“Self-pity is our worst enemy and if we yield to it, we can never do anything wise in this world.”
Helen Keller

As I embark on this path of celibacy and the journey inward, the journey home, I come face to face with blinding  spells of loneliness and self-pity. The old, familiar tale. The sense of being on the outside looking in. Everyone else is lit up with the warmth of a partner. I alone am alone; worse, I am alone because I drove my husband away, which brings up tsunamis of shame and self-hatred. But mainly self-pity, a blindness to my blessings, and a world perceived through the lens of lack.

These are among my demons; this story is my Mara. Mara was the “demon” in Buddhist cosmology that challenged the Buddha on the night of his enlightenment, tempting him with seductive maidens and attacking him with monsters. Through it all, the Buddha sat unmoved.

I am certainly nowhere near that realized, yet I aspire to sit through these stories when they come up, without them moving me quite so much. I will not jump so readily in the quicksand, nor will I let it suck me in. The emptiness is here; I know it well. The shame, the self-hatred, the self-pity. These tentacles seductively try to drag me into the pit.

Today I have practiced consciously turning my mind away from this track; I redirect my mind. I choose instead to focus on gratitude for the many blessings in my life. This is the truth; I am not alone. I never have been.

***

Sami’s 4th birthday was last week, and his father and I organized a joint birthday party at his school. We actually sat in the same room for 20 minutes as the party unfolded; we set up the table together. We put out plates and juice boxes and party hats. We were kind and cordial to one another and the energy was just fine. Sami was as happy as I had ever seen him to have both his parents in the same space; he was beaming as we sat on either side of him; he turned his head from side to side.

“Mommy and daddy!” he cried, in utter delight.

The two of us, together. This is not something that he consciously remembers, as it has not really occurred for the last few years, since he left me for wife #3. There is immense progress here from a year ago today when I bore a searing hatred for him; even four months ago we were fighting bitterly. This party never would have been possible, even then.

That night, I came home in a terrible depression. I realized that I still love my ex-husband, and every time I see him I am reminded anew. There is nothing I can do about this love, I lost my opportunity to love and be loved by him. So I remember to turn to the Beloved; here is a relationship I can cultivate. My connection to the Divine. What brings me down this crazy, devotional path, I do not know.

Sami went home with his dad; I figured after having missed the last two birthdays in his life, I should give him the opportunity to spend the rest of it with him. Yet as the evening wore on, the sadness, the self-pity, the loneliness crept up, a stealth attack.

I sat down that night, and instead of giving into the waves of self-pity, I did something. I created a video tribute to Sami and the last 4 years of mothering him. I cried the whole time I was making it and felt a release from the crushing loneliness, remembering the love I feel for my son; how the experience of mothering him has changed me so much.

Now that I have stopped doing the majority of the things I did to distract me from myself, I encounter raw emotions in ways I haven’t in recent memory. I can’t run away, nor can I allow myself to be completely swept up. I would not call it equanimity, but it is something approximating it.

There is some negative story, some lag time, an awareness, then a touching into peace, where I remember what really matters, where I see through the stories and the maras that would seek to derail me from this path. It is a dance, where I am dragged off course, then right myself, over and over again.

I recall that in many ways, this dance is the essence of the spiritual journey.