I feel it most in the mornings when I awake alone and wrapped in silence. The north-facing window is sometimes open having shimmied down on its own in the night, and I will myself from my warm nest to close it. The cool air hits me like a shot of gin and I retreat to my blankets. Just 15 more minutes, I tell myself, time to imagine being held by another, and then the doing can begin.
I reach for my phone.
Then it’s time for the day — the balancing of the this’s and that’s on my to-do list with a deep hunger for something more. The feeling dissipates but it never goes away.
It is this longing that keeps me under my covers. And it drives my incessant reaching (try as I might to create barriers) for empty connections that pop upon contact like rainbowed soap bubbles.
My bestie turned me on to the writing of John O’Donohue and his words are coloring my world anew. Like a balm, he reminds me that this reaching is our human condition. “To be alive is to be suffused with longing.” And what are our longings, he says, but a hunger to belong? To feel connected, seen, appreciated, worthy, not alone.
The journey is to be our longing, our aspirations, our hunger for the something more that can’t be named. The potency behind this is our life force — a reminder of our aliveness.
True belonging comes from within. It strives for harmony between the outer forms of belonging and the inner music of the soul. -John O’Donohue
And this is the real balancing act: To watch our hunger drive us to reach outside ourselves and then somewhere on that journey (mid bon-bon, mid text firestorm, mid designer-jean purchase, mid morning fantasy) in a moment of great awareness turn and drive deeper into ourselves. Into the only place we will ever fully be met — within.
But that sounds sooo HARD.
Yes. It is the work of a lifetime. But our belonging does not hinge on forsaking the distractions, entertainment or the this’s and that’s on our to-do list — it’s showing up for it all, the multidimensional human experience. The outer is necessary for leading us to our inner — the music of our soul.
Our longing is a map to our fullness.
This is the place of embrace.
This is the place of creation.
But, ironically, this is not a place we like to hang out.
We don’t have the time, it feels too lonely, we don’t feel worthy or skilled enough, there are too many other things that are more important.
Yes, and we must show up anyway, if for no other reason than to manage the longing.
I’m trying this on. Before I’ve lifted the covers, checked the phone or closed the north-facing window, I write. I feel the longing viscerally. It is a dull hum in my centerline extending from belly to chest. I feel alert, sensitive and vulnerable like a fragile shimmering soap bubble, and in this, undisputable be.longing.
TOUCH YOUR SHIMMERING SOAP BUBBLE
When is your longing most present? Often we feel its intensity during transitions when there’s a bit of space for it to be heard. I can count on my longing in the morning. For you, it might be another time — evenings, crossing a threshold, in the presence of a certain person, waiting.
You can identify a good time to focus on because there will likely be some habit you’re trying to break that surfaces. This is the outer way we manage our longing. For me, this is checking my phone in the morning. When you find yourself reaching for the habit, it’s your clue that the longing is there.
Identify where the longing lives in your body
Breath into this place
What small thing might you do to be with this longing? Something that allows you to create from this place. Maybe that’s writing, or moving your body. Maybe it’s taking a photo, working a puzzle or doodling. Whatever it is, it should be something you enjoy. If you don’t know, how did you create when you were a child? Start there.
I’d love to know where your longing is leading you. Leave a comment below.