How I Befriended My Loneliness on a Solo Trip to the Desert
The cab was coming in about ten minutes to take me to the airport. I was on the phone with my best friend and I was trying to express to her how I felt about heading out on this solo journey to the desert. I was nervous. It was my third time going into the wild and rugged state of New Mexico this year, but this time it was different. I was going alone and I could feel my resistance to the journey trying to take over. My friend was going on about something that I wasn’t really able to follow or concentrate on, my anxiety was rising and I just started crying. “I feel like I’m packing up my loneliness and taking her with me,” I said and let out a few raw sobs. She paused and then said, “I know, but you’ll be ok and you’re gonna have an amazing time, and I’m always here, just a phone call away. You’re surrounded by so much magic, it's impossible to be lonely.” We hung up.
I reorganized my bags a few more times, made sure my travel companion, Loneliness, was comfortable for the journey and off we went. It was late October, the night before Halloween and pretty chilly in the desert when we landed, picked up our rental car and got to the hotel for the night. My nervousness had subsided a bit, and Loneliness was too tired from travel to really be much of a bother that night. We slept well and had strange dreams, the kind that only sleeping in a new place can bring you. In the morning we went and got breakfast at our favorite spot we discovered from the last visit and then we hit the open road. We began our trip by heading south to the strangest little city you’ve never heard of, Truth or Consequences. It was on the road into this town that the magnitude and awesomeness of this trip started to trickle in and the nerves were beginning to dissolve into excitement and release. What a gift it was to be able to have the time, money and wherewithal to know when I needed a break, and needed to go “home.”
I’m a native New Yorker, I didn’t grow up in the South West, so when I say the word “home”, I mean a place where I feel truly nurtured. It was in the quiet solitude of the desert that I was able to start to see that all of this work around self-love and self-inquiry is really starting to pay off. You see, my loneliness wasn’t just a feeling that I had to let pass through my body or a wave that I found myself riding. She was a part of me, a piece of my puzzle that in my past I would often let take the wheel and drive us around in a rather reckless manner. Sometimes Loneliness would encourage me to text people that weren’t good for us, sometimes she would be mean to the people who were trying to care for us, but mostly, she just felt completely misunderstood by everyone, especially me. When I finally took the time to meet and talk with Loneliness I found out she is one of my inner children, just a confused and hurting young girl, dying for someone to sit down with her and care to untangle some of the confusion and tend to her wounds. In the past I would have considered leaving her behind, trying to quiet her down, or let her rule the roost acting a fool. Instead, this time, I befriended her. I mothered her. I listened to her and let her cry out all the tears that were being held back for so long. It was really hard. I had no shortage of help and support along the way, oh, and I also totally lost my shit for a while there.
You see, when you ask the Universe for help, she answers. When you ask to be brought closer to your guides and your path, when you ask for your deepest and oldest desires of true and sacred partnership to finally come to fruition, well, Spirit wants to make sure you’re ready and up for the task. The Goddess wants so desperately to give us what we ask for -- to give us gifts, and sometimes, she needs to make sure you’re ready. Usually the final spin of a cycle, is one of the roughest ones to ride through. At least that’s what my experience has been.
A few months before my 33rd birthday, I was brought face-to-face with my shadows. The parts of me that are what Dr. Estes calls, the Not Beautiful, in her story entitled “The Skeleton Woman”. And I realized that for a very long time I was letting Loneliness try to reach out for love and support outside of me, when I was the only one who could possibly give her that type of mothering and care. I wasn't willing to look at the not beautiful parts of myself, and would just hope that they would go away on their own. If I wouldn’t look at her with hearts in my eyes, and sit with her and hold her through the pain, who would? It’s like all those memes on instagram are saying to you all the time, you have to show someone how to care for you by the way you treat and care for yourself. It took me a really long time to learn how to care for myself and to unlearn the ways of survival that literally helped me survive the trauma of my past, but were also way passed their expiration dates. In reflection, it’s been a three year long journey of deep work and the slowest build of patience and self-love. My self-work was mostly around patience, actually and boundaries. It’s had many super highs and very deep lows and I’ve had many teachers and friends to help me navigate along the way, and most recently I’ve met my guides and intuition. Facing my shadow has been the hardest and most painful experience of my 33 years. It has also felt like such a gift.
I want you to know, dear reader, that wherever you are on your journey, I honor you and bow to whatever it is that you’re going through and working with as you unfold. Especially to those of you who are just starting out on this path. I want you to know that it gets better. The days ahead of you are not always dark as they are right now. And while it’s not always bright rainbows and amazing first dates filled with new hope, it is also not all bosses that piss you off and stifle your energy. Your future isn’t littered with unpaid bills or financial pitfalls, it’s not all of anything except this --- all of you and your own unique story. And I truly honor that light inside of you and the bravery to step forward on the road to healing, whatever it may look like.
While I was in New Mexico this time around, I was given many gifts from super tiny to so big, words will never do them justice. But one of the biggest gifts was the space to see how much closer to myself I’ve really come. How much all those years of hard work has paid off. How deciding to start the unraveling process in yoga teacher training at 29 to finding myself driving solo on a desert road trip have all been a part of my process.
On my last evening in Truth or Consequences before I went north to Taos, I went a scenic drive in the early evening. My neighbor at the motel had offered me his “favorite ride to clear his head.” I hadn't asked for any suggestions of what to do, but I love a good drive through the desert and I am not one to refuse a gift. By late afternoon I was too buzzy from the hot springs and healing sessions to chill at my room anyway. So around 4:00 PM, without much left to do or many shops open in this small town, I grabbed Loneliness and we took the drive down to Engle, like Jim from Florida had suggested. Now you see, I think I should explain to you that I’m a bit of a worrier - but you might have gathered that by this point. I inherited it from my mother and I combat it by going on solo trips to the desert and things of that nature. But still, anxiety seeps up when I’m driving up windy mountain roads, with no cell service, but, “Wow, isn’t that view fuckin’ amazing?!” It’s always worth it to push past the initial nerves. So, I drove and I took in the view and I worried and let it go and I kept coming back into the moment. I drove through the vast scene and wondered who lived in these houses so far away from 4G LTE and a gas station? I smiled at the mountains in the distance, and wondered how long it would take someone to find me if I got a flat right now? The landscape kept changing and dancing in the fading light of the sun. The Land of Enchantment was really living up to its name. I could see why Jim liked this ride so much, and how it helped to clear his head. But where were we going? Where does this long and winding road lead to?
It lead to a stop sign. And a old dilapidated building and an equally dilapidated old truck. You could turn or turn around. On instinct and the fact that the sun was setting soon as well as the landscape, I made a quick U-turn and started my way back to my home for the night. I burst out laughing. Like hard belly hurting laughter. “Fuckin’ New Mexico!” I screamed to myself. I love this state, filled with so much magic in the most mundane settings. I let the laughter accompany me on the entire ride back to town. I’ll never forget that moment. So simple, yet so special. This was simply one of the desert’s many gifts to me and I’m so happy Loneliness was able to come along for the ride.
Loneliness hasn’t completely left me, but she’s gotten a hell of a lot quieter. The parts of us that are often the loudest are usually the parts that are way past due for some attention, some self-love and some soothing. Whatever your Loneliness might be, I want to encourage you to befriend it. It takes time, patience, and hard work, but it is completely worth it. You’re worth it. And maybe one day you too may find yourself laughing your ass off at the end of a road that literally leads to nowhere except your own beautiful heart.