Archives for posts with tag: loneliness

Living alone sometimes also means feeling lonely. I’m fortunate that it doesn’t come up that often for me; I enjoy living alone. In the words of my Traveling Partner, I “thrive on it”. It’s true. I’m content, I’m happier, I rarely struggle with my symptoms (aside from noise sensitivity and shitty sleep), and it’s been ages since I had a bad meltdown. My symptoms and bad flare ups are mostly triggered by… people. So yeah, living alone works better. But.

Life is a funny thing, is it not? It seems, often, to force me to deal with the shit that is the most difficult when I feel least prepared to do so. Living alone works for me. But. And it’s what comes after the but that is a heavy burden to bear this morning – and I’m “not alone” on this one – but, I am lonely. This morning I ache with it. I woke with it. I went to bed with it. I felt it as a sharp pain late last evening, cuddling the wee stuffed puppy my Traveling Partner gave me as a gift on a whim. (I already love this little stuffed dog, fully house-broken, and very quiet. lol) Loneliness is a real thing, and I really feel it now and again, and it is painful. Anxiety may be a liar, but loneliness? Loneliness is a bully who follows me home, relentlessly mocking me where I am most vulnerable.

Loneliness is actually painful. When you feel it, and you notice, and you wonder that you actually physically hurt – no need to keep wondering, that shit is real. It is uncomfortable. Biology probably intends to drive us to seek out companionship, which makes good sense; we are social creatures, who thrive in company, who succeed together, who celebrate in groups and tribes and families… alone we are… vulnerable to attack. Less well-defended. Small. Singular. Loneliness sucks, and chronic unaddressed loneliness can become mental illness or physical ill health, and even be fatal.

The little stuffed dog surprised me; gift wrapped and left on the front seat of the car, which I’d come to pick up for the week of moving, a couple days early since he wouldn’t be using it, himself. There it was. Soft. So soft. Cute button eyes that sparkle a bit. So soft. I turned to my partner has he came around the corner smiling and tears came to my eyes. His embrace wrapped me in warmth and love and we stood wrapped in each other’s arms a long moment. I miss specific things about cohabitation, mostly to do with intimacy and touch. Like it or not, I’ve made a specific willful exchange in life; I have exchanged hugs, kisses, everyday interactions, contact, intimacy, and frequent sex in favor of improved mental and emotional health (it is generally an unmistakably positive choice that benefits me).

An alternate spelling of “I love you”.

Today, I am lonely. I ache with it. I miss being greeted at the door when I get home in the evening. I miss shared meals. I miss hugs – I miss hugs maybe most of all, even to the point of hugging occasional strangers (in contextually appropriate moments) (if you know me in life, you get how hilarious this actually is). I miss being an everyday part of my partner’s life. I miss having sex, pretty much any day I don’t get to. This morning all of these things make me feel sad. I’m also feeling fairly practical and realistic about it, and understand myself well enough to “get” that it isn’t about inviting random strangers into my bed (didn’t work in my 20s, isn’t the solution now), but I am unquestionably still searching for a really comfortable balance between living alone, and finding/creating the quantity of emotional intimacy and touch that I need to be emotionally well over the long haul.

This morning is hard. My hand reaches without thinking to the little stuffed dog. I scratch its ears as though it were real. I stroke its soft “fur”. A real dog? A real cat? Other pets? I’ve got both baggage and boundaries in this area. Pets are not a good solution to the loneliness issue for me.  I used to have cats. They absolutely destroyed some precious things I could not replace…and… they walk in their poop, then all over everything else. Just no. Dogs? I grew up with dogs. I even like dogs. But… being responsible for another living creature’s entire livelihood and well-being isn’t something I’m super well-qualified for, frankly, otherwise I might have done the motherhood thing… and… dogs smell bad (to me), and caring for a dog well is a huge time commitment…and… okay, okay, I just have baggage and it wouldn’t be a great fit, can we leave it there? lol Chinchillas? More chaos and damage, and… they seem to me to be every bit as sentient as any primate, so that just feels too much like keeping a prisoner. I can’t. Guinea pigs, gerbils, hamsters, reptiles… I’ve had pets. Lots. (I’ve got an aquarium now, and that’s about my speed, really.) They don’t fully “solve for X” in this equation.

Filling the hole in my experience labeled “I miss being touched” with animal companionship would be, realistically, a second best (for me). Instead, I’ll attempt to be more aware of my needs, learn to communicate them more clearly, learn new/more/other ways to take care of me that may meet those specific needs – bitch about it, undoubtedly – and walk on, wiping my tears away and getting back to other things.

But. I do get lonely. Yes, it hurts. Finding some sanity, contentment, and balance are actually worth the hurting right now, even in this shitty lonely moment. I just have to begin again, and do my best to take care of the woman in the mirror. We’ve always got each other. It’s generally enough.

I’m home. The busy work day is behind me. The week is finished. I sit quietly taking it in; I don’t work tomorrow. I am home. I am alone. Tonight… I’m even lonely. It happens. Just using the word, my eyes tear up a bit. I’m okay, just very human. Tired. In pain. Frustrated by the world every time I hear an adult conversation in passing, or read the news. “Stick a fork in me…” I sigh out loud, the sound of it in the room seems oddly out-of-place with the quiet.

A shower later, and a change into comfy clothes, I’m still in this strange place, poised between contentment and despair. There’s no particular reason for it, really… it’s winter. It’s been a busy week at work. Is that all this is? Am I just tired? I’m struggling to manage some of my self-care basics with the new job. I’m pushing “too hard”, taking too few breaks, getting too little rest… but I also love the job, feel passionate about the progress we’re making, and feel very valued and appreciated. What do I do with that? The long commutes make the days very long indeed, and the evenings very short.

I feel myself sort of… pull back. From everything. Closing the door on “extra people” – as if the friends and loved ones outside the workplace are not in fact far more important to me, day-to-day, moment-to-moment, than even my most esteemed colleague. I come home at the end of the day. Close the door. Sit down. Being fair to my self and my circumstances, it’s rare to feel other than contented on a quiet evening after work, these days. Tonight is different. I remind myself that the sensation of “always” that feels so dull and bleak and immovable is, itself, a part of this feeling – and every sad strained drop of it is pure emotion. Chemistry. Lacking in real meaning, or substance. It’s more a drug than an experience. Squashing it doesn’t help – never has. Venting… meh. I’ve had mixed success there, and my suspicion is that it is the camaraderie of sharing the tale, the connected moment, that results in any apparent success – and fuck, I already know that experiencing an intimate emotional (positive) connection with another human being is a fast track to losing the blues. This is not news.

…But I ache, and I’m tired, and… I’d also like very much to be alone. Now isn’t that a bitch? Feeling lonely, and still wanting to be alone. What the fuck do I do with that?? Well. In this particular instance, I light a fire in the fireplace. I put on some soup. (I made a tasty robust 15 bean soup yesterday in the slow cooker, while I worked from home. It’ll be even better today.) I put on my fuzziest, comfy-cosiest, softest spa socks. I did some yoga. Took some time to meditate. I started choosing to let the stress fall away. I looked the loneliness in the face, and let it be what it is, without piling self-criticism, disappointment, or additional demands on top of it. I lit the lights on the Giftmas tree – and grudgingly made room for the awareness that I was smiling, at least a little. One thing at a time. I started treating myself better, one thing at a time. Rather than continue down the unpleasant path of criticizing my crappy treatment of myself, I’m making a point to go ahead and treat myself better. Right now. Only that. We become what we practice.

Soup will be ready soon. It’s later than I generally have dinner, but I’m also not sleepy. Just tired… and the kind of tired that is mostly brain-tired. Giving my brain a rest isn’t always about sleep. My fingers find the edge of the book I am reading… soup first, though. Later, sleep.

Tomorrow I can begin again.

I spent last night sick, and disinclined to write. Tonight, although I was in quite a lot of pain and my traveling partner was feeling somewhat unwell, we spent a handful of hours hanging out. I am still smiling. I’m inclined to say more – certainly the evening is on my mind. I don’t know that I have the words.

Sometimes when I hang out with someone, I walk away from the interaction still feeling very much that we are strangers. Other times – other people – it is easy to connect deeply, to be open and comfortable, to be easy with each other, and walk away afterward feeling closer, and feeling connected. This evening was more than just a pleasant good time together. We spoke intimately on difficult topics, shared our emotions comfortably, and gently, and when we said good-bye at the end of the evening I felt heard, and I felt I knew a little more about my partner’s heart than I did before. I even felt a little more well-understood, myself.

It was an ordinary enough evening when it started. Then, somewhere midway through some possibly completely unrelated bit of conversation, he said…something.  My eyes filled with tears, and his filled with puzzlement. “You said the ‘L word’, I replied, trying to smile. “Loneliness,” I continued, “I’m not very good at talking about it.” I struggled to regain my composure (there really wasn’t anything wrong at all) and explained that for some reason, just hearing the word “loneliness” has the potential to cause my eyes to tear up. He looked at me with such love and empathy. There was no hint of awkwardness, or strain. We talked awhile about loneliness in general, and in our own experiences in life. We talked about solitude, and the things that differentiate those experiences one from the other. It was beautiful. I feel comforted, and supported. I feel loved.

The listening thing is huge. It wasn’t obvious whether or not my traveling partner felt it too. I’ve been practicing ‘listening deeply’; I find the most elegant and lovely explanation in a favorite book on mindful love (How to Love by Thich Nhat Hanh).  The extraordinary intimacy of the conversation, and the evening, was quite wonderful. Comfortable. Easy. The result? A very secure feeling of loving and being loved.



I don’t have much of real value to share about tonight; I am wrapped in love, and inclined to relax, feet up, just smiling. Maybe for a while. Some evenings, I sit in the twilight and I wonder. Tonight, I sit in the twilight and marvel.

Love is wonderful. Life is fairly amazing as experiences go. We are, however, imperfect mortal human primates, made as much of flaws and bad decision-making as we are of ‘star stuff’. This human experience is complicated. In every moment of misery, I try to hold on to something I find to be true about suffering, which is that the intensity of suffering tends to be a fair indicator of the magnitude of joy I am also capable of feeling. Some days that’s not much in the ‘something to hold on to’ department, but paired with ‘this too shall pass’ it’s generally enough to get by on, in a bad moment.

This morning I raise my mug in wry appreciation for the misery that woke me. I’m grateful that my traveling partner was awake, and there with a warm hug, and a hot latte. I woke feeling bereft, cut off, lonely…’lonely’ doesn’t really do the emotion that woke me justice. It was the loneliness of the friend standing by as the person they yearn for talks about ‘finding someone just like you’. It was the loneliness of the ‘tween who wants with so much hunger…and hasn’t yet become woman enough to be interesting romantically. It was the loneliness of sleeping alone, of waking alone, of being alone…and wanting intimacy and connection and companionship so much more than solitude. It was the loneliness of love lost, and the loneliness of the realization that what had been found wasn’t love at all. It was the loneliness of being ignored, or being forgotten. It was the loneliness of being unpopular. It was the loneliness of walking away. I woke feeling every lonely moment I have ever known, simultaneously delivered as a single waking moment, a sort of distilled essence of loneliness. The power of it was horrific. I woke stunned and emotionally immobilized long enough to take my morning medication, and try to go back to bed, uncertain what else to do. I felt ‘coated in distance’.  I pulled the covers over me, made my body comfortable, took a breath and relaxed to return to sleep and… and then I cried. I cried for every lonely moment I’d ever felt that I didn’t have tears for at the time. My heart melted, and it broke, and I cried until no more tears would come. I am clearly not going to be going back to sleep.

Thoughts of coffee differ from actual coffee.

Thoughts of coffee differ from actual coffee. It’s strange how intensely real thoughts can seem.

I finally woke up enough, some minutes beyond the crying, to realize that just laying there was pretty pointless, and, well… coffee. I got up and went first to my traveling partner, rather reassuringly relaxing in the living room and reading his email, sipping his morning coffee, looking for all the world like a man having a nice morning, in a world that is…just fine. He asked me how I’m doing, and I said it simply enough, without baggage or drama, “I woke feeling lonely and weird.” I accepted the offered hug, and he held me for the rest of our lives – well, no, actually just for some moments of lovely warmth and comfort, but it felt good – reassuring, safe, and comforting. By the time I sat down at my keyboard, with my latte, my heart was already feeling calmer, and the loneliness I woke to was receding. I have to wonder…how deeply can I connect to someone, how intimately close can I be with another human being, how vast is my capacity to love – if the loneliness that woke me is something I am able to feel, at all – and not only to feel, but to endure, and survive? Wow. I am eager to find my way to that connected intimate place.

Loneliness is a painful emotion to experience, and one that I find difficult to discuss, or to ease. I don’t often feel it so intensely; I enjoy my own company, greatly. For so many years my ability to connect with someone on a deeply intimate level, and my interest in doing so, was very limited. Lonely didn’t come up much, because I hadn’t the capacity to recognize I was missing something when I was alone, and when I did feel lonely it was generally a fairly biological thing driven by hormones and sexual needs, not at all on the order of the powerful loneliness experienced by someone yearning for a cherished deeply felt intimate connection that has been lost, or the loneliness of heartbreak. Perhaps learning to love truly well must include the experience of loneliness, to be valued in full? That seems a positive way to consider it, and I’m content with that for now.

I don’t know what today has to offer, or the weekend ahead, or the work week that follows. I am adaptable, life is unscripted, and reality brings spontaneity and change every moment of every day. Today I am a fearless explorer on a journey into an unknown future, with only ‘then’ and ‘now’ as compass and map. I hope to discover great things. Today is a good day to discover love.


…And turn to the lesson on page one.

This morning my eyes opened directly into the bright illuminating light of life’s powerful curriculum. Put another way; lacking sufficient attention to detail I failed to turn my aquarium from ‘day’ to ‘night’ lighting before I went to bed last night (a necessary action if I hope to sleep in). I don’t easily sleep through the ‘day’ lighting, and got a rather abrupt early wake up when the lights came on this morning. I am awake, and still somewhat groggy after some yoga, some meditation, and making coffee. I needed the sleep, and would have benefited from waking up naturally when sleeping had finished. I’m awake now. I also benefit from quiet mornings writing, and studying. It’s a lovely morning that lacks any risk whatsoever of irritating someone, hearing any raised voices, having any misunderstandings, feeling imposed upon, inconvenienced, resentful, or overwhelmed, interrupting, or being interrupted. Every one of those experiences requires interaction with other people, and in these pre-dawn hours on a weekend of solitude, there are no others here but me. On the other hand, in this quiet stillness there are no hugs, no laughter, no quiet sexy smiles, no opportunities to touch, to feel connected, to share intimate words or experiences, because these, too, require interaction with another.

This morning in the stillness, awake a bit too early, feeling a tad groggy, and maybe even just a little irritable…I am also a little bit lonely. I miss the visceral experience of loving. I miss hugs and kisses. I miss smiling into the eyes of someone dear and seeing them smile back. I miss hearing conversation in the background, or from another room. I miss the joy and the delight and the fun. I can tell I am actually experiencing the feeling called ‘loneliness’ separately from the subtleties of grieving, because I am also missing being annoyed that my traveling partner forgot to empty the porto filter from his last shot of espresso, or that my generally-at-home partner left egg white drying on the counter top after making eggs (both experiences I do not enjoy). It’s sort of a given, I suppose, that when we miss events, actions, or experiences we don’t actually care for, and miss them solely because of the people they are shared with, loneliness is involved somewhere. What is the answer to loneliness? (I smile at the sudden image of a teacher at the front of the room, and my own hand shooting skyward eagerly.) I know this one! (At least for me.) The answer to loneliness is interaction, connection, engagement – with another person, sure, that’s where I’m headed with that… I like to start with me, though. The level of intimacy I am capable of as a person has a direct correlation to how connected I am with myself, with my needs, with what I want most to share and experience.  “γνῶθι σεαυτόν”  (I don’t read Greek, but I find the words prettier to look at in that language. lol) Or “Gnothi seauton” – Know thyself. Yep. How can I share who I am if I don’t know myself? Loneliness is slippery that way. There are a lot of quotes about being lonely in a crowded room.

Know thyself...

Know thyself… a distant moment of reflection revealed in an old photograph.

I used to feel much lonelier with people than alone.  That’s not true of who I am now.  I don’t know with certainty that this change in my experience has a direct connection to feeling differently about myself, and taking care of my own emotional needs as a priority. I know that the more accepting and compassionate I have learned to become of myself, the less generally irritating “humanity” seems. (For a truly predictably generally shitty experience of life, few things beat finding the whole of humanity unpleasant in some way; the implied self-loathing never lets up for a moment.)

I don’t find this somewhat lonely moment of morning tragic in any way. I’m not yearning for a different experience. I don’t feel moved to change this moment even a little bit; I honor love and my loves to miss them in this moment, and recognizing their absence – even the absence of small human bits that aren’t their best qualities – simply reminds me how much they matter in my experience day-to-day. It’s loneliness, more than Loneliness. I am content with feeling the feeling, without intervening or acting on it.

unfinished canvas - where inspiration meets action.

unfinished canvas – where inspiration meets action.

This morning I will be in the studio, and because so much of the painting I do is driven by emotion, and enjoyed through movement, really any feelings at all are welcomed, if only for the opportunity to express them wordlessly. Grief. Loneliness. Heartfelt yearning for something just out of reach. Love. Devotion. Surrender.  (Yes, the linked track is on my playlist when I paint.) I got the art of it ‘right’ years ago, before I understood that I needed to bring that sense of compassionate inclusion and acceptance to my own heart, not just the canvas in front of me.

Today is a good day to feel the feelings, and to make the best possible choices regardless of those. Today is a good day to be kind to someone having a tough time, even if that someone is our own self. Today is a good day to share a favorite song, to celebrate love, and to enjoy each precious moment however insignificant. Today is a good day to take a deep breathe and let the small stuff go. Today is a good day to change the world.