Athena GraceThis is #6 in our Guest Blogger series by Athena Grace.

The masterfully ecstatic Sufi poet, Hafiz says not to surrender my loneliness so quickly.  He says to let it season and ferment me as few human or even divine ingredients can… Lately I haven’t had much of a choice. This cold, echoing vastness swoops down upon me and clutches my tender Inner Life with devilish talons, bringing me to my figurative knees.  She stays for some time… (which always occurs as eternity) and I watch myself squirm and buck and strategize ways to alter and edit my existence so to bypass this crucible… until I realize that I am running from myself, and I will never outrun God.  Then I guide myself to slow and deepen my breath, soften my heart and relax my whole body into the experience, feeling all of the nuanced contours of its intrinsically neutral, yet somehow terrifying underbelly.


No, loneliness is not a new consort.  But being a new mama has amplified it, because I cannot rely on my old strategies to side-step it.  I can’t go to a yoga or dance class, sit in a cafe and drink warm, sugary caffeine… even visiting a friend can be a monumental challenge, being at effect to a baby’s explicit rhythms.  Beloved Serena is my holy ball and chain.  She tethers me to the center of my deepest Self.  


Sundays have become the monster under my bed.  They whisper the seductive promise of a day of mellow, replenishing *togetherness.*  Family.  Friends.  Sacred leisure.  For everyone but Athena Grace.  Over here, I mostly feel like I am looking out at a joyously connected world through a hopelessly thick slab of safety glass.  Graceland becomes a desolate, glittering snow globe, beautifully imprisoning a radiant mother and child. Everyone already has plans, which mostly don’t include me and Serena.  Maybe you’re thinking, “Well then go out and do something fun and special, rather than wallowing in this elective agony, Athena!”…Easy for you to say from your figurative, over-stuffed easy chair…  Yesterday was this beastly holy day, and Serena and I set out early to our favorite river spot.  It was glorious and fed all the shy nooks and crannies of my soul.  But then the clock struck 11:30am.  It was time for Serena to nap again, so we made our way back to our hot, empty house, where loneliness salivated, anticipating my impending arrival, ready to pounce and kill.  With bared, bloody claws and awful teeth, she demanded a snuggle.  I wilted like a rag doll into her slimy, suffocating embrace.  She stayed till dinner time, and then slipped out silently, as the light and heat waned.  Serena sat in her highchair, decimating the same large fistful of steak for twenty minutes straight, as I jubilantly whirled sweet garden-fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and a red bell pepper in the vitamix, concocting a vivacious batch of gazpacho.  We shared laughter and silliness and fine dining.  Then came bath time in the kitchen sink.  Serena played with complete absorption, as I perched indian (Lotus) style on the counter, grooving hard to an instrumental rendition of the gayatri mantra that profoundly rang my bells.


All that to say, loneliness comes, has her way with me, and then vanishes like a sunset melting into the anonymity of darkness.  I’ve heard other mothers sing of the sting of isolation and loneliness during these early days.  I imagine it is especially difficult for single mothers…?  Because there is no warm, loving embrace to land in, at the end of a demanding day in the blessed salt mines of rigorous baby care.  No embrace but God’s… which is so damn immense, that it can easily go unnoticed to an untrained heart.  But every situation has its pros and cons.  Some moments, I feel unsayably fortunate to have luminous Serena all to myself.


The polarity of this experience is wildly pronounced.  In the lonely moments, it is so tempting to grope for the remote control and fast forward the movie to the next expanse of emotional relief.  But think back to the days of video stores and VHS tapes… it was so easy to impulsively press that forward arrow, have a momentary lapse… and suddenly the credits were whizzing by.  No wonder we collectively whimper about how FAST it goes!!!! Perhaps we are not allowing ourselves to be seasoned and fermented by the rich, earthy totality of our human experience.  


Being a spiritually focused person, I often find my world “peopled” with other spiritually inspired types.  Hence, the issue of “maintaining ones spiritual practice” in the dawning days of parenthood is a hot topic.  Personally, my yoga and meditation practices have sprouted quicksilver wings and flown out the open, summer window.  All that I am left with (besides an occasional, flushed and fleeting brush with asana), is the yoga of meeting each fresh-pressed moment with totality and kindness.  The meditation of slowing down my breath, and softening my body in the face of all that arises.  The profoundly courageous act of loving my heart, even in the excruciating and desolate moments.  Yes, my body craves downward facing dogs and a parade of breath-infused hip-openers… But all those years of indulgent practice have prepared me for THIS.  This profoundly mundane chopping the heck out of wood and carrying the bejeezus out of water.  Attending to every dimension of my existence with generous attention, gentleness and grace.  Loving myself fiercely and unconditionally every step of the way.


As you know, children learn by what we DO, not what we SAY.  This intentional softening, this deep care with which I attend to the doings and the BEING of my Life… This fierce and unconditional love that I pour on my own heart, even in the face of excruciating textures such as our ever-beloved loneliness… This is the Legacy I am determined to bestow upon my divine daughter.  I often marvel at how fundamentally happy she is.  She has implicit trust in me and in Life, which sources and informs each budding moment of relaxed, curious exploration and liberated expression.  It is a radical contrast to the way adults operate.  I often wonder how and when this sacred spell will be broken.  But I give everything to preserving it as long as I possibly can.  It is a miracle and a blessing to witness and facilitate.  Way worth the price of occasional exacerbated bouts of loneliness. (And the disappearance of my yoga practice as I knew it, or my inability to swim occasional, heavenly laps.)  I suppose it is the nature of Mother to sacrifice… Besides, I am being seasoned and fermented! Being broken down is an essential part of Life.  I am certain that the Divinity in me will always rise victorious.


This is my Destiny.


As it is yours.