Note—I am sure I do not hold a monopoly on understanding loneliness, all I am an expert on is my version.
I understand the loneliness of losing my father as a child and wanting him to be there, to mitigate the arguments between me and my mother, to be calm and strong and safe. I understand the loneliness of having a mother who was emotionally unavailable, so close I could touch her, but not really there for anyone outside of herself. I also feel the loneliness of losing my mother and loving her completely, despite her not-so-motherliness.
I understand the loneliness of being an introvert, of not quite understanding what the other kids seemed to instinctively know—how to connect, how to just be with their peers. I understand the loneliness of spending every lunch break in the school library. I remember the loneliness of somehow, luckily, making a friend, only to have them taken away by another girl, to be their best friend instead of mine. I understand the loneliness of nervously saying completely the wrong thing, brashly, rudely, gratingly. I understand the loneliness of sitting by myself, of not having a lab partner, a project group, a sports team.
I understand the loneliness of being loved and being left. I know the exquisite pain of being told, “I love you, but it is not enough.”
I am intimately acquainted with the loneliness of loving someone so much you have to let them go, because that is what they want, and you want them to be happy.
I understand the loneliness that is heartbreak and I understand the loneliness that is the aftermath of heartbreak—the yearning to return to the warmth and love that you once knew, but is now not available.
I understand the loneliness of lying beside someone when you love them far more than they love you. I understand the loneliness of lying beside someone when they love you far more than you love them. I recognize the loneliness after telling someone you don’t want to be with them, even when you really don’t want to be with them. The torturous loneliness of still being at least a tiny bit in love with one ex or more probably two.
I also know the loneliness of watching other families. Of seeing wives and husbands greet each other at the end of the day, of seeing children rush to show their parents a new discovery. I live with the loneliness of being a favorite sister and aunt but still not really belonging to anyone. I soak in the loneliness of not being anyone’s someone.
And there is more—I live the loneliness of solo travel, of living by myself, of dining for one. Oh yes, I understand all my forms of loneliness. The loneliness that greets me in the morning, that which shines with the sun or falls with the rain. The loneliness that goes in my grocery bag, the loneliness that buys my ticket for one. The loneliness that hops into bed with me at night.
This is the counterpoint to living in Love. Because it is actually my loneliness, among other things, that pushes me to live in love and it is the love that allows me to feel, appreciate and rise above the loneliness.
Kahlil Gibran said, “The greater that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.” It is because I honor loneliness, and sorrow, and grief, and rage and all those other so-called negative emotions that I have such a capacity for love, and joy, and gratitude and forgiveness.
And so I live with my lonelinesses, allowing them to flavor my moments, allowing them to push me to live with the most intensity as possible. For better of for worse.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Assistant Editor: Holly Horne / Editor: Bryonie Wise
Photos: martinak15, Flickr