Ebb And Flow

Human interaction follows the basic rhythm of moving toward, then moving away, like ocean waves against the shore. Feeling at ease with this pattern is part of the art of living.

It is important to learn that one can sustain a loss and endure. Able to move apart as well as to come together, individuals can free themselves from a crippling need which makes them hang on too cruelly here, avoid becoming reinvolved there. Getting and losing are part of the same process: one is its beginning, the other its end. But they follow one another in circular, not linear, fashion. We move toward one another, then apart, then toward, then apart…. The process, to and fro, is always changing, yet it is always the same.

Each leave-taking underscores our own limitedness and mortality. We learn that we cannot control others as we might wish. We cannot control fate. We are, and we are not, masters of our destinies. We move, now with others, now alone, now happily, now sadly, in a kinetic and continuous dance whose end comes only with our own, final separation from life itself. Understanding these rhythms of human relatedness will turn unavoidable separations into chances to grasp further the condition of our human being-in-the-world.

–Excerpted from “Separation anxiety…” by Michael L. Glenn, M.D., in the American Journal of Psychotherapy 25, 1971, 437-446.

When I moved from Syracuse to Austin in 1994, I experienced a tsunami-shift in rhythm. I was eager to move into a new life. Yet I remember how surreal it felt at times to be shopping for groceries, filling my car up, or running an errand, aware of how very alone I was — a stranger among thousands. (I came from a much smaller city that I’d lived in for 31 years.)

There were times in those first years that I was pierced with loneliness. I had friends, but most of them were married and had children, so I rarely had someone just to “pal around” with. Structured activities at church also didn’t provide the sustained emotional connection I desired. It didn’t help that I was attempting to follow a spiritual path that I was inherently incompatible with; all my efforts to create intimate friendships in that context were destined to be short lived because I wasn’t truly being myself. Also, during those years I struggled with depression, the repercussions of being raped, and the loss of my feline companion, in whom I’d poured all my connective energy.

To console myself through that era, I symbolized love as an ocean — immense, unceasing. The times I felt lonely I cast as low tide; I would remind myself the dry spell was temporary, that another time would come when I would feel flooded with connection. I was always loved. I just might not always feel it. That concept didn’t necessarily make me feel better quickly, but it did help me as I learned how to be alone, how to become my own best friend. The above quote was given to me by my therapist when I was leaving group and graduating from my master’s program. I found it as I unpacked last week. How timely!

Yesterday and today I find myself feeling sad and often teary. I don’t miss my former house, nor Austin particularly. (Well, I do a little, but not the heat!) I miss my friends and family there. I miss the easy companionship of getting together. I miss the familiarity with places, events, and venues; I knew my way around. After about five years there, I began running into acquaintances and friends all over the city, and this increased the longer I lived there. I was home.

Santa Clara has not yet become home. I know in time it will. What feels similar to the last move is a sense of starting over professionally. Then I had a B.A. but wasn’t sure what I could do with it (and I was quite ready to work someplace other than a library, my career of ten years). Now I have a master’s and a counseling license that doesn’t transfer, and again I’m not certain what direction to head in. This time, fortunately, there is no economic pressure on me to figure it out right away.

I’m meeting Siona for coffee today, and given what I know of myself and her, I think we will enjoy each other. It’s just that right now I’m experiencing the unique spiritual space of ending and beginning, which naturally brings to surface a variety of emotions. Accepting this, allowing myself to feel without judgment, giving the process its due — this is learning to understand my human being-in-the-world.

Explore posts in the same categories: Humanities, Journal, Quotes, Social Science

3 Comments on “Ebb And Flow”

  1. Mary Says:

    Kathryn, you are my inspiration for pushing into the blogging life. I have so many questions… that I’m not sure where to ask in learning the how-to’s. I savor your posts.

  2. Kathryn Says:

    Welcome to the adventure of blogging! Feel free to ask if you need a little guidance. I’m not an expert, but I can probably answer the basic questions. Another great resource is Mandarin Design Daily:The MEG Blog. Lots of easy advice there. Rebecca Blood also wrote an excellent guide called the weblog handbook: practical advice on creating and maintaining your blog. I recommend it!

  3. Mary Says:

    Thank you, Kathryn! I am hesitant to ask questions especially when they may not be a direct response to the writing. Thanks for the encouragement and the great resources.