Loneliness vs. Aloneness

Loneliness versus Aloneness

I’ve been obsessed with remembering my childhood from the age of 7 – 10. I think it’s because I was the most content at that age. I hadn’t yet gone through puberty, that time when suddenly everyone else’s voice is louder than your own. Once that happened, my equilibrium was thrown off.

Back then, my sister and I would play with these two brothers down the street, W and K. But we only played with them if we needed an occasional diversion. It wasn’t a requirement. We also had two friends who were girls – D and F – each one (respectively) about the same age as my sister and I – and we would see them, too, but even less often. Maybe once every few months.

But somehow I was still content. Content enough with my family, my room, our animals, our house, my imagination, the grass, the clouds, time. I don’t know how I filled my time but somehow (without gadgets except Saturday morning cartoons when chores were done) I was fine.  No after school soccer practice, no constantly revolving stream of extra-curricular activities. Nope. Pretty much nothing except my imagination, a few people, and nature.

And I want that feeling back.

Of course, I can’t totally get it back. I have a house now, kids, a job, bills, but I think it’s possible to get closer to that feeling.

Loneliness is a word with a lot of shame, but the problem is if you can never admit that you’re lonely (just like if you can never admit you’re an alcoholic), it’s hard to change. So I’m admitting it. For the past – I don’t know… 25 years? – I’ve been lonely at least some of the time. Not all the time, but sometimes, and I haven’t always filled that void with the healthiest of options. And the reason I can say this is… I know I’m not the only one. Ok maybe some people have all their shit together 120% of the time, but the reality is we’re all human and that feeling happens sometimes. So what do you do with it? Eat too much? End one relationship and begin another the same day? Become a people pleasing workaholic?

Loneliness is akin to boredom. If you’re bored, you want someone to play with (whether you’re 9 or 49). But the truth is, if you’re bored then you’re probably also kinda boring. You want some new gadget or person to amuse you. Maybe it’s a new boyfriend, maybe it’s switching jobs, or the town that you live in. Sure I can get a new job, a new town, or a new spouse, but can I try out new parts of me? Can I learn Spanish? Can I go square dancing? Can I start delivery pizzas and run into my students who will look shocked when I show up at their house? Can I start talking to strangers in checkout lanes at the grocery store? Can I do a social experiment where I eavesdrop on people in Walmart not because I’m a creeper but because it’s fun to watch people when they don’t think you’re paying attention?

When I was about 25, I was living in Denver and I decided that the reason I wanted to be in a relationship was because I was “bored being alone.” I told myself: “I already know myself really well and the only way to grow as a person is to be in a relationship.” What a crock of shit. Ok, maybe you do grow as a person in a relationship, but seriously. What I’ve learned since then is that if you are going into a relationship because you’re bored, then eventually you’ll get bored again once the novelty wears off. So you might as well learn how to not get bored on your own. Boredom leads to loneliness, but curiosity about you and your world turns loneliness into contented aloneness.





Yup, I’m talking about the dreaded topic of …. L O N E L I N E S S

17634607_1586851054688443_4818405659193518389_n[Disclaimer: I know I go on and on and on about the same shit but… well… I guess you don’t have to read it. So, I guess I shouldn’t feel bad. But believe me, the reason I write is to figure things out and I don’t always figure things out the first time. It takes practice and practice and more practice for me to change my so-called bad habits of thought or action. So forgive me for my repetitiveness but maybe just maybe this is helping somebody else.]

I HATE being alone just a little bit less each day. Yes, I said it. The dreaded topic of loneliness, being alone, solitude, being single, that relationship status that so many proudly claim to be (but secretly harbor thoughts that there’s something wrong with them because society keeps reminding you in so many covert and overt ways that there is). Well, I’m going to be honest with ya and myself. Sometimes it does suck and sometimes, more and more so, I downright enjoy it.

But I’m becoming bi-curious (‘bi’ referring to being curious about solitude and togetherness) about the moments when the aloneness turns into loneliness. Usually it’s late at night or when I’m tired or doing something boring like making the same goddam drive to the neighboring town because I have a ½ hour commute. Why? Why? Why do I dislike it at those times? Sometimes I dislike being alone because being with someone who doesn’t understand me feels more lonely than just being alone.

Sometimes I feel lonely when the person cleaning my teeth starts asking me endless and boring questions about my job and family. Questions just to fill the time. Questions that lead to more questions that are all trite and blah. Their innocuous questions remind me of the gulf between me and other people… people who ‘get’ me but don’t happen to be around at that moment.

It’s at times like these that I know I need to write in order to turn things around. I need to dig my way into the problem to understand it. I’m done with the idea that there is a quick and easy fix to things. But I want to understand.

And the only thing that makes sense to me is that there is a voice inside  us that, if we listen to it too much, makes us feel separate and different from other people. The fact is that the dental hygienist is just as bored as me with the prospect of cleaning my teeth for the umpteenth time and she is just trying to kill the blandness. Or the massage therapist who also fills the void with blasé questions when I would rather just lie down and enjoy the pressure of my muscles being ripped apart by her fingers. I love that kind of pain. But I can’t feel it if she’s yapping away at me while I lie there. Still, not to be rude, I answer the questions in the hopes that I can steal away a moment or two when she stops asking and I stop answering and I can just ‘be’ in the moment of bliss with my body.

We’re not so separate from each other. I guess that is the thought that I don’t dwell on enough. If I dwelled on it more, then I probably would never feel lonely. In fact, I’d probably want to run away and be a hermit in the woods more. There are days when I deal with so many people that all I want to do is hide. Just walk alone on a beach for miles. Just listen to the wind in the trees and think and not hear a human voice for days. Thank god I want that sometimes. Whenever I feel lonely and want to get back to just feeling my aloneness, then I should do that. Remember those days that drain the living life out of me. When I need time to myself to just think straight. To hear my own voice inside. Because that’s what happens eventually. Everyone else’s voice clamors so loudly in my head that I forget what I think or feel.

So the next time I start feeling the panic and dread of being lonely, I just need to hear the voices of the world banging around in my head. I want to love the voices, cherish the voices, but too much time around the voices and I just want to flee. Shhhh voices shhhhhh. Go to sleep, take a nap for awhile, but let me be. Thank you, voices. 😊