September 3, 2012

UPDATE: Loneliness & Longing

Photo by Cogdogblog
I have been experiencing loneliness recently; that longing for intimacy that makes you ache inside. Certainly I understand where it's coming from - after five years of sharing my life, I'm alone again. I miss sharing the day's trivialities, I miss preparing meals for two (not the cooking, just the role), I miss the background noise of another heartbeat, another voice, another sneeze. I even miss my partner's morning grumpiness.

But I'm no stranger to being alone, and I understand that this is just "emotion in transit" - as well as an important reminder of our collective need for connection. We want to share our joy, and some of our loneliest moments occur when we experience something deeply emotional - a breathtaking sunset or a happy revelation - and our immediate instinct is to share it with someone near and dear. When there's no one there, literally or figuratively, a pang of loneliness ensues. It's a physical jolt, like a sharp yet harmless shard in the area of your heart.

When first we fall in love (remember that?), this sharing of joyful moments creates a sense of completeness, as in "you complete me." Once you have experienced that completeness, you forever after seek it anew, and your whole self remembers. Cells have memory, did you know that? And once we experience the view from up there, we're constantly reaching for it. We're very predictable that way.

The solo artist...
Yet there is comfort in being alone, and I have a great deal of respect for people who live quietly and successfully as individuals in a society that caters almost pathologically to couples and families. Some of us need to learn to love ourselves better, and the only way to do that is by taking the energy we were funneling into a relationship and turning it inward. Think of all the things you might do for your partner -- from massaging sore shoulders to making them an indulgent snack, listening to their bad-day stories, buying a shirt because it's their favourite colour, or planning a thoughtful outing based on their hobbies or preferences. Now imagine doing that for yourself. You just have to apply the same formula and adjust accordingly.

I have been on my own more often than not since I left my parents' home at the age of 18, so I'm certainly not new to this experience. There's no good or bad way to live, it really is what you make of it, right? Many people fear being alone, probably because they've never truly given it a go - but there's nothing shameful or fearful in being on your own; in fact, some people say it's an enviable place to be. That's just grass being greener on the other side, I think. Being alone will always look good to someone in an unhappy relationship, and being "so happy together" will always look enviable to a single person feeling vulnerable. 

All this to say - this too shall pass.  Loneliness is a reminder of why we love hugs. And I have so many friends to shower me with love and hugs that I am enormously grateful, in moments of sadness, for the happiness these other relationships bring to me. We are not born alone (why do people say that?) and even if we die alone, we are rarely alone throughout life. We just feel that way sometimes. And that's OK.

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