I’m alone. You’re alone. There’s space between us. That’s loneliness. Love, like fire, requires oxygen. I love you.

Via Waylon Lewis
on Dec 29, 2012
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Editor’s Note: I should make it clear at the outset that I know how fortunate I am. But friendship isn’t a luxury, not the real thing—it’s what makes love and babies and business flourish and healthy safe societies, it’s the ground of opportunity and civilization itself.

And that I don’t feel sorry for myself, at least not for long—I just

1) need to focus on further making friends with my life and loneliness and self, and

2) I need new friends.

And one other point—even my best friend in the world, when he started a new job and fell in love, dropped off the map just about all the way. Friendships aren’t to be counted on. I myself have reaped what I have sown by focusing on work and elephant and trying to be of benefit to the detriment of my friendships and opportunities to have a family. But I’ve enjoyed the loneliness mostly and I feel good about my choices, mostly.

So this isn’t about others failing me, and me being unappreciated—it’s about how all of us feel this way, sometimes, or all the time—our loneliness is a well, a deep pool of water beneath the hills and valleys and mountains of our lives.

And that’s not always fun. But it’s not only okay, but the wellspring of true friendships, business with integrity, a good life.


I’m alone.

You’re alone. There’s space between us.
That’s loneliness. Love, like fire, requires oxygen.
I love you.

I’m “popular,” in Boulder.

Folks call me the Mayor. I walk around, I’m a big man on campus, getting nods and “heya’s” and “stop n’chats” (Curb). I get lunch downtown and half the town knows me. I have a booming “eco” business, a beautiful girlfriend, a cute dog and a house that’s no longer in foreclosure. I have a good reputation: I don’t f**k around, treat people badly, or get drunk or do drugs in public (or elsewhere, I’m a lightweight). I don’t come onto other folks’ girlfriends, and I go out of my way to support my friends and local businesses.

But I am alone.

That’s not just how I feel: it’s reality. Those folks who nod at me? I’ve never really talked with our hung out with them. They don’t invite me over. My own “friends” hang out with one another, and reach out to me only very occasionally. I, on the other hand, answer texts. I treat people to dinner or lunch if they’re broke. I’ll go all the way to Denver (my god) if it means being there for your birthday. After 10 years of working myself half to old age, I make a real effort to connect with those I care about.

But, generally, folks make their plans without me. Such is the entrepreneur’s lot, I suppose—work all the time, say “no” enough to going out, and one moves from “popular” to “nobody.” It’s a Wonderful Life makes me cry every time, as does About a Boy, for literal reasons.

When I do see a friend, it’s me reaching out. When I do see a friend, they invite someone else along without asking, so it’s not one on one. Last time I saw two of my childhood Buddhist buddies, they invited me to lunch…only to, it turns out, want advice on Facebook. I spent Christmas alone, though some of my “best friends” had dinner and a movie only one day after I treated them to climbing and later popcorn at The Hobbit.

This might sound like a sob story, and it is. But it’s not my sob story. The fact is loneliness is not my possession. It’s something we all share.

Loneliness is our only friend. And it’s got a message. And there’s wisdom in that message. If we push loneliness away, its ache will never leave us.

We can make friends with ourselves. Otherwise, we truly have nothing—all our life, our so-called popularity, our friendships are fickle, hollow, all sound and fury…with a winter’s silence, after. Even my dog, given a warm home elsewhere, and daily walks and hikes and playtime, wouldn’t miss me for longer than a week. My mother is, I’m quite sure, my only unconditional friend. I could be arrested for pedophilia and she’d find a way to hug me and say “I’m so proud of you.” She’s not proud of me for anything, but rather, for me.

The rest of my family, other than my grandma…not so much, at least not yet. People change. But up ’til now, they’ve never offered interest in open communication, and when I’ve offered any, they’ve either shrugged or told me off. They mistake my lack of interest in BSing for a lack of love. Rather, it’s the opposite: love comes from cracking open our hearts, not facile Hallmark words.

So it seems our friends and family have a message for us:


You’re alone. No one will take care of you or even care for you, but you. Some of us will drop in and help, from time to time, but our love and time is conditional—we want something from you.


There is one friend you can count on, and she/he is right here (point at your heart). I have to like myself, and communicate openly to those who disappoint me, and reach out and support those I respect whether they offer respect, friendship and openness or think to text me “yo wanna go for a hike or get lunch or we’re out, wanna join?” in return. Friendship must be unconditional, or it is not friendship. And I need to stop expecting friendship back, and just offer it up.

That said, I’m no doormat. And while friendship must be offered unconditionally, if it is not returned, it’s not friendship. I’m writing folks off left and right. And that’s healthy. In the New Year, let go. Letting go isn’t pretty—sometimes it takes the form of pruning shears, not an open birdcage.

There’s a happy ending, of course: when we prune our fake friends, we prune our own neediness. Soon, loving ourselves is the only path remaining over the proverbial mountain pass. Independent, standing on our own two feet, we begin to attract those who do the same, and respect and communication are part of the deal. I’m proud to say I work with a team, at elephant, of caring, passionate, driving blame into self = low drama = fun colleagues. And I’m proud to say I’ve attracted (or rather, fooled) a true, caring, independent friend in my current partner. And that, if nothing else, is a sign that—at the ripe old age of 38—I’m beginning to grow up.


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Yours in the Vision of an Enlightened Society,

Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis
editor-in-chief, host
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About Waylon Lewis

Waylon Lewis, founder of elephant magazine, now elephantjournal.com & host of Walk the Talk Show with Waylon Lewis, is a 1st generation American Buddhist “Dharma Brat." Voted #1 in U.S. on twitter for #green two years running, Changemaker & Eco Ambassador by Treehugger, Green Hero by Discovery’s Planet Green, Best (!) Shameless Self-Promoter at Westword's Web Awards, Prominent Buddhist by Shambhala Sun, & 100 Most Influential People in Health & Fitness 2011 by "Greatist", Waylon is a mediocre climber, lazy yogi, 365-day bicycle commuter & best friend to Redford (his rescue hound). His aim: to bring the good news re: "the mindful life" beyond the choir & to all those who didn't know they gave a care. elephantjournal.com | His first book, Things I would like to do with You, is now available.


31 Responses to “I’m alone. You’re alone. There’s space between us. That’s loneliness. Love, like fire, requires oxygen. I love you.”

  1. Elizabeth Desiree says:

    Thank you so much for your honesty and courage. Happy New Year, and thank you for all that you do here.

  2. Starre Vartan says:

    We have so much in common, sometimes it's ridiculous. I too spent Christmas alone (I was sad sometimes, kinda dug it sometimes, felt pathetic, and then wonderfully independent and free) and I have similar stories about friends- people I once thought were family, that aren't, and family that never was, really. I've left a friendship this year, someone I knew since third grade. Heartbreaking, but necessary. And I have watched other friends move on, out of my life (though I know they wish me well); they are just too plain busy with young children these days. I was angry at first, but now I'm not. But I have a feeling I'll see them in a decade, when the kids are running out the door to their own lives. And they are ready for a good long chat that doesn't revolve around school/playdates/soccer. It's a long life, and I'm OK with this now. Because in the end, it is my choice to do what I do in the way that I do it (differently).

  3. Tara Lemieux says:

    *brilliant* and something I believe I very much needed to read tonight… I also believe love and friendship and all that other stuff in between should always be unconditional. It's the way I lead and love and live my life.

  4. Heather says:

    Hello Waylon. I am struck by how similar our situations are. I have recently tried to explain this profound alone-ness that isn’t self pity really, but a fact of life, to a few people who cared enough to pretend to listen long enough. It is however sort-of dismissed by people whom, I am guessing are really trying so hard to hide from their own alone-ness that they tell me their own denial script about it rather than engaging in real conversation. It is something I have realized I just live with, and I feel fortunate after a fashion that I have come to this realization; I am here with myself seeking of myself, rather than seeking myself through others, or any other of the myriad distractions that I could be lost in. This alone-ness is also after all an indication that we do not rely on others, generally speaking. We are the ones who are there. Our friends have become accustomed to us as resources, because we do not call on them, as a general rule. It is however very difficult when we do need someone or something and the filler for that need can only be ourselves. Namaste

  5. DeeDee says:

    I have often connected with the articles at elephant. It calms me to find a voice that matches what floats around in my head eating away at me. I find the universe often sends me litature relating to what I need to hear. Thank you for this.

  6. Lindsey says:

    Beautiful piece, Waylon. To borrow the words of your mom "I'm so proud of you"—for sharing this tender and poignant piece, its message, and a human experience that we all share. Nama.

  7. Mary says:

    Thanks for putting into words so eloquently my exact feelings for the past two years. I agree with DeeDee above, it somehow makes me feel better and not so alone in this universe.

  8. Michelle says:

    i love this, waylon <3

  9. Anita says:

    feel you see you – feel me see me

    thank you for sharing this never knew… and from now on … while it is sometimes a hotel or an RV – or who knows where.. my christmas table will always have a seat for you … whether you are in it or not… from now on… an invite to christmas or any time a standing invitation… when you need a friend call…

  10. karlsaliter says:

    Nice piece, Waylon. We are a mix of interdependent and unbound. Loved the photo of the tree. You are truly stranded in this essay, my friend, and I love it. Writing for Elephant allows us all a place to be expressive of whatever whatever whatever, but also, it is a set of keys into the home of a very strange family. Thanks for building the crooked house.

  11. elephantjournal says:

    Aw, thanks, you! Red and I miss you and our dogwalks!

  12. elephantjournal says:

    Hah. Well put brother whom I've never actually met. Friends, one of Karl's latest is beautiful: http://www.elephantjournal.com/author/karl-salite

  13. Sybil says:

    I think you've a front row seat in my heart…..my soul. I connect with this profoundly. Thank you.

  14. Martha says:

    exactly. thanks for being brave enough to say this, there are many people who feel the same way but no one really wants to say it in this way. thanks .

  15. eleanor says:

    Thanks Waylon. Thanks a bunch! I've never left a tip here, but I feel this warranted it. The best way to sum up all of the words I have is *high five*
    Honesty, integrity, passion. Well done. And Happy New Year!
    …gets out pruning shears….

  16. […] I wrote this yesterday, a personal piece, not journalistic in any way, but one I put some love into: http://www.elephantjournal.com/2012/12/im-alone-youre-alone-theres-space-between-us-thats-loneliness… […]

  17. Cheryl A. Lowitzer says:

    Listen, you “young whippersnapper” (I have almost 2 decades on you, lol!) you have GOT to stop reading my mind & heart with such clarity, then laying it all out on the web for the world to read 😉
    So kiddo, all kidding aside…THANK YOU for the gift of this very moving essay (yeah, I’m all sniffley & using tp as kleenex. Note to self: for heaven’s sake, just BUY a box/case next time you’re at Costco!) And THANK YOU as well for Elephant Journal. Discovered y’all when I moved here 18mos ago & EJ quickly earned permanent slot on Top 10 Reasons I’m Blessed To Live In Boulder List. Happy New Year! P.S. Another wise young old soul suggested to me recently that Alone = ALL ONE and that until I was at peace with Alone, I’d not truly understand that we are ALL ONE.

  18. Aella says:

    🙂 I honestly have never heard of anyone besides myself and my mom being the ones who are never invited out though we put so much effort into being nice and respectful to everyone else regardless of if they reciprocate it or not. Not that it's nice to see people treated as such, but it's nice to be reassured that we aren't the only ones. Makes it easier to accept. So thank you.

  19. Masha says:

    Nicely put.

  20. edie says:

    Waylon….thanks. No you are not alone….and yes, true friendship is a gift.
    Sending hugs your way…

  21. @valkyreens says:

    Thank you for this. I needed to read this after spending NYE alone, and learning to live in my own space in the last 4 months.

  22. Brigitte says:

    Incredible & Inspiring perspective.

    I am lonely. Mostly by choice. I am an entrepreneur. I work too much. Whenever I think about how lonely I am, I remember when I was married, and how utterly and painfully I was alone when I had someone living under the same roof. Loneliness is a tough one. It's a part of life. We're all lonely. I"m often lonely at parties and I've been lonely on dates.

    My goal now? Learn how to best use loneliness, how to use it, manipulate it, feel it…. to be the best most loving me.

  23. […] still stupid. What I mean is… you have one life to live, you have limited time, you are alone, adventuring on the road with limitless possibilities available to you. What do you want to do with […]

  24. […] form, or the potentiation of thoughts, fills the universal ether. This immediately creates an existential loneliness, which can never be entirely filled until it (the creation) is no longer separate from the […]

  25. mommasutras says:

    Thank you for setting to words what I have been feeling for some time now. It is comforting to know others feel the same and it is all part of our journey. I too hold my own son with that absolute unconditional love your mother has for you, and that is a precious gift you have both received.

  26. deetales says:

    Wow!!! It's like you've been following me around, but inside my head and heart. Thank you for sharing.

  27. Josh says:

    I want to write music for your show!

    [email protected]

  28. Kathy says:

    From the Diamond Sutra:
    All bodhisattvas should develop a pure, lucid mind that doesn't depend on sight, sound, touch, flavor, smell or any thought that arises in it. A bodhisattva should develop a mind that functions freely, without depending on anything or anyone.

    Easier said than done. I know feeling alone is something that seems tangible, but once we see ourselves as separate from, outside of, we lose sight and become entangled in it. Yoga & meditation is the journey of resolving the split of self & other.

    Another great parable by the Buddha. One day as Manjusri stood outside the gate, The Buddha called to him, "Manjusri, Manjusri, why do you not enter?" Manjusri replied, "I do not see myself as outside. Why enter?"

  29. Jeanne says:

    POWER-'FULL' !!!