Feeling “The” Loneliness

 

Looking back, I think almost everything I ever did in my life before I began my spiritual journey, and even within it at the beginning, was about getting attention; specifically the attention of a potential mate.  Any real happiness I believed I could achieve in life would have to come from a mate; from fame; from love outside of myself.  

I was lonely, even though I had more friends than anyone I knew.  I had chosen a ‘career’ as an entertainer/club personality that was based on outrageous performance, in order to obtain popularity and fame.  I thought this would attract the partner, and therefore, the security and happiness I craved.  I was lonely, even when my attention-seeking behaviour brought me in front of crowds that were cheering for me and laughing at my jokes and performances.  I was lonely even when I “perfected” my body through obsessive exercise and dieting.  I couldn’t understand why I didn’t have a mate when I was accomplishing all these things.

It’s interesting to see from a new perspective, and with new clarity, how in trying to attract all that attention, I was really not being myself, and was actually pushing away any potential interests that were around.  Who wants to date an act?   

When I came into recovery almost 10 years ago, I was even more acutely aware of loneliness.  I blamed my misery on it.  There was an awful lot of loneliness in those first few months and years of living my new sober life.  There were many sleepless nights of self-pity and incredible discomfort.  I wondered why I was so alone, and I wanted to escape how I felt.  Again, I blamed the absence of a loving relationship for the loneliness I felt, and I tried anything and everything to bring that elusive relationship into my life.  As a matter of fact, when I first understood that I could recover from my messed up life, I went through a suggested recovery program with incredible enthusiasm in order to recover ‘perfectly’, not only to be happy and sober, but mostly so that I would finally be fit for a relationship.  Guess what?  I was still single.  

Nowadays, through the character-building work I have done, I believe I am probably much more fit to be in a relationship.  However, I also have a new perspective:  Yes, a relationship might bring me some companionship and fulfillment and therefore aid in achieving happiness, but the real cure for my loneliness comes from within.

As a result of taking an honest, thorough and often painful look at myself and continuing to take that personal inventory, I realize that loneliness was a reflection of how I felt about myself.  I was so insecure and self-loathing, that I required a relationship for validation, so that I could feel good about myself because someone loved me.  So naturally, when I didn’t obtain that relationship, I was lonely and miserable.  Continual practice of spiritual principles, yoga, and honesty to the best of my ability with myself and others, has brought me to a place of greater self-acceptance and self-love.  I feel pretty good about who I am these days. I live with integrity now (Integrity—a word I’ve just come to understand the meaning of), wherein I am myself to the best of my ability at each moment, trusting that I am loved for it.  And though sometimes I really like it, I no longer need the validation of others to feel good about myself.

I am rarely lonely today.  I don’t focus on needing something or someone to make me feel better, because I’m ok with who I am.  I now understand that in those old days of loneliness, it was not the actual absence of a person or thing that was causing the problem.  The problem was that I was focused on my negative feelings about myself, and I would get stuck in the mindset that I would always be and feel that way.  The trick, I’ve learned, is to change my focus to the positive aspects of myself—my success, my new life, the people I’ve been able to help—in those moments, and to embrace and accept who I am and what is around me, and therefore engage positively in the actual moment itself.

There’s another trick I’ve used when dealing with the little bouts of loneliness that will naturally always pop up here and there:  Once, a few years back, when I was on vacation in Hawaii—I remember sitting with my family on the patio of a restaurant in the warm air, thinking about how it would be nice to have a partner to share this moment with.  I began to feel some of those familiar feelings of loneliness pulling at me again. I remembered in that moment something that I’ve learned on this journey of self-discovery: that loneliness is a universal feeling we all experience from time to time, and therefore if I acknowledge it and express that I’m feeling ‘the’ loneliness, rather than ‘my’ loneliness, then I connect to myself to everyone…and suddenly, ‘the’ loneliness is gone.

Michael DeCorte

 

HONESTY/INTEGRITY/YOGA

 

Why am I so open about this?

 After many years of struggling with my drug, alcohol and food addiction, I finally surrendered to trying my best to live by the spiritual principles laid before me in a Twelve Step program—the result of which is my upcoming tenth year of sobriety celebration. 

 It is my belief that in being honest and forthright about my journey, and the fact that turning as best I could toward spirituality, saved my life right up to this day, that I may just be able to carry a message of the vast power of spirit to others who may be stuck; Besides, this is who I am, and I’d rather be hated for it than loved for what I am not.  I was once given a book from a peer called, ‘Worthy of Love’.  When he handed it to me, he said, “Because you are [Worthy of Love].”  In this book I read a statement that really stood out to me:  Serenity is the compliment to a life lived with integrity, wherein you are yourself at every moment, trusting that you will be met with unconditional love.  This resonated with me because, with all of the self-loathing that was such a part of me, I had become an extreme people-pleaser and co-dependent because I had no real sense of self, and therefore no integrity—I was always being whoever I thought you wanted me to be—terrified to let the real me shine.  Therefore, I was lonely and quite incapable of forming real relationships, because I never let the real me show.  I now do (most of the time).

 Once, a few years into my recovery, I was on an airplane bound for Vancouver, listening to my iPod.  I was sitting tightly in between a man and a woman, both whom I had never met.  A rock song that I was listening to had just ended, and a new Madonna song came on (I love Madonna).  I was suddenly terrified that the people to either side of me would judge me profusely if they were able to hear that I was listening to Madonna.  My first instinct led me to turning the iPod over so they could not see the name, and to turn the volume down so they could not hear the music.  This is when I had a pivotal moment of clarity—It’s no wonder why I’m alone, I thought to myself, I NEVER let anyone know who I really am.  Maybe the people beside me were potential soul mates, and I would never meet them because they would never know who I was, and that I loved Madonna. I sighed, gathered all of the courage that I had in that moment, and I turned the iPod over to let them see if they did, that I was in fact listening to Madonna. How very empowering it felt to live my truth!  I was flooded with hope that perhaps all of my long lost dreams might come true—maybe I would fall in love, be successful in a career I loved, and maybe I could be truly happy.  Thus began a learning curve for me to honour my truths, and to be myself to the best of my ability. This led me, despite many warnings of a saturated market; to follow my passion for yoga, and to become a teacher.  I am very ambitious now, and I speak of it, and I go after it, because I don’t think there’s anything ‘unspiritual’ about being successful and following your dreams.  In fact, I think believing in oneself, and loving oneself, and promoting oneself honestly IS living spiritually.  

I don’t teach traditional yogic philosophy in my classes, and because of this, I have been accused of being merely an exercise teacher in stretchy pants.  So be it. I don’t believe that the pontificating (preaching) of yogic philosophy is effective or helpful if the person teaching it hasn’t lived by those principles his/herself.  I do suggest in my classes that my students be honest with themselves to the best of their ability about what they are capable of on the mat, and to try new things—not to just sit out from an arm-balance or something challenging, having given up on themselves before even trying. 

 A saying that I learned on my own journey is: There is a principle that can act as a bar to all growth; that can keep a person in everlasting ignorance, that principle is contempt prior to investigation.  How will you ever know what you could be, if you give up without even trying?

 My student (who recently became a teacher) told me that the teacher at her training said to her, “Don’t be spiritual. Be honest.”  I couldn’t agree more.  I believe that real spirituality is the uncovering of the authentic self (through personal inventory, self-reflection, yoga practice—whatever it takes), and the desire, the work and the perseverance to live honestly and with integrity as the amazing and beautiful being you uncover.  That is what I believe a REAL yogi is—faults and all.  Maybe you won’t like me for saying this, and though sometimes I can still be quite sensitive, that’s okay by me. 

 

Michael DeCorte