I have carried loneliness with me my entire life.
I feel like it is one of my “soul lessons.”
The lessons that start at birth and keep coming back in different shapes and forms throughout your life. It is something that keeps showing its face no matter what country I am living in, who I am surrounded by, or what my external achievements look like to others.
Loneliness is not sexy. For me, it has carried a bit of shame with it as well. My inner critic likes to say, “If you were just cool enough, you wouldn’t be lonely. But you aren’t. So here we are.” And yes, here we are. Sometimes, as much as I like to take the “soul growth” approach, it simply sucks. It is heavy and awkward to carry. There are also studies that show chronic loneliness is worse than smoking cigarettes for your health. Great. Tell that to someone who is chronically lonely and who also has mild anxiety. They will feel so much better.
When I first moved to Australia, I spent a lot of time learning to be after years of chronic “doing.” I had spent years trying to figure out what I wanted to be when I was older. Then I spent years at college attempting to be that. Then I spent years doing that. In all of “that,” I was constantly chasing the next thing, hoping then I would feel complete.
It wasn’t until I stopped all forward movement and found the deep place within myself that I finally found what I was looking for. It was magical and beautiful. But life kept happening. I had “woken up,” as they say, but there was a lot of “waking down” work that still needed to happen.
In that space, I was able to recognize that before I could accept love from someone else, I had to have that connection to myself first. And I did. And I grew it as much as I could. I tried to be as much “me” as possible. But I was still freaking lonely at times. This experience was so frustrating because I felt like I had “done the work” and addressed the issue that was bringing loneliness into my life again and again. But the pain kept coming back.
Then I came upon a deeper realization. I was “with” myself in that I was listening to myself, doing things I enjoyed doing, taking care of myself to the best of my ability. But I wasn’t “being myself” in the world. I was still trapped inside all of my routines and schedules. I felt myself there, and I thought that was enough. But I wasn’t letting myself out of the walls that my skin made for me. I wasn’t expressing myself.
The truth of life is that we are all alone. We may come up against people who we resonate with or with whom we find ease in their company, but we are still us and they are still them. We will never find a friend, romantic partner, family member who “completes” us. There is a loneliness that exists and will always exist as part of the human condition.
For so long, I fought against this sensation. I barred its entry into my awareness. I pushed it away with outings, friends, exercise, religion, food. I did not want to accept that it was only me. At some level, I didn’t believe that I was enough. I felt like I needed something more to finally soothe the pain.
Then at some point, I realized that loneliness became a wake-up call. The pain that was sitting there in my heart was a call for me to step forward and fully occupy the space that was and is only mine to fill. When I started writing and expressing myself, I felt, for the first time, an ease to the burden I was carrying.
The more I allowed myself to be seen, the more I felt like I was whole—all on my own. The artist was creating the art, but the art was also creating the artist. I was being created by the creativity I was putting out into the world, and it was something only I could do. I had to rise to fill the space that was waiting for me.
Since coming to this place, loneliness still comes. But usually, it is because I have retreated within the walls I have created for myself. I have ceased “being” in the world. I start to look to friends, experiences, achievements to fill the ache in my chest.
But I am slowly learning. Slowly, I start to remember. I sit down at my laptop and start connecting to my heart again, start letting the music play. The pang of loneliness has turned into a reminder that I need to step forward. Stop hiding. Create. Express. Be.
To be alone well is not easy. It is not for the faint of heart. It takes courage and the ability to trust that we are enough. That our unique song, signature, and essence is exactly what it needs to be. And yet, when we do trust and believe in the magic of our individuality, we find that loneliness is never going to be soothed “out there.” It was only ever a wake-up call to come home to the magic that lives inside. A wake-up call to sing our song—as only we can do.