My brain has been puzzling through these two words for some time now. They are similar, yet they have these subtle differences that make them very distinct states of being (for me). I have been trying to tease apart the nuances between them in an effort to understand why I love being alone and why I hate feeling lonely.
I love being physically alone. I absolutely and truly love my solitude. I can spend hours and hours roaming through the thrift store by myself. I can do six hours of yard work and feel completely blissed out, accomplished and satisfied. In fact, my dream day would probably be thrifting, yard work, making myself dinner, binge watching Netflix with my dog, and going to sleep by 10pm. I don’t need to see people and do brunch or lunch or be social. I rarely desire company of the physical kind; I am comfortable being connected with my friends and family via text or video chatting. If I do desire company, it is with a select and chosen few that do not take any of my energy away but instead fill me up and make me feel even better. My friends are kind and patient and try very hard to understand and respect my need and desire to be alone. I will admit that it is the combination of introversion, social anxiety, and being a highly sensitive person that drives my behavior to some degree. But, at the core of it, I really do prefer my own company to the company of others.
I talk to myself. A lot.
I feel emotionally alone. This one is a little trickier. I am alone on this journey of grief and healing that ebbs and flows between debilitating and completely manageable. I have friends and family that support me, but no one can intrinsically understand what it is that I am going through and this can feel very isolating and scary at times. When my emotions get the better of me, my desire for isolation intensifies, and I have the tendency to shut down. People tell me all of the time “you are not alone” and it flat out annoys me. I understand that there are people in my life who love and care about me. I understand that there are other people on this planet who might be going through something similar to what my experience has been. But, at the end of the day, I am very much alone in my confusion, hurt, and grief. This is my path and those are my footprints in the sand. No one else is there beside me.
Loneliness is the feeling that is really tripping me up. Loneliness is the one that feels the most weighted and the most powerful; in all of the wrong ways. Loneliness is the shitty one. Loneliness is the feeling I dread, and when it hits me, it hits me hard. Loneliness hits when my kids leave for a week to go be with their dad. It hits hard at first and then the feeling wanes as I adjust to being in my quiet house alone again; just me and my dog. Loneliness pops up when I wish I could snuggle someone or be snuggled. Sex (really, the lack of) is a big one. That one just hurts so I try not to think about it at all. Loneliness is there when I think about people who I miss having in my life. People who were once close and intimate friends who have disappeared for one reason or another. Loneliness is a feeling that reminds me of my childhood. Loneliness used to be the driving force behind a lot of my relationship needs and configurations. Loneliness feels like abandonment. Abandonment is rock-bottom for me. It is debilitatingly terrifying. Loneliness feels weak and embarrassing. I am supposed to do everything on my own! (I want to bitch slap whoever drove that message into my subconscious). Loneliness feels like a ticking clock, counting down to some unknown end point where time has simply run out. Loneliness is the door that opens up a closet filled with shit I don’t want to think about. Shit I really shouldn’t waste my time thinking about:
Despair, hopelessness, fear, isolation, and panic.
Lately, loneliness has taken a seat on my couch. I try to ignore it but no matter what I do, it won’t go away and it’s pissing me off. I still love my solitude but at least for now, it doesn’t seem to matter what I do to fill my time. I miss having someone in my life, officially. I think that perhaps it’s because I am really truly happy for the first time in years. I am a full-time teacher and graduate student, and a part-time single mom. I am busy and fulfilled and longing to share my life with another human being in all of the ways imaginable.
I don’t know who or what exactly I am looking for; online dating is a horrific shit show (that’s another post I am working on). I do know that I miss having someone to share all of the tiny moments that happen in-between the bigger ones. I miss having someone around that matches my own ridiculous, goofy sense of humor and thinks that the movie I ❤️ Huckabees is the absolute best movie ever. I miss feeling so comfortable around another human that I can be my most vulnerable and disgusting self whenever I damn well please. I miss having someone around who actually likes my kids, wants to know them, and genuinely cares for them. I want someone in my life who thinks that a Netflix binge-watching-snuggle-marathon is a perfect way to spend a Saturday night.
I am trying to stay positive. I am trying to have some faith and maintain hope that there is someone out there who fits. Someone who fits with me and my kids and my hectic, busy life. For now, I am doing my best to ignore the loneliness sitting on my couch, kicking it’s feet up, and making itself at home. I am focusing on what is right here, right now. I am living my best life – a very full life. I am surrounded by people who truly love and care about me. My kids are happy and thriving, my job is wonderful, and graduate school is better than I could have ever imagined.
Life is really good. I am just ready for it to be even better.
I can totally relate to most of this post. Well worded. Timely podcast episode on the same topic if you’re interested – https://youarenotsosmart.com/podcast/ episode # 139 – ‘The Friendship Cure’. Not sure whether they have it posted yet but it’s an interesting one. I won’t say ‘you are not alone’ but you definitely aren’t the only one experiencing this. Embrace the shit-show & things can get better. 🙏
Thought you might like this! https://www.brainpickings.org/2016/07/11/the-lonely-city-olivia-laing/