We all have those days when we feel overwhelmed by the demands on our time, swamped with things to do, buried under deadlines to meet; days when you know you have to take deep breaths and just keep going one step at a time. The other day i discovered a new word for this feeling ~ to be ’besieged’. Having spent a lifetime surrounded by all thing military, the word for me has a definite battle-connotation~ lay siege to a city, a fortress or castle besieged; but your ‘self’ besieged…i confess i had never thought of it thus! So what does one do when you are thus assailed? The poet David Whyte presents a wonderful insight~
Truly…”other people will never go away and aloneness is both possible and necessary…”
“BESIEGED~ it is how most people feel most of the time: by events, by people, by all the necessities of providing, parenting or participating; by the creative possibilities they have set in motion themselves, and most especially, by a success they have achieved through long years of endeavour.
To feel crowded, set upon, blocked by circumstances, in defeat or victory, is not only the daily experience of most human beings in most contemporary societies; it has been an abiding dynamic of individual life since the dawn of human consciousness. In a human life there is no escape from commitment: retreat to a desert island and the lonely islander will draw up a Robinson Crusoe list to make the place habitable or begin building a raft to escape; tell everyone to go away and they hang around wanting to know why. Earn a great deal of money to gain individual freedom and a whole world moves in for a share of the harvest.
If the world will not go away then the great discipline seems to be the ability to make an identity that can live in the midst of everything without feeling beset. Being besieged asks us to begin the day not with a ‘to do list’ but a ‘not to do list’; a moment outside of the time bound world in which it can be re-ordered and re-prioritised. In this space of undoing and silence we create a foundation from which to re-imagine our day and ourselves.
Besieged as we are, little wonder that men and women alternate between the dream of a place apart, untouched by the world and then wanting to be wanted again in that aloneness. Besieged or left alone, we seem to live best at the crossroad between irretrievable aloneness and irretrievable belonging, and even better, as a conversation between the two where no choice is available. We are both; other people will never go away and aloneness is both possible and necessary.
Creating a state of aloneness in the besieged everyday may be one of the bravest things individual men and women can do for themselves. ‘Nel mezzo’~ in the midst of everything, as Dante said~ to be besieged–but beautifully, because we have made a place to stand – in the people and the places and the perplexities we have grown to love, seeing them not now as enemies or forces laying siege, but as if for the first time, as participants in the drama, both familiar and strangely surprising. We find that having people knock on our door is as a much a privilege as it is a burden; that being seen, being recognized and being wanted by the world and having a place in which to receive everyone and everything, is infinitely preferable to its opposite.”
From ‘BESIEGED’ in
CONSOLATIONS: The Solace, Nourishment and Underlying Meaning of Everyday Words.