The other day I heard a conversation on the radio about loneliness. In the program an expert was discussing the difference between being alone and being lonely. Many people rang in with great ideas about how to stay connected. This is particularly concerning for older people who are increasingly finding themselves isolated in our society. I didn’t get a chance to call in but I wanted to because basically I don’t get lonely. Well I don’t anymore. There are different kinds of loneliness and probably much like you, I’ve experienced many of them. I can recall being an angst ridden and lonely teen. No one understood me, no one was ever going to understand or love me. At times that felt very cold and dark, but I always had a love of movies, books and music and could lose myself in those joys. It was also quite untrue as I had very good friends and a caring family. I wasn’t alone often but still there were times I convinced myself that I was lonely. In my teenage mind not having a girlfriend was definition enough to feel lonely, to feel I didn’t fit with social norms.
As an adult I’ve experienced a number of different personal relationships, some longer than others, some intense, others relaxed, committed, non-committal and down right indefinable. Regardless, I’ve come to see that for me the greatest sense of feeling lonely was the experience of lying next to someone and being completely disconnected from them. And after a number of relationships that didn’t work out I felt the loneliness of being on my own. But in that time of being alone I recalled the sense of loss and disconnection with others and realized it was actually myself I was disconnected from. I took the opportunity of being single as a time to have a relationship with myself. I did things for myself that I would do for someone I was in a relationship with. I took myself to nice places, I made myself good food, I bought myself things I knew I would really like.
I enjoyed being with myself and I completely stopped being lonely. I came to a point where I was content to be alone but open to being in a relationship if it was equal to or better than being on my own. Ironically that state of being attracted a like-minded person and I find myself now in a wonderfully connected relationship. While we greatly value time with each other we also value time to ourselves and we understand that if things were to change it's our connection to ourselves that underpins a sense of wellbeing.
We are social beings and we are also extremely suggestible. Our society continually pumps out messages about what is normal, what you should be feeling, thinking and doing. It’s no wonder we feel lonely when our lives don’t match up to the image being projected. But ultimately loneliness is a state of mind and it’s directly related to how we see ourselves and how we think society sees us. Connecting with others is an essential part of our social interactions, but connecting and remaining connected to ourselves could quite possibly be the best remedy for loneliness we’ve got.
Evan Shapiro www.amazon.com/author/evanshapiro
This blog is edited and used with permission of the author. Originally posted @ www.evanshapiro.net/blog