THE LONELINESS DEBATE

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Lonesome. Lonely. What’s the difference?

My Aussie and British friends say there’s no difference. If you’re lonesome then, by default, you’re lonely. I disagree.  I’ve not once been lonely since I arrived in Bali early in 2012. I do, however, from time to time miss my daughters and other family members back in the USA. A wave of lonesome washes over me. Then Ketut appears, or Wayan, or Nina, or any of a vast assortment of Balinese and expat friends and the moment passes.

It hasn’t always been like this. I know how lonely feels and for years I avoided being alone even though some of the loneliest times of my life were with mismatched others.

In this communal culture I have to work hard to be lonely, or even to be alone. Today is Kuningan, the end of the twice yearly, ten day celebration dedicated to ancestral spirits. At 9:00 a.m. Ketut appears in his sarong with food offerings. Bananas, snakefruit, peanuts, various kinds of Balinese home-made sweet treats, rice, a sugary milk drink in a small bottle, are heaped on a palm leaf plate and placed on my kitchen cooktop for those spirits.

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P1110084 He lights incense and prays for the blessings of the ancestors, abundance, safety, good health, long life.

Two round bamboo talismans secured to my terrace will ward off negative spirit energy. For the prior nine days these symbols have been rectangular in shape. Today they’re replaced by round ones, a significant difference indicating completion, fulfillment, and the circular nature of life.

Prayers and offerings complete, we chat briefly and Ketut leaves.

Fifteen minutes later he’s back with a morning treat. One item on the plate is a mysterious concoction of chocolate, rice flour, palm sugar, banana, all mashed together, wrapped in a palm leaf, and formed into a Balinese tootsie-roll! Yum!

I’m snacking when Ketut pops in again…

That’s what I mean. With these pop-ins there’s always laughter. Either I’m trying to convince the hard-headed Leo of something that he’s dead-set against, smiling at me as he disagrees, or he’s cracking a joke.

A neighbor stops by in full Kuningan regalia, sarong, kebaya, Mona Lisa, for a quick hello. About that time my phone sings the message jingle and another neighbor wants to come for an afternoon chat. Every day is some variation on this theme.

Of course the sheer number of interactions per day doesn’t guarantee anything. But that isn’t the question posed here.

So tell me please, who’s right? Is there a distinct difference between lonesome and lonely, or is it just one of those cultural misunderstandings that American English has with the Queen’s English and we’re both right in our own obstinate ways?

Romeo Declares His Love From My Garden

I am sitting on my balcony at the little desk listening to night noises…a frog with a voice 2000 times his size is making himself heard. It must be a mating call, nothing else would be so raucous and urgent! Wherever you are, lady frog, put this poor guy out of his misery! And somewhere there is music, dreamy, mellow music that I can hear when the frog takes a breath. It is an otherwise lovely evening.

My House Frog

Ancient Hindus believed that frogs cast the world into orbit in space and symbolize darkness. In other cultures frogs represent transformation and rebirth, similar to the butterfly. It is fitting that I should have monsieur frog as my constant companion here at Rumah Kita. (However, I much prefer the strong, silent type in the photo to the raunchy fellow in the garden!) If I could describe in words the sound my Garden Romeo makes, it is similar to incessant loud hammering on a hollow wooden box. Try that sometime and know my suffering! He goes on for hours! I have threatened to personally transport him to someone else’s garden far, far away from his lady if he doesn’t quit. My menacing words go unheeded.

But, as I said, it is fitting that my life has abundant frog energy right now. Part of the journey toward awakening is facing and embracing the darkness. I like to call it ‘owning the shadow.’ For someone who spent 3/4 of her life fleeing the shadows this is no small task! How cleverly I disguised the stormy wasteland of my broken self! I took a lot of credit for being strong, capable, efficient, independent, and in need of nothing. That’s a lonely place. Oddly enough, the thing I most feared was being alone.

Enter monsieur frog (figuratively speaking….) I like to think of the tadpole not as a baby frog, but as preparation for the mature frog. It is all a process of growth and change. When I became willing to look at who I really am, alone, clothes off, makeup off, hair gnarly and askew, and all cleverness aside, that’s when the tadpole legs began to shrink and my mature frog-body started to take shape. (I do love metaphor!) As I looked at the real woman, stripped of all trappings, I felt such tenderness and compassion for that person who held herself so tightly, tried to be so perfect, and had failed so miserably! “That’s me,” I thought. “Valiant effort!” I told myself. “But time to let go. Time to just be.” And that was the beginning of this joyous wild ride.

There is no more fulfilling mission than the search for the lost self. Bits of all of us have gone missing over the years. Do you ever answer a question with, “Oh, I used to but….?” That was me. I used to sing. I used to paint. I used to play guitar, and flute, and ukelele, and piano. I used to write…. What happened to all that creativity? I exchanged it for the trappings of sophistication and success. I exchanged it for an empty, soul-less life. My throat goes tight and tears sting beneath my eyelids as my heart expands with gratitude. I was spared. I caught myself in time. I started, again, to write…

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