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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?