other terms may feel better to you) to me, means to realize that suffering is no less beautiful than pleasure, and that the dirty wino or cold stranger are no less worthy of our love than our closest friends or partner or children. What God means to me is that I can love every being and every part of my being, everything is worthy of love. Within this belief, I feel and am whole. I realize that my hurts, selfishness, rage, rigidity, are all me, are all worthy of expression as much as my love, generosity, joy.

Only when I love and express my ugliness as easily as I express my beauty, only when I realize that they are the same, will I be me. When I am me, when we are ourselves, the pressure is off. We no longer have to perform. As we grow unafraid to be ourselves, the amazing love, beauty, creativity, and wisdom that we all contain will also emerge.

Writing this has been therapy for me. I attempt to explain the unexplainable because I believe that the only way that we can enjoy our lives, the only way that is worth living our lives, is to be ourselves. I am grateful for this opportunity to share myself with you. I welcome you to share yourself.

Only with love are we able to enjoy the suffering and ecstasy, the absurdity, of life.


like the zen archer
who surrenders to his art
until the arrow
hits the center
in the dark,
I draw again
the bow of my vocal cords

and let fly
down the blind
corridor of continuum
to the mirror
of the synapse.

still, this
only represents the gesture
of what cannot be
said in words.

(excerpted from the poem Words by Jeff Franklin)

I will respond to any questions, concerns, or comments that you send to me, Leaf, care of THE SUN, Box 732, Chapel Hill, NC 27514.