Tuesday, 11 February 2014

A special guest to dinner: Loneliness...

She has been haunting me... Every time I'd see her, I would look away. I thought she'd give up, and leave, but she would not give up. Once she catches someone, she doesn't give up so easily.

She would just stand there, in a corner, watching me. The image of patience personified: when I would be busy, she would wait patiently next to me, saying nothing. Sometimes only leaning on my shoulder, and I could smell her perfume. She would say nothing, respecting my distance, yet not going away either. Instead, she would "accidentally" be sitting so close to me, that I would not be able to not feel her presence. And very intrigued, she would look at me and say:
"What? I didn't do anything. You said you were busy and you didn't want me to disturb you. I know you don't want to see me. So please ignore me..."
She just knows that I find it very hard to do that. She is stalking me in the gentlest of ways, yet is the symbol of perseverance and patience. She just would not go away. And every time I look towards her, I feel her claws in my chest and I can't breathe... So then I pull away and breathe in! I must keep it all together. I mustn't look at her again. Every glimpse of her sends shivers down my spine and a dagger through my heart. Yet I cannot escape her! She is there, waiting for a moment of silence, when she can come towards me and engulf me and suffocate me. How gentle her touch! How subtle and yet with the weight of a mountain on my chest. She certainly must be Death's cousin, and the Devils sister. 

So I went to my master. I asked him what I should do, how i could get rid of her. He laughed and said: 
"Open up! Welcome her inside! Listen to her."
I was petrified, not believing my ears. 
"But... I will die! She will kill me! I can't do that."
"How do you know you will die? Have you tried welcoming her before?" my master asked.
"No... but... I am scared! Surely I will not survive if I do that. The other day she caught me for a moment and... it was terrible. I needed all day to recover after escaping her claws."
"See? You didn't listen! You ran away. Buddhism states to welcome all, good or bad, rich or poor, beautiful or ugly. Be the perfect host. Be the perfect listener. Invite her in and listen carefully to what she has to say" my master gently insisted.

He seemed to know her in a strange way. How did he know so much about her? I had always thought that they hadn't been introduced, but now I was getting the eerie feeling that they knew each other, and actually quite well. Yet she wasn't with him! Had he survived? How had he gotten rid of her?
I decided to put my whole faith in my master, although it was anything but easy. So I decided to ask her to dinner. Yes, strange, isn't it? How many people ask their Loneliness to dinner? I decided to be the perfect host and the perfect listener. No matter how ugly she would be, no matter how I would feel, I was going to do what my master had asked, or die trying. 

It didn't take long for her to arrive. She was already there. She was watching me set the table in her usual corner of the room, waiting patiently to be invited to have a seat. She had dressed up for the evening, and was visibly excited to have me all to herself. Finally, her moment had arrived. I was hers on a platter. I finished setting up the table. Took a deep breath and gathered all my courage, and opened up...
I was waiting for her cold dagger to pierce through me and for me to take my last breath of life... She smiled deviously at me and jumped at my throat. I could feel her everywhere, her smell, her touch, her piercing look. Yet she didn't kill me. Not yet. She was just making sure I am not running away no matter what she did. She was slowly surrounding me from every direction, covering every inch of my body in her deadly mist. It was too late. I knew I could not escape anymore. I was totally in my masters hands now, I was hoping he knew what he was talking about. I was terrified... She had me there and then, all she had to do was snap me like a twig and I would be gone! But no! She was enjoying it, slowly... I tried to look away from her, but immediately she pierced me with an icy dagger. The pain...! This had certainly been a bad idea. I shoudl have kept running away from her. What was I thinking to invite her over? To open up? Talking about letting the Devil in!
Her stare was icy and empty. It held an eerie beauty... Yet as deadly as a poisoned sting.
"Aah, so now I am not that ugly anymore? Can you look me in the eyes now?" she asked. 
She didn't just want to kill me, she wanted to have fun in the process too. I was so scared I didn't dare say no. I knew I was going to simply dissolve in the emptiness in her eyes, and that would be the end. Well... So be it... I had no choice anyway. I looked deeply in her blue-green eyes, and waited to die. Her stare was so intense... yet nothing happened, I was... still there, in her deadly grip, silence...
"So kill me already and get it over with! What are you waiting for!" I shouted. 
"Who said anything about killing you?" she asked.
"This is what you wanted all along, isn't it? So get on with it, do it!"
"I don't want to kill you" she replied,  "I never did. I just wanted your undivided attention."
"What?!" I uttered in disbelief. I could see her deadly fumes in which I was immersed, and her deadly stare, yet I was still here, very much alive. I didn't understand what was happening.
"Well, you asked me to dinner, didn't you?" she asked. "So I came. All I ever wanted was to have your attention, I just wanted your company." 
Funny thing to hear one's Loneliness saying that, eh? She wanted my company... Huh!
"So what do we do now?" I replied unconvinced.
"Well, we have dinner, and we talk."
"So you are not going to kill me?" 
"For the last time, NO! How many people have you heard dying of Loneliness?"
"Well, I beg to disagree, I did hear about one or two..."
"No, they died because they exhausted themselves because they kept running away from me. All I ever wanted was to stay in their company for a while and for them to accept me and listen to me. That's it."
I couldn't believe what I was hearing. 
This seemed like a dream. I tried to disentangle myself from her, but immediately I felt a cold dagger in my chest.
"Ah-ah-aah! Where do you think you're going?" she asked. "You said dinner, I came. If you push me away, I will make you suffer!" She seemed pretty firm on that one. 
"Ok, ok! I am not going anywhere... We'll have dinner... together... God! What am I saying? I must have lost my mind. I am having dinner with my Loneliness who promises not to kill me if I listen to her. Jesus!"
Yet I was still breathing, still alive, crazy or not. And She had moved out of the corners of my life which she so happily had populated in the last few months and into the chair in front of me, having dinner with me and we were chatting. This was unbelievable.
"So how is this going to work?" I asked.
"Well, we sit and talk and you tell me about yourself an I tell you about myself. We will be having many dinners together!"she said smiling joyfully. "And breakfasts and lunches! But don't worry, I am much better company than what you credit me for. And think about another thing - I know it must sound strange, she giggled - but you won't be Alone anymore, because I will be here, right?" 

So weeks passed, and Loneliness came every day and we became quite good friends. We spent many days together and talked over many dinners. I learned a lot about her, she seemed to already know everything about me. We had a lot of moments together. Sometimes she would visit me in the evenings, other times just a short glimpse during the day at work, we saw each other mostly during weekends. Eventually she started skipping days. I would catch myself thinking in the middle of the week: "Hmm, she didn't come last night. Did she forget?" We had started having such a good time together. But she didn't come as often as she used to. Even when she did, she would stay but briefly, and then apologized and said she had to be somewhere else. I understood. 

"So!" my master asked with a smile, "what have you learned about Loneliness?"
"Well, I thought I'd die, but I am still here. And it is because I was open and willing to hear her out, to look her in the eyes, to listen to her. I have understood that one can never be alone, because when you are feeling lonely, she is there... I have understood not to discriminate, not to judge, not to push away, I have understood to be humble and open and I am feeling so good already!"
My master smiled, he had a twinkle in his eyes. 
"Good!" he said. "Because you have another guest now. His name is Attachment! Welcome him too."

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