A Solitary Life

imageThere are powerful words in Lynsey Addario’s memoir It’s What I Do: A Photographer’s Life of Love and War.

“I have missed the births of my sisters’ children, the weddings of friends, the funerals of loved ones. I have disappeared on countless boyfriends and had just as may disappear on me.”

As a vagabond road warrior and former serial asshole, I’ve never been a photo journalist. I rarely use my cellphone camera and never been to Syria, Afghanistan, the heart of Yemen or other strange places. Yet former girlfriends and wives, including Joanne, Julie, Karen, Aida and Virginia could attest that I’ve disappeared from their lives shockingly fast. I could barely commit to next week, let alone years.

I’ve spent funerals, births, birthdays, anniversaries, graduations, reunions and first communions sipping beer in an airport lounge or some distant hotel. I missed my brother’s wedding walking the jungles of Guam, deaths of Uncle Bill, Aunt Pat, Larry, Mike, Harry, Barbara, Jane, numerous cousins and countless distant friends. Literally, I don’t know my niece and nephew. I know their names, I know what they look like, but I know nothing of them. I’ve celebrated sunrises and sunsets, tornados and hurricanes, drought and famine with nothing more than a glass of Southern Comfort, an iPad or cellphone.

Contrary to a former administrative assistant’s repeated requests, there aren’t many pictures of me globetrotting through the 28 countries visited. Simply stated, when you live via carry-on, cameras are extra weight and knowingly giving a camera to an unknown local means it might just disappear. Romantically, I believe many would love to see these the places upon my visitation. Then again, there aren’t many who’d visit my funeral anyway and doubt few, if any, would intuitively grieve.

Borrowing from Sara Eckel, the intimate side of my soul did not acquire important skills such as how to be vulnerable, how to set boundaries, how to listen and how to speak up. I learned the art of compromise and forgiveness, but found many who couldn’t love when they didn’t always like one another. Thus, I cultivated significant wisdom from failure but bore little success. Maybe failure is a success?

In my parents generation, most married young and part upon death. Should death come early, they remarried quickly; if late, the survivor moved in with family or assisted living. In today’s world, surviving spouses avoid moving in with others—even, perhaps especially, their children. We cycle in and out of different living arrangements: alone, together, then alone again.

Still, as a Buddhist, I enjoy the solitary movement of my life.

I am a solitary person. Where others seek company, I seek secluded places of thoughtfulness and self-discovery. Like Thoreau, I go to the woods because I wish to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I haven’t lived.

A friend constantly eschews how hard her life is. Yet, quiet moments offers me the ability to understand that whatever life is, we must meet it; live it; not shun it nor call it names. Life is about living, about the essence of freedom available to all. Just as Lynsey Addario learned, it’s about living deliberately, with purpose. Similarly, George Bernard Shaw wrote of a purposeful life, a purpose recognized by yourself as a mighty one.

Living in solitude these past years, I recognize my own growth. I am deeply human, moral and spiritual. And I know that for most pressing moral questions, the spiritual and political can, and often must, go hand in hand.

Life is about waking in every moment. Whether you’re alone, married or bonded by group, live in the moment. Revel in it. Bathe in it. Breathe in it. And most importantly, live it.



Categories: Life Lessons

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1 reply

  1. You’re very welcome.

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