I would like to challenge the notion that loneliness is a bad thing.
WhenI talk to many people about loneliness, I usually get a well-meaning response that goes something like this: “You must be talking about being alone, not about being lonely. It’s ok to be alone… not ok to be lonely.”
No. I’m talking about being lonely. I’m talking about loneliness.
Just like anything else, if we stay there too long it can be destructive because we become too attached to it and it starts to define us. But I’m getting off topic…
Loneliness is not a bad thing.
I have been working with this lately and it hasn’t been easy. I have avoided loneliness for most of my life. My usual magic act for making it disappear is to daydream. Those lovely fantasies about someone who will come along and save me. That perfect “other” who loves me… well, worships me… if I want to be honest. I have concocted relationships out of thin air in a matter of minutes. It’s amazing, really. Like a party trick for the sad and lonely.
Ah. There’s that word again… lonely.
Then there is general busyness. I call it “farting around.” That can also prevent loneliness. Working too many hours, watching too much TV, clicking too many internet buttons. But too much of any of that has a dulling quality to it. Still, it creates an equilibrium so that I feel more “normal,” which is another way of saying “numb.”
Friends are a more positive distraction from loneliness. I have many wonderful friends and I walk away from my time with them feeling full and sweet. It’s nice. These are people I love and who I know love me. They are true blessings in my life and for the past several years, they have replaced my tendency to participate in the other two distractions, daydreaming and farting around. Yet, I can still use them to distract me from loneliness.
What is it about loneliness that is calling to me?
Loneliness is this entryway experience. And for me, this entryway is a long, darkened corridor… no doors, hardwood floors, high ceilings. There is muted daylight coming in from somewhere but it’s undefined. And, you guessed it, there is no one else there. And as I walk, the corridor gets longer… like in a dream. So, I usually just stand there… stock still… because I can’t stand the thought of walking down the corridor only to find it becoming longer with every step.It’s torture. And so I stand there for a bit and I usually make the choice to turn around and walk back out into a world full of waiting distractions.
What is it about this loneliness that is calling to me?
Recently, I was in a particularly painful place. I found myself torn between knowing my truth… and I mean really knowing my truth with-every-fiber-of-my-being… and the fact that my truth wasn’t being mirrored by the people in my life. This is a supremely lonely place. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise because they are lying.
There are people who are used to this place and I have a new admiration for them. They are usually called prophets.
I’ve been taking a class this semester on the biblical prophet Jeremiah. He had it rough. Over and over he tells people the truth and over and over they don’t listen and they eventually get hostile. Even his friends and family plot to kill him because they think he’s tearing the community apart by pressing the issue. The difference between me and him, aside from the obvious, is that I’m not claiming to speak the word of God against an entire society that seems to have forgotten to take care of the marginalized.
I’m just Michelle, a child of God, struggling like everyone else to understand how this whole thing fits together and what part of the puzzle I am. Nothing special and yet completely profound.
And I’m lonely.
I told this to the right person because she told me not to leave loneliness so quickly. She told me that this place of loneliness was connected to something terribly important.
And so this is my new practice.
I watch myself begin the spinning, scattered movement to get people to agree with my truth so that I’m not so lonely… or adjust my worldview so that it is more pleasing to people and I’m not so lonely… or over-socialize so that I am more pleasing to people so I’m not so lonely.
And I quickly realize what I’m doing and how creepy and slippery that suddenly feels, and I stop.
And I return to dry loneliness.
I still seek feedback but it’s less and less a desperate attempt to “not feel so lonely” and more and more grounded in love because it is through love that I instinctively know what is true.
So, again, I would like to challenge the notion that loneliness is a bad thing.
It’s not an easy thing. It’s not a fun thing. And it’s not a bad thing.
For it is here that my truth lies.
And no one can come to this place with me… no one except God.