I am sitting in the corner chair of my living room with the window cracked open. It’s a gray day, so I have candles lit to create as much comfort for myself as I write about loneliness. I hope by the end of this blog, I have found clarity over what is a looming problem that seems no one talks about in honest ways.
It’s hard to admit you are lonely. With social media being the key connecting point, we are inundated with images, ideas, stories that suggest so many people are connected to the people who carry them through life, and if we do not have those relationships, then what is wrong with us?
I am a loner (a person who prefers not to associate with others) but I am not convinced that is fully natural. I think it’s because a lot of heartache has taken place and I know there is no room for new pain right now in the category of people and relationships. I am adapting to a life where everything is new-except my knee and back pain, obsession with chocolate chip cookies and books, and my trauma related coping patterns (it’s ok if you laughed just now).
I eat all my meals alone. I go to the theater and watch plays alone. I go to yoga, run errands, go for long walks…alone. There is a sacred practice in protecting yourself from what I call unnecessary people problems. While I hope to be in community more someday, I am a being, a soul, who lived tormented in his own mind and body for most of his life. Over the past few years, I have begun to find powerful connection with myself. I have gone back to many memories and put out fires that often had me spiraling for days, weeks, years, and now I know how to feel anxiety and question what my body is trying to tell me. And I know how to see the images on social media of people who present picture perfect lives (and without being a pessimist) be honest that no one lives like that. No one.
There has been peace in my solitude. Loneliness? Yeah, definitely. But I am rebuilding, and in that process, I am learning to get to know my own capacity and what I can offer others and what I can receive. It is going to take time to realize that with healing comes accessing the lives we built while we were in survival mode, and that it is admirable and wise to pause as we establish new roots. Especially roots that are grounded in our healing, vs. hanging on to people who no longer share our path.
So, that leads to what happens on that path. Here is what I think takes place: We start on a path, and it is wide with lots of movement for ourselves and others. We have no idea that it has potholes, broken glass, lots of wear and tear from everyone on this path.
You hit a pothole or step on glass, or are just exhausted, and you must slow down to repair what is hurting from that collision. You pause. You tend to the pain, and the ache and while you pause, so many keep going down that wide path. They carry on and are so busy and distracted that they keep dodging potholes and glass, and they are surrounded by others, so surely everything is ok.
Where are you? Far behind. You are crouched down and holding the wound close and realizing that while they have all carried on with that path, and it hurts to be alone, you see the path is becoming much cleaner. The glass is clearing out and the potholes are getting filled because there is so much less foot traffic.
You like this path. You like that the wounds are mending, and that you do not have to dodge near as much potential new wounding because you have worked hard to keep the path clear.
The hope is that the wide path becomes narrow and that some of the others have also stopped to tend to their wounds and as you are carrying on you see them ahead in the distance, paused, holding their wound and you hold out your hand to say, “Can I help?”
I think the epidemic of loneliness is fueled by busy appearance where people refuse to be honest about how lonely they feel with others. I love community. I love gatherings where people feel safe and connected and heard and look forward to being together. I am an intense person. I don’t know how to do small talk. I have learned through my years of isolation that I have become somewhat socially awkward. And, socially awkward to me belongs on the narrow, clean path. I am fine with it.
The only answers I have around loneliness and connection:
- Find ways to help others. I am in a new city and checking out volunteering opportunities. This is a great way to make connections with other people who also like helping.
- Be cautious of communities who demand you come into their fold, do things their way, and are not able to meet you where you are unless you think just like them. This will not end well.
- Be honest about what you may be trying to pass off to someone else that is so sacred, and so beautiful, that when you heal it alone, you have a new freedom you did not know possible.
- Accept that you are absolutely, 100% lovable. I know you are mad that I said that. I am mad that I typed it. But why the hell else would we be here if not to know we are meant to know love?
As always, I am thankful for you all. I am thankful for this space and the way we talk. I love checking in on your comments and stories you tell.
Thanks for listening. I feel better about what’s to come, knowing there are others finding their way through the pain of feeling alone.
I am so glad you are here!