The great and powerful longing



I awoke this morning thinking about–and feeling–longing.

The longing, like a swirling snake of energy, which has lived with me since I was a wee putter-snapper.  

Do you live with longing?

Oh, she can be a challenging guest, that one, with her slanted green eyes and endless desires which circle round and around and around.  

She lives at the center sometimes, an ache which can’t be filled.  Oh, how I’ve tried to appease her all these many years!  How did I try to appease her?  Let me count the ways.

Sad Panda

Sad Panda

When she appears early in the morning, you take her to breakfast.  You have to get out of the house.  You feed her scrambled eggs and homemade toast at the Nite Owl restaurant.  I’ve been taking her out to breakfast since my 20’s.  The longing would arise from deep inside, wanting–oh–wanting–something, anything–something undefinable.  And I would take her into town, through twelve forested miles, and scribbled stories with pens in spiral notebooks which the local townsfolk looked curiously.  

What a strange one, they would think, as they sipped their steaming coffee, and I would write imaginary stories about this one and that, until my heart swelled three sizes and the longing abated, disappeared, thank god, and you could go home and do dishes and act like an ordinary woods-dwelling person without the restless ache, the not-knowing, the rising inner moon tide which felt like it would sweep me into the lake with its undefinable passion.

Creativity always eased the longing, yes, it did.  It loved imagination!  It loved creating world upon world.  It could live a million lives before bedtime.  

The many colors of our lives

The many colors of our lives

But the longing wasn’t satisfied with simply creating.  It was always restless, wanting, wanting.  But I could not figure out what it wanted.  You gave it cookies and it wanted a banana split.  You gave it a heart-throbbing movie and it seemed satisfied until sunset…but it wanted more.  And more.

And endless snake of wanting, Oh Adam, Oh Eve.   A fire in the belly.  A wood stove eating endless trees, just to stay warm.  

Even as a child I felt the longing gestured toward the Divine, toward God, toward the Infinite.  The sacred lived in the longing, it did, disguised somehow, nudging one forward, or backwards, or somewhere–anywhere but here.  Anywhere but the consuming fire of the present moment.

The Phantom lives if you're brave enough to feel him...

The Phantom lives if you’re brave enough to feel him…

I began to see the longing shining out of your eyes.  Out of so many human eyes.  The longing everyone wanted to disguise.  And, oh, did so many disguise it so well!  They looked happy, smiling, laughing, keeping that longing under lock and key, hidden, at bay.  

But if you watched long enough, you’d see that snake rising in them.  Some drank to keep it down, some gambled, some watched TV mindlessly.  Some ate.  Some killed.  Some worked day and night, never letting down their  guard.  They sought pleasures near and far.  They tried to keep the longing repressed or maybe they fed the hungry, or attended church, or traveled endlessly, looking here, looking there, for what was never found, except briefly, until the next trip.

Perhaps it's the longing for life which creates life...even baby robins...

Perhaps it’s the longing for life which creates life…even baby robins…

Only recently have I–cautiously–eased toward befriending this longing which exists at the center.  To not turn prematurely away into distractions.  (Although am still turning toward distractions, don’t get me wrong.)

She’s the raw energy of life, propelling us, teasing us, guiding us.  She’s restless, she’s giant, she’s sometimes overwhelming.  Even though we can’t face her headlong–we fear she’ll blind us until we’re ready–it’s possible to move closer to her and learn to relax in her presence.  

What chair does longing want to sit in next?

What chair does longing want to sit in next?

It’s possible to walk on the hot coals of her burning fire and not be scorched.  Or, perhaps, in the scorching, to find eternal life…

How has longing danced with your life, shaped you?  Have you begun to make peace with her bit by bit?  What has she taught?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
This entry was posted in April 2013 and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

51 Responses to The great and powerful longing

  1. aurajayne says:

    Beautiful Kathy! Your writing is so inspiring! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      I am so glad you are starting to write your stories, Jayne. I am sure you will inspire many to live to their full potential. Thank you…

  2. “…the rising inner moon tide which felt like it would sweep me into the lake with its undefinable passion.”


  3. Elisa says:

    Oh, I am glad for the words of expression that you have provided for this. I have never, that I can recall in this moment of writing, seen this as enemy or a fight. I can say that if/when I am ungrounded and the inner flame of life flares so, I can feel spinny. Unable to keep up, or to process fast enough, a lack of focus or ability to gain as much. This can frustrate me and sometimes induce sensory overload. This part makes me laugh and I feed it grounding, and I pray with thanks for all that flows into this vessel to see, to handle, to experience, and perhaps to express. Another sometimes ‘sticking’ point, if I could even call it that, is when I feel that I cannot express with adequacy what is taught, felt, seen, and experienced during side-by-side moments of pure Creation. I have learned that the frustration ISN’T the inner flame creation. It is my own feeling of not being enough or able to get it out, to praise it, to glorify the gift.

    So, I guess I am saying, the ‘Snake’ doesn’t bite if I am in line with myself and in line with the alongsidedness of my being. It undulates, it expands, it coils. Sometimes it is still and I wonder if I broke it. Thus, in many aspects it is a meter of my being grounded. Maybe they then, are partners that only become seperated so that I can attend to them.

    In addition, the location of a Sensory diet, to keep my neurological issues in better balance, also assists grounding and provides a framework of inputs that allow for smoother undulation and shift of my inner flame. I’ve spoken with you before about how Winter can interfere with this input for me, but with your help and prods, I can better navigate that too!

    • Kathy says:

      Elisa, it is fascinating how everyone can take something–like longing–and some of us make it an enemy and others learn to dance with it. And how, really, each of us is often responding very differently to what arises, and no one way is right or wrong. It’s simply unique. Glad you are learning, or have learned, that being in line with the Snake is a gift and it doesn’t hurt when that happens. Thank you so much for sharing from your perspective. It is beautiful.

  4. john says:

    I have incomplete thoughts that I won’t commit to paper (virtual as this is), but you have stimulated me to think long and hard today about the gnome’s running around my head. I thank you for your inspiration.

    • Kathy says:

      John, I am glad that my inspiration can prove to be your inspiration, too. So often when I write I keep hearing, “It’s universal. Share it because it’s for all of us in some way or another.” Actually, this post is teaching me a lot today, too. More than most usual posts. I keep learning more from this blog as the hours go by. Love when this happens in the blogging world! Thank you, my friend.

  5. Robin says:

    I love this post, Kathy. It’s given me a great deal to think about. Thank you. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Robin, as I just responded to John, this post just keeps teaching me today. I keep learning more and more about longing as the day passes. Don’t you love it when you write a blog and continue to learn more and more from it afterwards? Thank you!

  6. bonnie says:

    Beautiful post, Kathy. You manage to put into beautiful, thoughtful words, feelings and emotions which I am not free to go with, because I’m a coward, and feel safe, with my longings locked up safe in the cave of my mind. If I were younger, perhaps I’d take action, but as it is, I can’t even identify it, but it is there, lingering. Your words are precious.

    • Kathy says:

      Bonnie, I don’t think a coward would have written this comment. A coward would never have had the courage to share this. I give credit to anyone who has the courage to see this, even a tiny little bit. And I suspect the Universe won’t stop giving us opportunities to see a little deeper–whether we choose to act upon the seeing or not–until the end of our days. Thank you, my friend!

  7. Years ago, a friend asked me, “Are you lonely.” My answer, “No. I am alone but not lonely,” however, I went on to explain, that there was an existential longing for something that was not there. For 36 years now, this topic surfaces. Even though we went our separate ways remaining friends, his last in person comment to me as I left that day was, “Maybe in another life; we are not finished.” And, strangely enough, that existential longing centers around the thought that I am not finished with so many people and issues, this learning at that level and must continue on to another life which I long for.
    Does this make sense? To me it does.

    • Kathy says:

      Linda, this is a beautiful comment. Your words “existential longing” opened up something more in me. Aloneness versus loneliness is a very important distinction. Honoring your courage to share here.

  8. Beautiful Kathy. I seem to know this place well. I walk, I sit, I photograph, I write and I paint. But I have rarely talked about longing directly. Your story is a profound knowing. Thank you.

    • Kathy says:

      Terrill, thank you for listening to this knowing and affirming that you’ve felt it, too. Wondering how it’s informed your photography, your writing, your painting. Perhaps this longing lies at the root of all art. It has been a gift and a challenge in my life, that’s for sure.

  9. lucindalines says:

    You are a true writer, this is so like Louise Erdrich. Great stuff!!

    • Kathy says:

      Thank you, Lucinda. It felt like something very deep wanted to be expressed today. And it’s helping me to more intimately meet that inner longing as it arises without turning away so quickly. Appreciating your words so very much.

  10. Dear Kathy,
    Longing is a theme of my life too. I’ve recognized it for some time as not a longing for god, but a longing from God. Divine Longing, with a homing device, that will tell me where my next step will fall, which direction to turn my body and walk. The prerequisite is that I lift my foot from where it is planted. I dare the shaky feeling, one-legged, unbalanced, insecure stance that is the beginning of following the longing. Following not filling. Thank you for your thoughts today, as I stand here on one leg.

    • Kathy says:

      Carla, I know this has been a rich womb of expression for you in your life. I love the words “longing from God”. That expression has the power to help, heal and guide…instead of the way we sometimes demonize our desire and yearning. Am also learning how to dare that shaking not-knowing feeling even more in this life. Learning how to allow that tiger-feeling of longing to exist and to even feed it, as it moves… Thank you.

  11. Brenda Hardie says:

    Oh yes, Kathy—-the longing. Yes, it’s there. Always. Rising and falling with each breath, with every heartbeat. It used to feel like a stranger but now is more familiar, like an old friend. But still, longing…..
    *I’ll be offline until early next week….enjoy the weekend Kathy ♥ Take good care 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Brenda, thank you (I keep thanking so many people) for having the courage to feel your longing and not to sweep it under the rung. I think I’ve had the tendency to feed my longing with a lot of stories instead of the courage to simply be with it, at times. Not that one approach is better or worse. But now am learning to be with it and know it won’t kill me. Enjoy your off-line time, Brenda! Enjoy any warm weather you’ll see.

  12. Colleen says:

    This is beautiful Kathy. I know this longing, this feeling that seems impossible to name, and have for as long as I can remember. Maybe it is the spark that led us all to this moment in eternity?

    • Kathy says:

      Colleen, that is a very wise way to put it. I am wondering if incarnation can not happen without this spark. All day I have been noticing how longing/desire/yearning actually seems a spark in almost every interaction. Every single interaction, can you imagine? Whether it’s to do dishes, reply to a comment, watch a movie, or go for a walk. Desire is always there, sacred and holy, unfolding upon itself. Am learning and realizing SO much today thanks to the Universe’s inspiration to put this into words. Thank you!

  13. susan says:

    Oh Kathy, that was nothing short of fantastic! I’m so intimately acquainted with what I’ve always called “Divine Discontent” – the very longing you speak of. Sometimes it drives me, sometimes it whispers, but very seldom does it find the “off” button and hush up altogether. I don’t think of it as the enemy, however persistent it can be, and often, like you, I court it – especially in my morning journal writing. To ignore it would be folly and not fully living. Like you said, many don’t pay attention to it and you can almost sense immediately upon absorbing their energy, just who does hear it and who does not.

    I am so glad that I finally made the move I did in my life – the divorce, the move – because the longing voice had turned so whiney. It (and myself) are quite content now but still get whispers, or dreams, that keep the “conversation” going.

    • Kathy says:

      Susan, yes, “Divine Discontent” is a great way of expressing what threads through so many of our lives. And to learn how to court it instead of chop off its head–now that is true wisdom! I keep wanting to become better friends with this energy and to realize it might be a partner for the rest of these days on earth. Or the energy might transform into something else. Either way, I’m no longer pushing it away. It can stay. We’ll sip tea… Hope you get a breath of warm fresh air this weekend! Maybe Ms. DD will go underground temporarily…

  14. anaturalfire says:

    so well put! the longing, inherent to us all, is the underlying current of the Universe that carries us on our life path/journey…the essence if life force… you described it beautifully.

    • Kathy says:

      Yes, indeed, you have also illuminated this, anaturalfire. The Universe carrying us on our journey. May we realize we’re being carried and not fight it. Thank you!

  15. Lori D says:

    Nothing much to say, except your every word touched my longing button. Thanks for understanding her.

  16. sybil says:

    Clearly you’re back to replying to comments. 😉

    Longing ? I long for a deeper faith. I want to understand what I cannot. I want to believe I’ll see mom and dad again after I die and yet I am scared of the idea of eternity, be it an eternity of something or an eternity of nothing.

    When I was younger I became a “born again” Christian. Oh it was lovely to be so sure of everything. I knew the answers.

    But as time passed, I didn’t like that my being “in”, meant that others were “out”.

    I am struggling to find my way back to a credible faith …

    Sorry. What was the question ?

    • Kathy says:

      Sybil, yes, back to replying to comments for this post. How can one not respond when people share their deepest longings? I truly like the way you share your longing, your desire to find a faith. Yet, it’s your not-knowing which strikes me as the most “true”, the most poignant faith. I wonder if there can be a faith of not-knowing? Sorry, what were you saying? *grin*

  17. Dawn says:

    I have struggled with longing my entire life. It’s even stronger now. I work on enjoying the moment but I am always longing for something else. Exhausting.

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, it can truly be exhausting. I’ve read somewhere that it’s our mind’s job to long for something else. It’s what it does. Our job is to see that the mind is just doing it’s thing. What exists beneath the mind is what we’re longing for, so they say. I hope we both discover it and come to peace.

  18. I was struck by this blog when I saw it appear, but it was one of those days. Ok, it was a day like every other day the past few months. They are all crazy busy. I have to stop being in denial… Anyway, since I knew I wouldn’t have time to look at it right away, I promised I would come back to it when I could. So here we are, looking.

    Why I was so caught by the blog this morning is having been blindsided by longing last thing last night. There I was preparing to go to sleep at the ragged end of another very long and tiring day, and all of a sudden longing seized me by the belly and throat and I began to sob. I am grateful that after a time my husband was there to hold me and listen to me, and I became calm again and went to sleep.

    Longing is the great blindsiding one. It sneaks up on one at the oddest times… Thank you, my friend.

    • Kathy says:

      Nicole, I read your comment yesterday–in the midst of a very busy day–and thought about how we can be blind-sided by our longing. How it refuses to be completely tamed and obedient and only appear when summonsed. (smile) I, too, am grateful that someone loving was there when your longing struck. Sometimes people think a partner will complete us–make the longing go away. But I think if the partner can be there for us when the longing hits–that’s what makes it a true partnership. I am glad this post spoke to you.

  19. dorannrule says:

    This is a wonderful post Kathy! Longings are the chasms at my core that need regular refueling. They are the needs for love, food, safety, inner peace, accomplishment, recognition, human interaction. The list is endless but the list represents life, and each individual life has its own longings to fulfill. I send this comment at the risk of sounding profound. 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      My friend, I love your profound comment. How you equate longing with life. What a great way to look at it! Thank you so much for sharing this.

  20. You either describe her quite well or I know her well enough to recognize her. You asked, “How has longing danced with your life, shaped you?” I dunno. I’ve had them dance in step quite nicely – someone who was suited as a companion – I found him – having babies with him, eventually he wanted those babies, without my bringing it up. So, I don’t deny them; and I am unattached to them. I’ve had longings that I fulfilled only to discover I would have been better off without that fulfillment; but then, if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t know that. Guess it really doesn’t matter that much. You wanted to know – “Have you begun to make peace with her bit by bit?” Very much so. So integrated now, that I don’t feel restless in her presence anymore. I acknowledge her – “Oh, that would be nice. Maybe it will be or not. All the same.” You also asked, “What has she taught?” (See above). Wonderful blog, Kathy.

    • Kathy says:

      Deb, honoring that longing is so integrated in your life that you feel peace in her presence. And that the restlessness has abated. And that you acknowledge her without attachment. Namaste…

  21. Heather says:

    Thought on this one for a while. I just long for simple happiness. Not so much for me – I’m pretty good at happiness whether big or small – but for others. I long for them (especially close friends and family, because I am also selfish) to make things easier for themselves and welcome happiness. It could be so easy. Sigh. There I go fixing things again.

  22. I have always had this feeling too — a sort of wanting of some willowy, translucent thing. It’s those times I most want to write; don’t know which came first, the longing or the writing, but writing always helps. And getting outside. Sometimes it still drives me nuts, though.

    • Kathy says:

      I know so much what you mean, Jessica. Feeling your description of it as “some willowy, translucent thing”. And, yep, sometimes it still drives me nuts, too!

  23. Joanne says:

    It took me a minute to digest the “longing” Kathy, and I think I know why….to me, longing for something is what I would call dreams. And we all need to have a dream, to keep us alive, and motivated and striving towards the next whatever-it-is-we-want. Perhaps a dream is achievable, but a longing is for something that we can’t have. I tend to only dream as I want my dreams to become a reality.

    • Kathy says:

      Joanne, it’s interesting how we all have different meanings of words. I have about six meanings for the word “dreams” and a couple for “longing”. Dreams and longings are different for me. A dream is associated with something that’s possibly attainable. A longing isn’t necessarily something I can’t have. It’s that it hasn’t bloomed into a conscious dream yet. But it exists so very strong and poignant and real that it’s impossible to ignore. At least has been for me! Thank you for sharing your perspective which, once again, allowed me to better articulate mine.

  24. Stacy says:

    Yes, I have lived with longing. I’m not sure what it is, though. It’s like a hole or a mist or a vacuum. Filling it up does no good, because how do you fill something when you don’t know what to fill it with? So the only thing to do is to just do. So that’s what I do. ❤

    • Kathy says:

      Stacy, wow, I just wrote a reply to Joanne’s comment (up above). You described kinda the same thing I did. A longing feels like something we don’t know what it is. So how can we proceed, how can we fill it up? Lately been thinking two things. #1: that it is so important just to sit with the *sometimes* challenging feeling of longing and honor it. #2 Have taken to asking specific questions of it. When it arises asking, “What do you want?” “What do you really want?” “Why are you feeling that way?” and other questions. A lot of new interesting answers are coming up and the longing seems to be relaxing now that it knows I will take it seriously.

      • Stacy says:

        Ah – I wrote a whole novel on the question “What do you want?” (!!) Yes, that is the question….not to be or not to be, but what do you want. It’s the only question that, once answered, can bring calm. Not peace, or happiness or any such notion, but calm. ❤

  25. flandrumhill says:

    Kathy this is so brilliant and true. Peace from this longing comes to me after a morning spent working in the woods, or a walk on the beach with a grandchild. I also get it after drawing or painting, writing a blog post, finding salamanders under rocks or comforting a crying child at the preschool. At the end of the day, I think we all want to be *used up* in a way that connects us at a deep level to the natural world and the people around us. I don’t think it matters *how* we do this, just that we give ourselves opportunities every day to do so.

    • Kathy says:

      Amy-Lynn, thank you, I am glad this blog resonated with you. It is so interesting what abates the longing–the differences and the similarities for us. Your thoughts about how we all want to be *used up* in a way that connects rings so true…

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