“When so many are lonely as seem to be lonely, it would be inexcusably selfish to be lonely alone.” ~ Tennessee Williams
This is a hard reflection for me to share because it calls to mind my times of deep loneliness. I had people to whom I was related in thought and action, but few people to whom I was truly connected in heart and soul.
John Milton wrote, “Loneliness was the first thing which God’s eye named, not good.”
The 1970’s were crazy times for me, my wild man years where you’d find me, more often than not, in places like the the Dubliner in Washington DC, the Emerald Isle in Chicago, Tommy Maken’s in New York or Murphy’s Pub in Seattle. Wherever my travels took me I would invariably land in an Irish bar feasting on Irish music. Fueled on many pints of Irish Harp, I sang along to the Irish rebel tunes, hooting and hollering with all the “barstool freedom fighters” who made up my invented community. All of us were bound together in joyous camaraderie, a camaraderie that lasted until the bar closed, when we all returned to being the perfect strangers that we were, likely never to see one another again. The music had been nothing more than our refuge from loneliness.
Maya Angelou captured my experience perfectly when she said,
“Music was my refuge. I could crawl into the spaces between the notes and curl my back to the loneliness.“
I shudder when I recall the true story behind those days. As my alcoholism progressed it became increasingly important to hide my identity.
- I experienced myself as a fraud, and it became vital to me that no one else knew.
- The more stories I told in my old Irish haunts the more achingly foreign I became to myself.
- At the end I felt like a person with multiple personalities, all strangers to one another.
Sobriety has been, as much as anything, a recovery from loneliness and poverty of spirit. It has made it possible to form genuine relationships with perfect strangers, and allowed me to:
- share my shortcomings as well as my strengths,
- find community with the walking wounded,
- regale in my brokenness with the brokenness of others.
I remember one particular incident in 1986 at a meeting near the Seattle Public Market, not far from Kell’s, an Irish pub I once frequented. On this occasion our coffee maker forgot the keys and the door to the meeting room was locked. The meeting chair had, at one point, been homeless, and came up with an alternative location for our AA meeting: a homeless camp under the Seattle Viaduct. He described it as his old “living room.”
“Home is not where you live but where people understand you.” ~ Christian Morgenstern
And what a meeting it was! We began as all meetings are begun, with a recitation of “How It Works,” and in no time many of the “residents” gathered round our makeshift table. We each spoke on the topic of “what makes up a home.”
- A healing home.
- A home for the heart.
- A safe place.
The stuff that came out of the meeting was startling, deep, profound – and really interesting.
- I discovered how “home” is mostly a state of mind,
- how home unconditionally beckons you in,
- how home is a place to reveal your honest self.
What struck me about that meeting, more than anything else, was my sense of belonging.
For that hour I was home.
I suspect these kindred spirits helped me discover the good in me as I came to see the good in them and, in this newly discovered goodness, we came to recognize the common community to which we all belonged.
Home is indeed where the heart is, or as James Baldwin understood, “Perhaps home is not a place but an irrevocable condition.”
Just A Thought…
Copyright © 2017 Patrick J. Moriarty. All Rights Reserved.
Would you like to submit a post to Just A Thought? To learn more, please click here.