Loneliness, the Five of Pentacles, and Robin Williams

Some mornings I wake up feeling six kinds of crazy and twenty kinds of lonely.

There’s an old song that Don Mclean wrote about Vincent Van Gogh that has the verse:

“Now, I understand, what you tried to say to me,

How you suffered for your sanity . . .”

And the truth is that there are a lot of us out here who, “suffer for our sanity.”  We live through dark times, alone times, times when we’re so depressed, so far down emotionally and spiritually and energetically, that the pistol to the head, the bottle of pills, the fifth of whiskey calls out to us like the sweet voices of the Sirens.  “Come here, baby;  let me wrap my gentle arms around you and we’ll just be so peaceful and sweet and the pain will stop.”

For the most part, most of us survive.  We don’t take that path that Vincent walked down, we cling to our lives and our dreams, and we keep trying, even though we feel six kinds of crazy and twenty kinds of lonely.  We don’t embrace the Siren’s gentle arms and drift off into forever.

Many of us become highly adept at hiding our pain in plain sight.  We’re the funny ones, the comedians, the people who are always laughing, many times at ourselves and the sense that our lives are ridiculous.  Remember when Robin Williams killed himself and so many people were shocked?  “What?  Robin Williams?  How can that be?  He was always kidding, always joking.  Why would he kill himself?”

Six kinds of lonely and twenty kinds of crazy.  That’s why he killed himself.  To those of us who live out here on the fringe, it was no surprise at all because we recognized him as one of us.  In his senior album at Redwood High School he was voted both, “the funniest,” graduate and the graduate, “who is most likely NOT to succeed.”  

That speaks volumes to those who can hear.  Yes, we like him, but, man, he is NOT one of us.

The Five of Pentacles has always struck that same chord for me.  The two beggars are, above all else, outsiders.  They struggle along in the snow storm, crippled, wrapped in rags, while behind them a joyous light shines through a church window.  One imagines the parishioners inside: fat, happy, warm, singing songs of praise to Jesus, not even aware of the people outside their window who are, “suffering for their sanity.”

They are NOT one of us.  They don’t belong.  They are Out Siders.  Literally.

If you’re six kinds of lonely and twenty kinds of crazy, that’s probably a big part of your reality.  You don’t belong.  You’re not part of the group.  You don’t fit, “in.”  That’s certainly been my experience.  I’m in my late sixties and I still feel as profoundly isolated as I did when I was a kid.

So how do we deal with that?  If we are really and truly the odd ducks, the square pegs that don’t fit in the round holes, the crazy outsiders who don’t have a place in the herd, how do we NOT stumble into the same endings as Robin and Vincent?

I think that a good beginning is to just HONOR our weirdness.  And I really mean, “honor,” it.  Robin Williams and VIncent Van Gogh were worth a million – no, two million – bank executives and lawyers and accountants and other very, very successful people.

Why?  Precisely because they WERE outsiders.  They saw the world differently and they held up a mirror or a canvas and they said, “Look!  Can you see it?  Can you see the way it looks to me? Can you see the starry night?  Can you see how funny and amazing all of this is?”

Being alone is HARD, man.  Many people have been touched by that, perhaps for the first time in their lives, during this pandemic.  Being physically alone, not being touched, not being hugged, and loved and cherished – it’s all hard.  But being alone for all of your life, feeling like you’re always on the outside of that church window looking in . . . that’s the hardest.  That’s twenty kinds of lonely, if you let it be.  That’s six kinds of crazy, if you let it be.

The Hermit is very much alone.  He stands aside from the rest of society but he also holds up a shining lamp in the darkness.  He honors who he is, and he realizes that his wisdom is a gift to the world.  Make no mistake about it, though:  he’s been lonely and he’s been crazy and he’s suffered for his sanity, but he won through in the end.  It’s just a path that some of us have to walk.

Shine on!

The Ace of Cups and Generating Your Own Hugs

Psychotherapist Virginia Satir rather famously said, “We need 4 hugs a day for survival. We need 8 hugs a day for maintenance. We need 12 hugs a day for growth.”   And there’s a lot of truth in that. Babies who aren’t stroked and touched and held develop a syndrome called failure to thrive and can actually die from not  receiving enough contact.  There are many, many recent studies showing that animals also require an abundance of physical touching to develop and maintain healthy bodies and nervous systems.  What one psychologist referred to as, “skin hunger,” has been linked to depression, apathy, heart disease, and a lack of empathy.

The conundrum, of course, is that a lot of us don’t have anyone to hug.  Eleanor Rigby is real. A recent survey by Cigna found that an astonishing 46 percent of U.S. adults report sometimes or always feeling lonely and 47 percent report feeling left out.

Just think about that:  when you pass someone on the street there’s almost a fifty percent chance that he or she feels very much alone.  And the same thing may be true when you look in the mirror.

So where do we get that hug-energy that we need to be happy?

We might consider getting frequent massages, which is fine, but most of us can’t pop for 60 to a 100 bucks a week.  And we can’t go around hugging strangers because, as The Searchers have already told us, they’ll break our little bottle of Love Potion #9.

We might find the help we need in contemplating The Ace of Cups.  As I said in my original definition:

 It emphasizes the divine origin of love and how it flows into the world and nourishes all that it touches.  The lotuses echo the Buddhist symbol for the divine in the human spirit. They begin life in the mud and yet grow into the air and produce beautiful flowers.

The scientists who documented the need to touch and be touched ignored an important part of the phenomenon because it’s not in their purview:  love. It doesn’t help us at all to be touched angrily or hit or jabbed or abused. Quite the opposite, it’s worse than not being touched at all.

No, what makes us grow, what makes us thrive, what makes us healthy is being touched with affection.  That’s what a hug is, right?

The Heart Chakra is attuned to the vibration of love and love is what makes it healthy and glowing and open.  It doesn’t in the least bit discriminate about where the love is coming from, it just vibrates to that energy.  The love can come from another human being or a pet or a divine entity or from . . . our Selves.

Psychologist Gay Hendricks believes that we only find true abundance when we cease viewing ourselves as consumers of abundance and start viewing ourselves as generators of abundance.  In other words, we don’t have to look for external sources of abundance because we can make it ourselves.

And that’s true of any energy, including love.  The Heart Chakra doesn’t just receive love, it also generates it and, paradoxically, in generating it, it receives it.

When we have genuine, conscious compassion, when we practice loving-kindness, even when we pet our dogs or cats, we’re generating love straight out of our heart chakras.  It’s not hard. We don’t have to be meditation masters. We can just sit and visualize the face or touch of someone we love, really feel that love, and every time we do, we surround ourselves with love.

Or, to put it another way, we give ourselves a hug.  We can do it 4 times a day, or 8 times a day, or – if we want to grow – 12 times a day.

As The Beatles said, “The love you take is equal to the love you make.”  And we can make as much as we want to. We ARE the Ace of Cups if we choose to be.