I’m a pretty happy, optimistic person, and I quite enjoy being single. At least, I do a good job of portraying myself to be that way on Facebook. But, like most people, I have moments and days where I feel sad, or lonely, or inadequate. Being a single woman in a demographic of engaged and married folks can sometimes leave me feeling like I’ve “failed,” or believe I’m going to be loveless and childless forever. Now, if you’ve read any of my other posts, you know I’m all about not buying into the pressures societal norms place on us. I’m also all about independence and empowerment and not relying on another for happiness, so I feel ashamed as I admit to my intermittent loneliness; but, as learning self-compassion has taught me, I’m human, and it’s Christmastime, and everyone is doing their couple-y thing, and every ex is with their wife/fiance/love of their life, and I forget what it’s like to be special to someone, and sometimes that makes me feel lonely. And I’m allowed to feel lonely, feminist and all (and so are you!). Shame gone! Onto the loneliness:
When I feel lonely, I acknowledge that I’m alone, and it makes me feel better.
Let me explain. I am alone. I’ve always been alone, and I’ll always be alone. And so are you. And so is everyone (bear with me).
I’ve been in several meaningful romantic relationships, I have (in my opinion) the most precious and fulfilling friendships, and am fortunate to have an incredibly supportive and unconditionally-loving family, all for which I feel indescribably grateful. But, I’m still alone. None of those relationships or people are permanent, guaranteed, or within my ultimate control. Relationships end, circumstances change, people die. No, I’m not just jaded (OK, maybe I’m a little jaded…). These thoughts are actually comforting for me (and not in a schadenfreudian way!). Conceptualizing my existence this way helps me feel better by reminding me of a couple of things:
First, it connects me to common human experience: I no longer focus on being the “only single person in the world”; rather, I see myself as every other human: alone, living alongside and in relation to others, acting out and abiding by socially-constructed “contracts” that govern my behaviour (Wow, way to take the romance out of it…). Ironically, understanding that we are all alone leaves me feeling less lonely.
Second, it reminds me that the longest-standing/only everlasting relationship that we have in our lives in the one with have with ourselves. We are born with ourselves, we die with ourselves, we can never get disowned or dumped or fired by ourselves, and we will be with us all the time, whether we like it or not.
Now, the reason this second point is comforting for me is because I generally quite like–and have a good relationship with–myself. I’m pretty supportive and compassionate to myself, and I know I’ll always be there. However, if you don’t like yourself, or would say you have critical or negative relationship with yourself, then being aware that you’re ultimately alone probably isn’t very comforting. But! The wonderfully enlightening part of this, is that you have the power to change that relationship to yourself, if it’s not the relationship you want. No longer will it matter so much if you have a partner or parent to give you support, compassion, and encouragement if you are able to practise it inwardly. Your worth, your mood, your validation will no longer depend on an external source out of your control, and you can have faith and trust that while people might die or leave you, YOU are not going anywhere. I remember having a dream once, where I was lamenting about being alone, and this voice said, “You’re not alone, Megan. I’ll always be here for you.” I looked at who was talking, and it was my reflection (creepy, I know…I think I must have stolen that dream story-line from Footprints in the Sand). I woke up feeling calm and reassured in a way that I’d never experienced.
Hunter S. Thompson said, “We are all alone, born alone, die alone, and–in spite of True Romance magazines–we shall all someday look back on our lives and see that, in spite of our company, we were alone the whole way. I do not say lonely–at least, not all the time–but essentially, and finally, alone. This is what makes your self-respect so important, and I don’t see how you can respect yourself if you must look in the hearts and minds of others for your happiness.”
He probably felt burned a couple times, too…
Ahem. Anyway, for the first time ever, I’m looking forward to spending some quality time with myself this Christmas. I know I’ll feel sad at times, or will long for the parts I miss about being in love or being part of a couple. But coupled people feel sad and lonely, too. I felt lonelier in my last relationship than I do single, proof that aloneness does not equate to loneliness.
All humans need connection, but that connection does not have to come from a partner. Connect with friends, family, coworkers, cashiers–whatever you need to feel meaning and intimacy. Bottom line: if you find yourself feeling lonely and searching for a romantic relationship, start with your relationship to yourself. It’ll bring comfort, liberation, and, perhaps most importantly considering the holidays, prevent you from snapping at or resenting the overly-affectionate couples in your life :)! Now go do something special for yourself to strengthen the most important relationship you have!
Thanks so much for posting such an insightful take on the nature of being Alone. You really get to the root here, and give proper recognition of both the socially-programmed expectations and roles AND the emotional pressure and toll it can take on people to be alone, and see it as “loneliness” instead of the opportunity of “solitude”.
The “holy-day” season can often trigger depressing feelings for people, and I see what you are advocating, essentially getting in touch with your “Inner Dialectic”, and having that conversation between the head and heart, ego and self; to be a great way to find peace with oneself, through the acceptance (and even appreciation) of being alone.
In those quiet moments of self-reflection and inner dialogue with ones self is where the Real growing and learning and healing begins. Once you have found that inner-fulfillment, and learned to wade through the conditioning put onto us by our Parents, Societies, Media, Schooling, etc. to realize who you REALLY are, as a living soul with flesh and blood and emotions and memories, there is a certain amount of peace and certainty that comes with it. You can now share this happiness/fulfillment with others (if you choose), instead of seeking others out as the SOURCE of your fulfillment.
My partner and I make sure we often have solitude days, that not only allow us time for personal growth/catching up on life, but the temporary absence of the other also seems increase the fondness you have for them when they are around again! It often seems the same with family and friends as well..
“Being solitary is being alone well: being alone luxuriously immersed in doings of your own choice, aware of the fullness of your won presence rather than of the absence of others. Because solitude is an achievement.” — Alice Koller
“Our language has wisely sensed the two sides of being alone. It has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone (in self reflection).” — Paul Tillich
Solitude = Soul Building.