By Katie Horwitch
Lonely hits at the most unexpected times – in line at the bank, driving your car out of your garage into the sunshine of a Sunday morning. Propped up on your elbow on a half-made bed, listening to new music at 2 a.m. It comes when it’s quiet and you are not, or maybe when everything around you is vibrant and you tiptoe in, or when you look in your refrigerator and realize you need to buy something other than condiments and wine. Lonely is a disconnect, a conscious choice or a unexpected wave.
Lonely hits you when you look in the mirror and don’t recognize yourself like you used to. You’re a real live adult – when did that happen? Your hair does this wavy thing it never did before. There is something different in your eyes; what is it? Oh that’s it – it’s clarity, it’s vision, they are the eyes strained from holding themselves so wide open. It’s the look of time passed and dreams in flux and the realization that everything you want is not necessarily everything you need. It’s the body that’s changed shape by the day, week, year, decade, and the idea that even our own selves are not a constant.
Lonely is not a relationship status; lonely isn’t crowded or alone. Lonely is the aching for wide-open exchange, and no matter how many friends you have or how great your love life is or how perfect your job is, lonely is the confusion that sets in when you wonder, when you hold back, or when the external becomes a guise or overcompensation.
We can feel more lonely surrounded by others than when we’re in a room alone. The blocked energy and the questions, they suffocate and they hurt. Usually when we’re feeling lonely, we’re asking questions or holding back. Or holding out, really, because so much of our loneliness is based in the responses we’re hoping to get outside of ourselves.
And the tricky part is that lonely cannot be solved by being social, by going out, or by striking up a conversation. Lonely is vague. Lonely is living hazily, living in parentheticals and footnotes and swift asides and question marks lined up like window decorations. Lonely is what happens when you question the way you give. Lonely is love with nowhere to go.
Lonely is what happens when you ache to uplift; lonely is the first guest to arrive and the lingering last guest to leave. Lonely is the self-aware, the uncharacteristically quiet, the first two layers unpeeled instead of the whole dissected onion. Lonely is the song you try to sing; it’s wishing to sing and not getting the chance. It’s all of the trying and wishing, really. It’s missing your friend because you both evolved in different ways and just don’t relate any more, or it’s getting a solution instead of a shoulder. Lonely is that necklace that you wore so well, that’s now neglected because you just can’t get the tangles out – it’s the change that comes with time and the transience of life in general.
Healing from loneliness is…well, it’s tough. It requires immense courage, unabashed honesty, and a strong cocktail of selflessness and trust.
The opposite of loneliness isn’t just togetherness. It’s connection.
We’re fighting loneliness when we ask the teller at the bank, with genuine interest, “How is your day going?” We’re fighting loneliness when we are feeling disconnected from our family or friends or significant other but tell them we love them anyway, without caring about the response or aching for reciprocity. We’re fighting loneliness when we take a lunch break and bring our coworker coffee just the way she likes it. We fight loneliness with little acts throughout the day of thoughtfulness and intimate authenticity.
When I start to feel lonely, different, sequestered in my own personal black hole, I have trained myself to become just a tad bit more expressive. Because that is the answer to a much bigger question than how to fight the temporary feeling of lonely: the question of what my soul really, truly wants and desires.
The one common thread between all of us is that we want to feel loved. So to battle my own loneliness, I shift gears and do what I can to make someone else feel loved. It makes me feel like my heart is in use; because lonely is my heart feeling stagnant. This is my way of courageously and effectively going about my quest for fulfillment, wholeness and connection on a soul level.
So go ahead, give your love somewhere to go. No alternate agenda or quest for reciprocity. Just a simple moment of care and connection; a fleeting one, even. Delete your footnotes and erase your parentheses. Show your care, own the person who is so uniquely you. Let it fill your heart as you fill the hearts of others. Trust it will. Heal your loneliness by reminding someone “You’re not alone. We’re connected. Let’s do this together.”