Theory: Loneliness

Sometime ago I visited an old  friend. I had been trying to meet with him for ages but he would not see me, then one rainy evening he texted and I run to see him. He talked of having been depressed and feelings of loneliness. At 45, he felt he wanted wife and maybe children. He said he now played his string instrument more often to save himself from despair. And as I listened closely, I perceived him as a fellow human, not the mentor I once held on a pedestal. I remember boasting to him that I did not suffer loneliness. I told him of my numerous interests that kept me distracted. He tried to tell me that he had been in a similar way, but regrets now. As I approach the late summer of my life, the idea of loneliness is now frequent to my thoughts. It is, however, beginning to seem that I have always been lonely and will always be lonely. Yet I have not known loneliness as despair, but rather as the sting of an unfamiliar need. A need I could not translate as it spoke a language that seemed foreign to me. For that matter, my loneliness has not only seem like a background sound but one so familiar its presence lacked notice. If I am not often lonely, in that way that makes one feel so sick,  it is not only because I am cocooned in the love that embraces me through my craft, art, family, and friends, but also because I look on favorably at my aloneness. Thus I do not suffer the fear of knowing loneliness because it seems like a shadow that accompanies one throughout life. Loneliness, then, is neither the cry of neglect nor a nonsensical desire for the perishable, but a sensing and longing for that which is beyond comprehension. So what is loneliness and what does it mean to be lonely? It seems that this significant pain is worth a personal exploration and definition, rather than accepting merely what has been said, or accepting as antidote what others have done to save themselves from falling into the state.

Quite recently someone asked if I missed a person whom my love for was prominent in the manner in which I spoke of them; I answered that I did not. In the past I would have answered affirmatively for
fear of appearing cold. The other thing I did not do is try to explain my answer. The lack of explanation was not owing to a belief that I would not be understood, but to an absence of a need to be understood. How can I ask another to comprehend that which I do not really understand? How can I explain that I do not miss this loved one because they are a part of me just as they are apart? Especially when I have been struggling for so long to understand what it means for two to be one? When I would argue that the state is ridiculous and untrue? But it seems that my being is always under the influence of love, that I am merged with those that love me and have loved me and are loved by me. I do not know where they begin and where I end. That in loving them, who and what I am  has much to do with how they have touched me and thus forged me. That I believe it is impossible to posses another physically, but very easy to carry others spiritually. To love, then, is like breathing in, it fills one, and loneliness is that which propel one to breathe, for it signifies a need. Loneliness is thus a state of uncertainty which encourages exploration, as it demands satisfaction. What is this unfamiliar ache? What does it desire? Can one ache for something that is not? And what is the foundation of this craving? How is it that not just anything or anyone can suffice? How is it that the things we do to escape the state are unsuccessful, so that sooner or later one finds oneself feeling lonely? When I run loneliness through google for a definition, I got this answer, "Sadness because one has no friends or company." I was horrified. What a limiting definition of an interesting pain. But Wikipedia does better:

Loneliness is a complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship. Loneliness typically includes anxious feelings about a lack of connection or communication with other beings, both in the present and extending into the future. As such, loneliness can be felt even when surrounded by other people. The causes of loneliness are varied and include social, mental, emotional or even physical factors.

As Sinatra sings, "Woman needs man / and Man must have his mate." The Yahwist version of the creation story does not merely say God created mankind, but specifically that Adam was not enough, so Eve was created, too. The need to connect with others, however, not just anyone, is strong. But it seems to me that the purpose of our need of others is not so to distance us from ourselves, but to hold up the mirror through which we find courage to encounter our aloneness, and learn to bear our loneliness. It is like being held by a love one when in pain. It does not erase the discomfort, but makes it endurable. Also it seems to me that the proportion of our need of others varies. Certain people can appreciate having someone around at all times, while certain people can only appreciate having someone around every now and then. Therefore to be in the wrong sort of relationship is an abuse of self. For it does not give one the support needed to delve into one's self but becomes that which bars one from self. Yet it seems that we do not often seek company to find ease with our aloneness and familiarity with our loneliness––explore our desire for more––but rather to hide from ourselves. We go into relationships to cage ourselves rather than to find courage to fly. We go into company to settle and become comfortable rather than use the support as foundation to broach the uncomfortable, and in so doing ignore the opportunity to face ourselves while another hold our hands.

We try so hard to find our individuality and yet try to flee loneliness which seems a crucial package of our incomprehensible self. Would one be wrong to say that to be lonely is to be more in tune with oneself? Because what is the individual if not that which is isolated? Cannot one, therefore, say also, that to suffer loneliness without any appreciation is to lack companionship with oneself? To be impatient with oneself? It seems to me that we are always lonely but our loneliness is only undesirable when we are fearful of our genuine state, or do not care to know this state of self. What happens when one gets too comfortable with other people's presence in one's life is that one might start to pretend that one is not alone, but that is not entirely true; what seems true is that we are alone together. It seems that what makes loneliness unbearable is that we never bother to come to terms with it. Many run from the state their entire life while allowing their imagination to disfigure it into their worst nightmare, then suddenly wake up to it, and hence find it overwhelmingly horrific. But if one were to allow oneself to know loneliness on a frequent basis, then surely one's familiarity with the pain exposes it to be not at all suppressive as one would otherwise have imagined.

I desire to know people who embrace their loneliness; who seek to explore the state with an open mind. I have witnessed people bound to one another while miserably fleeing themselves, and wondered if they were aware of it? If they would dare admit it? What if happiness means also that one must be familiar with loneliness as some sort of delightful hunger rather than a fearful one? It seems true that we are always alone. So what if loneliness is a natural state that one must care for––learn to love. What if loneliness is the feeling of foreignness to our own sense of self and a desire for a truth that we need make real efforts to uncover? What if the purpose of loneliness is to nudge one into understanding that there is more to know and more to desire? Hence one feels lonely no matter how much love one is submerged in, because somehow it is still not complete. Meaning that an essential piece remains missing and must thus be recovered.

What if existence must not only be celebrated, but also suffered in a state of appreciation? What are you? Who are you? These questions seem to  have much to do with loneliness, and what one thinks of oneself has much to do with one's ease with the state. Loneliness is thus, perhaps, not a state one ought fight and flee from, but that which one ought to take time to learn of: slow dance with, share a cup of tea with, go on long walks with, learn to stare straight in the eyes and smile at, and have great fights that makes one fall into the embrace of one's vulnerability. We are alone, and lonely together. Perhaps loneliness as a state of beauty can only be seen, as Billy Joel sings, "in the middle of night" when one can only run into oneself.

---
Jane

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