True loneliness as a state of mind entails a lot more than just wanting company. It’s a feeling of emptiness, a soul ache with its roots in lack, in longing. Loneliness casts a dissatisfied pallor over solitude, punches a gaping hole in tranquility, sucking all subtle beauties and gratitude from the moment because none of it is as it should be. Loneliness makes us victims.
When I gaze directly into my own loneliness, I find it to be a soup of emotions. As with any soup, the flavor can vary from batch to batch, episode to episode, but the same basic ingredients are almost always present. [Caution: all these ingredients are downers 😥 ]
- Self pity — poor me that I am alone
- Jealousy — unfair that others aren’t alone
- Rejection — fun people don’t like me
- Self-loathing — because I pretty much suck
- Ambition — I could be/have a ton of fun if I had a chance
- Frustration — life’s not supposed to be like this
- Pain — I am unloved
- Hopelessness — I will never be loved
- Despair — I’m unworthy
Did I just nail that shit, or what?
The antithesis of loneliness is love and belonging. When I’m surrounded by friends I love, I see in each person (or animal) a unique spirit in action — the tone or frequency of that person’s way. I can glimpse their goodness, their core beauty, their irreplaceableness in this world.
And I have faith that they see me to some degree in that same light, so I don’t hide. I may get a little over-the-top with excitement, sometimes at my homegroup, or when I have people over, or if we’re climbing some insanely tough mountain. I kinda cop a high on love, on sharing life. But when I do, I know my friends will love me for being so Louisaish, just as I love them.
That trust — the exchange of love — sparks a joy that’s among the truest gems of being alive.
I drank to vanquish loneliness. So did you, so do millions. For me, if I was lonesome, alcohol worked on several levels. One was by buffing up my who-gives-a-shit? tough guy. Another was by swelling my ego, which I used to consider the ultimate Get-Out-of-Jail-Free card. I could slosh myself into feeling I was hella cool to hang out with and maybe just a tad too cool for anyone else to fully get.
Other people living normal, wholesome lives — fuck ’em! I was an artist. I was a writer. All the cool ones lived tortured lives, right? Lookit Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway. Lookit Van Gogh, who shot himself in the stomach but then could’t find the gun in the damn wheat field where he’d been painting. What did they all have the balls to see? That life sucks and then you die, bitches! I, too, had the balls to face that and to live… (let me just light up, here) … with a rebel spark.
Then I’d swig some more booze and crank up my music, hating on all those healthy, normal, Friends-type people, and think about some depressing story I wanted to write or brilliant painting I was gonna start pretty soon, but do neither, until I blacked out.
Other options include eating compulsively, binge-watching TV/movies, fixating on social media, working, cleaning, or wanking obsessively, online shopping/gambling yourself broke, or just sucking the life out of whatever loyal victim you can secure.
So what’s different now that I’m almost 23 years sober? Everything. Sober, I’ve lived through just about every feeling to come down the pike. And in meeting them repeatedly, I’ve come to befriend some and recognize others as grifters. I’m not so easily taken in as I once was: “Hey, self-pity! How you been? No, I’m sorry, you can’t stay here…”
When loneliness visits today, I move toward humanity instead of away from it. I remind myself that I’m human, that no experience is mine alone; it’s yours, too. Deep loneliness is well-known to that nondescript person walking down the sidewalk, and to the people up in that plane crossing the sky.
On a physical level, we’re made the same way, our inner experiences resulting from the same incredibly intricate systems. Our brains associate stimuli with memories, and the neurotransmitters so activated release showers of peptides that “swim” throughout the entire body, interacting with every cell to produce profound changes in cell structure and behavior. Feelings flavor our perception, and we all share the same spice rack.
On a spiritual level, we are all one. This fundamental truth is brought back time and time again by Near Death Experiencers who make contact with divine wisdom. We are made of life-stuff, an energy that flows through all living things, whose purest form is love, constantly circulating within and among us. None are unique or separate — neither in our specific feelings nor in our consciousness in general.
For example, take my specific feeling of last night. As I drove home alone from Mom’s house Christmas Eve, snow swirled in streetlights’ illumination while The Nutcracker played on KING FM, short pieces to which I used to prance about as a little girl excited to become someone. The familiar flow of those notes, the car’s gliding on fresh snow, the night’s open space swimming with motion — all of these suffused me with intense feeling.
And I thought, we feel this! That’s why we’ve held onto The Nutcracker all these years, why we love these melodies of Arabia, Russia, and others woven through. It’s why we make a big deal of fresh snow, why we paint and sing about this stuff — because we love life, and we love it in these trappings! Every culture is like a huge family that has passed down to its children what it most prizes. This is mine.
Loneliness is, ironically, our Humanity ID card, because it’s downright difficult to exist as a tiny shard of god sealed off in a physical body, separated from our source, from love’s unity. Loneliness develops when the flow of life/love energy through and among us is stymied, whether by fear, ego, or resentment.
All the world’s ills stem from this illusion of separation — the stuff I used to believe in. Connecting despite the god-phobic shells individuating each of us can be difficult, but connect we must.
Whatever it is you’re longing for, think of someone to whom you could give it. Then take steps to make it so. Loneliness is never about you. You’re just a leaf losing touch with the tree. Reconnect.
Remember what this guy said, because he was right on.
…Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort, than to be comforted,
To understand, than to be understood,
To love, than to be loved…
St. Francis Prayer . . .