Trials of dating, self-awareness, autism

I’ve been in a strange place lately. Despite intending to make my life more simple, I’ve ended up making it far more complicated. I’ve been dating someone and the first two dates seemed to go really well – he’s kind, caring, spiritually minded, accepting of my illness – but the third date fell rather flat. I no longer felt attracted to him. And it’s left me wondering whether it’s me and I’m incapable of investing in anyone on a consistent basis. I’ve had fairly few relationships in my life and the ones I have had lacked emotional connection due to my upbringing. I have spent years working on myself emotionally and spiritually and have also been on my own a long while. All this leads me to wonder whether I’m too introverted and self-aware to enjoy someone’s company for any length of time. That the problem isn’t the guy, or indeed any guy I’ve dated in the past, but with me.

I know the advice generally goes: be happy with/love yourself. And I get that, I truly do. I have lived alone for a very long time (17 years in fact, a long time for someone in my early 40’s) and my last relationship was 7 years ago. I still hold the notion that it’s possible to experience spiritual loneliness where you crave companionship whilst feeling happy with yourself. I suppose I just don’t know what I’m actually looking for because no one is going to want to talk spirituality 24/7 and I become bored with everyday conversation. And yet, how can I ever engage with someone if I don’t meet them where they are?

I actually wonder if I’m on the autism spectrum as well. This is a legit question because my son is severely autistic and my dad and uncle both exhibited traits. It would explain a lot; my social anxiety, my difficulties talking unless I really HAVE to or if it’s about something deep, my introversion, my high sensitivity and tendency towards over stimulation. None of those things alone would mean much, but together with my family history they point to a very real possibility of autism and it would explain why I feel such an outsider in more ways than one. But if that’s the case, how will I ever know what I truly want? Because I do get lonely sometimes. And I miss physical intimacy. Casual meet ups are not an option for me due to my illness and other factors. So I just don’t know what the answer is.

I’m probably going to meet up with the guy again because I don’t think three dates is enough to decide whether a relationship is right. But I’m mindful of hurting his feelings too. Other people seem to be clear what they know and feel and want. Despite my self-awareness, I don’t think I am. Maybe the world of relationships is just too alien to me.

My soul flies like a bird

On a morning walk with my dog I heard beautiful birdsong and watched the sparrows and tits peeping out of overgrown hedges and disappearing again. And for a second I wished I could join them. I wanted to trade my life as a human with all its pain and complexities for the simple, carefree life of a hedge sparrow. The longing arose from deep within, pointing to a knowledge that no matter what I’m dealing with or the world is facing, my soul flies free. I don’t have to be chained to fears and illusions of this world, only insofar as necessary to play my role here. Jesus said ‘Be in the world but not of it’ and this statement has never felt more true. My heart is the bridge between the spiritual and the physical; I exist in both, but my soul is always home no matter where it is, flying high.

Inflammation and mind/body connection

The humble tomato and myself are not friends.

I always suspected that I didn’t get along great with tomato based meals, but hadn’t had one in quite some time…until last night.

I had an especially nice spaghetti bolognaise using a recipe I found online. I have to say, I can’t remember ever enjoying it more.

A few hours later I was in bed when the restless legs started. I couldn’t keep them still. I was trying to meditate to a mantra as I often do before bed but the tingling and clawing sensations in my lower legs got so bad I was thrashing around for ages trying to get comfortable,

Eventually they did calm down and I was able to sleep. I woke up in the night with a blocked up nose. I didn’t think too much of it in my sleepy state, but when I woke in the morning and the sneezing became uncontrollable, I realised it was part of the inflammatory response. Sure enough, my legs ached painfully, my heart pounded, and I felt generally weak and unwell.

As I tried to begin my day despite feeling dreadful, I became aware of a horrible feeling of anxiety flooding my system – that fight-or-flight that so many of us are familiar with. It wasn’t the result of feeling bad, as I often feel bad, it was part and parcel of the inflammatory response. I had an intense need to cry, so I did for a time, even though I knew it was due to the tomatoes and that staying away from them for so long and then re-introducing a meal heavy in them had freaked my system out and made me feel physically and mentally unwell.

Tomatoes – nightshades – are high in natural toxins – and for so many people they worsen existing conditions. That doesn’t mean they’re not good foods with many health benefits because they are of course. But for those of us with auto-immune or other long term conditions, they can exacerbate symptoms dreadfully. Potatoes are also nightshades and I do have to be careful with those, but they don’t produce such an extreme reaction. Chilli peppers are another and I tend to avoid those, not being a fan of spicy foods generally.

It was a lesson for me not only in knowing I must never eat tomatoes if I want to avoid unnecessary inflammation, but in observing my physical and mental symptoms as the witness rather than getting caught up in identifying with them. I can see my body doing its thing and it’s incredibly frustrating and annoying, but that’s all it is. I’m not actually anxious, my body is on the attack due to the tomatoes. It feels threatened so of course it’s producing adrenaline.

Knowing all this means I can accept and let it go rather than adding another layer of suffering and mind-identification to the whole experience. And I can grow more and more knowledgeable about what to put into my body.

Spiritual loneliness

I’ve realised that, for myself, spiritual loneliness is a thing. It feels almost taboo to say it, due to numerous teachings that suggest loneliness stems from a disconnect from one’s own soul and the answer is to go within. That is doubtless a very important and valuable truth, but it’s also true that it’s possible to be connected to oneself and the universe yet still feel lonely for likeminded company. It doesn’t have to be either/or. The key issue is balance.

I’ve started dating again after a break for a couple of years and many more years single. I decided that I’ve spent too much time alone. This is coming from an introvert with health issues who loves a dog for company! But alone time can be too much of a good thing. I’ve spent many years focusing on my spirituality through meditation, journaling, self-reflection, and I believe I have reached a good level of self-awareness, albeit I will never stop learning (who does?). I know I have not fully integrated all the wounded parts of my being, but I know they are there. I have compassion for them. And I just….feel lonely sometimes. The two meditation groups I was part of pre-pandemic have ended and there seems to be little around. Online isn’t the same by any means. I am fortunate to have friends, a couple who are also on a conscious path, but most are preoccupied with family and relationships and don’t have the time or inclination to sit and talk about the topics that matter to me.

As Carl Jung says in the above quote, loneliness stems from being unable to communicate about the issues that seem important to a person. Of course I can blog and that is great, but sometimes good quality in person human contact is what is needed. I wonder if this is a common feeling post-pandemic, a genuine spiritual loneliness and longing for a deeper connection with others? We can do all the inner work and re-connect with our own souls yet still hunger for community. Buddhists call it sangha; Christians go to church; for me it was meditation groups. Somewhere to go and share and grow through a shared understanding and mutual love and respect. Relationships are a mirror; we need them to keep ourselves honest.

I don’t know if dating is what I want/need or simply a spiritual tribe. But I will see. I’ve joined an online meditation group and I have someone coming to meditate with me tomorrow for the first time after I posted on a local group. I am hopeful that I will start to re-connect with people after this long season of retreat. I feel like my soul is in spring time, ready to burst forth and bloom. I know the garden will soon appear!

Being with the body

My health hasn’t been the greatest lately. I have to keep reminding myself to stay centred in the present moment and not get caught up in thoughts about past or future. Not easy to do especially when anxiety takes over, but I am learning more and more than the state of my physical body influences my mental health as much as the opposite: there is no separation. For instance, I have problems with my adrenal glands. They don’t produce enough cortisol so I struggle to manage stress and my body tries to over-compensate with flooding with adrenaline. This creates anxiety because my body is literally gearing up to fight. It also has the effect of intense crying; I suspect this is to release the energy associated with the release of adrenaline.

But I’m okay. In the moment I’m okay. This moment is all there is and I am connected to Spirit. I know that my soul is whole and free even if my fragmented mind and struggling body can’t always realise it. There has been a lot of stress in my life lately – my dog having a stroke, my mother being involved in a car accident, the pain of Christmas, and plain overdoing it to try and manage those emotions. Now is the time to bring everything home to the now and trust in life and in myself.

To anyone having a bad time with health or otherwise, I feel you. It’s a long hard journey, especially when well meaning people ask whether you’ve tried this or that and you’ve literally tried everything, so it brings you down. But this is your personal journey, as it is mine, and all we can really do is listen to our bodies and let them be our messengers. The body is in the present moment; it reflects what we think and feel. Our job is to notice and be with what is happening. If the body is saying it is under attack/threat, we can feel compassion for that state of being or at least accept it. Not resisting it, not pretending it’s not happening, but being fully with it. It’s really not easy, it’s painful and frustrating and devastating, but this is what I feel brings the greatest peace.

Keep it simple

I’ve come to the realisation that the best way to live my life is to keep it simple.

Simplicity is peaceful, calm, and beautiful. It’s not trying to get to some place or other, some state of being or other; it just is. The raw natural state of Being.

Having an analytical mind is both a blessing and a curse. It is a tool to help me grow and meet my goals. It keeps me honest. It helps me connect to others. It can also drive me to distraction trying to figure out how to get there from here, criticising me for all my perceived mistakes that brought me here in the first place, all the while blinding me to the present moment and the love, joy, freedom and creativity that is available right here, right now.

We are inseparable from nature. It is our essence. When we strip away all the conditioning – from our families, societies and culture – we are left with who we were always meant to be; our organic, awakened, soul-self. Flowers don’t beat themselves up for not being as perfect as the next flower. Each flower blooms in the way it’s supposed to.

It’s far from easy because we hold expectations of how life should be and what we want for our particular life – that is natural too. We want to be happy. We want to avoid pain. That’s all part of it. We have free will – that is the blessed beauty of living a human life with its particular joys and tragedies. We are free to respond or react to what happens. At a certain point we can even choose whether to stay awake or fall back to sleep. Regardless, our true essence remains like a jewel waiting to be discovered…and re-discovered.

Once that happens, life’s inherent simplicity and inter-connectedness emerges. We are all beautiful souls in various stages of soul growth, with different tests and challenges to deal with, all of which can lead us back to our essence, reflected in the beauty of nature itself and the remarkable trials it often faces to simply survive.

For today, I keep it very simple. My essence is the soul I was born with, the individualised speck of the Divine I was always meant to be. In that knowledge I do my best to speak and act. I have a plan for my future – my aromatherapy/essential oils website and business – which may or may not come to fruition. I live for now, in this moment; being aware of my thoughts and emotions as much as possible, listening to my body; and embrace the preciousness of it all.

The Search

I wrote this some time after I got my beautiful dog Zoey as it feels like she symbolises the unconditional love I have always been seeking within and without.

The Search

Branches silhouetted like witches fingers

puppeted by the roaring wind

Dead leaves quiver like spiders

shadowed by their search, nearing the end.

I gaze up into the velvet sky

where stars glitter like diamonds

matching the tears falling from my eyes;

cosmic energy, pulsating life.

I shut my eyes to find

beauty and blackness filling my soul

starlight radiating through my heart

reminding me I am home.

A fluffy ball of white

brushes past my leg

and barks her love

into the night.

Life in one name: Zoey.

The search is over.

When the present moment hurts

All spiritual teachings point to the wisdom of being in the now because, in fact, this is the only place we can ever be; only our minds create the illusion that we could be anywhere else.

However, it is very natural for our minds to want to escape pain and suffering, not realising that there is nowhere we can actually go (short of being in real threat or danger whereby our physical bodies will react accordingly).

Sometimes the present moment hurts. I am in such a moment. It may sound trivial compared to a lot of problems and believe me I know more than most, but I feel very fragile. My back is hurting. I’ve probably strained it through sitting too long in the wrong posture but it’s been the same on and off for a couple of weeks. I went to the hairdressers yesterday and found the half an hour sitting on a chair to wait for my hair colour to take was torturous for my back. I wanted to stand up and walk around and probably should have done, but somehow felt I couldn’t (I can be quite a shy person).

I’m also exhausted and not feeling well generally. My immune system feels inflammatory with lots of aches, pains, stomach spasms, weakness and cold-like symptoms. This isn’t unusual for me at all and I can deal with it. It’s all part of my health conditions which I have had for many years. But the worst is the effect on my mental health because during flare ups I feel very low. I suspect that the inflammation hits my brain and makes me want to be anywhere else but in this body and in this moment. I am prone to depression (which I used to struggle with constantly) but have come to realise that rather than my depression causing my physical problems as is so commonly assumed, my situation is the other way around: my physical state is causing the depression. As soon as the inflammation eases its hold on my system, I can place a large sum of money (if I had some) on my depression easing too. And it always does.

As much as the present moment hurts, resisting it does not help. I know that, yet it can be so difficult to avoid doing so. I don’t want this pain, who would? The way I deal with this is to accept the resistance. I don’t have to like or want what’s happening. I add another layer of awareness and compassion to those struggling, hurting parts of my being. I feel the resistance in my body as a real, tangible sensation. At this point I usually find tears, and I let myself cry. It is powerful to be with that emotion, to accept it with love, and let it go.

I want to share this because it’s natural to have down days and moments, even (and maybe especially?) for those of us on a spiritual path. I can fall into the trap of spiritual perfectionism whereby I think that as I’m aware of my true nature as a spiritual being I shouldn’t feel depressed or sick anymore. Not true! I am living a human life. I’m still at the mercy of this body with its chemical processes and limitations. And sure, maybe one day when I’m further along my path I may experience much better health, physical and/or emotional, but I may not. The future doesn’t exist except as an illusion. This IS my path, right here, right now, pain and all.