“Loneliness is the poverty of self; solitude is the richness of self:”
There is perhaps nothing worse in this life, than the feeling of loneliness. The feeling of being unloved, or unwanted. But even worse, is a fear that the reason for this is because others deem you of having absolutely nothing to offer that anyone would want. It causes people to do things I believe they might not otherwise do. And with the advances in technology, the very thing that is supposed to help connect us all; we are even more disconnected. It’s easier to bury one self in a movie, a game, or voyeurism into other people’s life through things like Facebook or gossip, than to face the silence…and the solitude. Learning to be alone is not easy for most people. It certainly wasn’t for me. Even after surviving one failed relationship after another, I always had my children, and a new boyfriend. But, after while, I got tired of all the drama with men; and one by one, the kids all grew up and left home, and I felt I had no choice. I could be miserable with a man, or alone; and I could either embrace the solitude, or suffer through it. I made a choice to embrace it. This meant changing the way I think, and therefore changing the way I felt about being alone.
Henry David Thoreau said, “As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” He was right.
At first, my “aloneness” was out of sheer disgust in the attempts to find a decent man to date and refusal to put up with any more ridiculousness. It started with going to a movie alone, or out to eat. It wasn’t so bad. Over time, I began going out to the bars alone. It was decidedly more fun to be able to flit from table to table like a butterfly, chatting up anyone I wanted to, without worrying about having to stay with a man or my friends. I actually had far more fun at the bars this way than ever before. Go figure.
Mostly, it was being at home alone afterward that I had trouble with. Home alone, period, was hard. But, over time, it became something that I began to need, even crave. After a while, I realized I didn’t need to go out and get drunk to have fun. And, a couple years after that, realized that I didn’t need near the things I had once believed I had, either. I began to choose my friends more carefully, even though there were fewer of them. I was happier and more comfortable with them. Safe. I noticed that my life somehow became simpler, and less stressful. Yet, there is always a battle, between wanting solace and comfort that often must come from another person, and walking away from the drama, or even abuse, that goes along with that person.
“It is good to be solitary, for solitude is difficult, that something is difficult must be a reason the more for us to do it.”
~Rainer Maria Rilke
Learning to walk away has been hard. Feeling like you’re alone and on your own is a scary feeling. And while many people may say they are there for you, they are busy with lives of their own, and often aren’t. Not because they don’t care, but, they can only do so much.
I think it only gets harder to be on your own as you get older. When you are young, friends seem to be less in short supply. Being single isn’t as big of a deal, because there are others around who are single also and much more willing to “hang out,” thus easing the pangs of isolation. But, as we get older, couples pair off and have families, with jobs, and dance recitals, and ball games to attend. If you have kids of your own, it helps, but not completely. They are kids, and you must remain the parent, and not bog them down with your own problems. It’s not their job to deal with adult problems, or be your “friend.” Yet, they do provide a kind of…distraction, that can often be welcomed by those belonging to the lonely hearts club.
Being alone can be one of life’s greatest challenges; but is also provides what I believe to be great rewards, if in proper balance. There is no shortage of poems, quotes, or stories about loneliness out there, and plenty of great advice. After a while, I realized just how right they are. Because, it is only when facing the person in the mirror with a humble attitude and intense honesty, that we begin to see who we really are and find a new perspective. To see things that have happened to us in truth, means fully accepting our own responsibility in each situation as well. Did we see red flags we simply chose to overlook? Did we in fact choose to stay with an abusive person because we hated being alone even worse? Did we even interpret what happened correctly? Or did we just assume?
I think every person should learn to be alone. I think this provides us with much more insight into ourselves, as I said before; but it also provides us with ammunition to fight those who would choose to do us harm. Because when we aren’t afraid to be alone, it get’s much easier to walk away when we need to; and often times, that is exactly what we need to do.
“A man can be himself only so long as he is alone, and if he does not love solitude, he will not love freedom, for it is only when he is alone that he is really free.
The sad fact of the matter is that we live in a sick world. It is full of sick people who want to exploit, manipulate, control, and even harm us. Sometimes, it’s for no other reason than we exist. There is no rhyme or reason to it, and we must accept that asking “why” will simply be fruitless. Often times in life, we don’t get those answers. It just IS.
I believe it is because this world belongs to Satan, and as long as he’s in charge, there will be no shortage of evil. You know when Jesus fasted for 40 days & nights and the devil took him up on a high mountain and told him that he would give him everything as far as the eye could see if he would worship him? Satan was not lying (that time). It was well within his rights to offer all that up to Jesus. This world is his. It’s in the Bible; look into it. Yes, God is ultimately in control, but don’t be fooled into thinking that he will intervene and save you if you never ask him to. That’s just the way things are right now. One day, I believe, that will change. Right now though, we live in a dangerous place. A place everyone wants to paint with rainbows and smiley faces, with good reason-but it’s simply not reality. Some people just cannot bear to face reality, even when it’s looking them square in the face. I think these people also refuse to spend much time alone as well. As Pink! says in her song, “The silence scares me, because it screams the truth.” Many have become SO afraid of what boogie man lies in wait for them, they choose to walk around with blinders on, and you couldn’t beat the truth into them if you tried. Just like Jack Nicholson’s character in A Few Good Men, Col Jessep said…”You can’t handle the truth!” They really can’t, and they will do anything and everything possible not to look at it. I had a friend once, who told me she calls them “Ostrich Heads.” They stick their heads in the sand in hopes that if they can’t see something, then it isn’t there. There isn’t much you can do about those people. The only person you can ever really change is yourself, and that comes through introspection, which often comes with solitude; or in some worse case scenarios, desolation and distress. Which can make the person better…or worse.
A person becomes better if they are able to take what happens to them and look at it for what it is, and then apply what they have learned. Doing this takes practice. Especially for a person who has come from a background of abuse and struggles to recognize many things for what they actually are. They have been taught that truth is lies, right is wrong, and so many erroneous things; they doubt their own God-given discernment or intuition. But with practice, over time, a person can and will become more adept with these things. Even become good at it.
I think I have gotten pretty good at it after about a decade of practice. Yet, regardless of how good we get at it, we can still misstep. I am no exception to that.
I found myself developing a crush a couple weeks ago. His name is Jake. (Not really.) I work with him and he was one of the only people who seemed kind to me. He IS kind. But he’s also not perfect. He was and is a man who would actually listen to me when I talked, and showed genuine interest in what I had to say. He would help me carry heavy things, and gave me his lunch when I forgot mine. Always respectful-never heard him cuss even though all the guys at work swear like a sailor. He seems like he’s just an all around good guy. I think that, for the most part, he is.
He is a bit shorter than me, even with his Tony Llama boots on, and walks with a casual gait. He has a demeanor about him that is calm and he seemed to be not upset by much. He is quiet, and seems to have an unwavering temperament. I think of him as Jake the Drake, since he seemed to let things roll off of him like water off a duck’s back.
It was easy for me to look into his clear blue eyes and get lost when I spoke to him. His eyes were not the blue like so many other blue eyes I’ve seen. There were no flecks, or cloudiness to them; no striations of color whatsoever. They were clear as glass or a brand new stone in a pretty ring. They were almost like a tourmaline, but not that green. They reminded me of the waters back in Nassau when I had taken a cruise there with a good friend from high school. Clear, and deep, with a hint of green in them. Except in Nassau, you could see the white sand at the bottom. The depths of his eyes had no end. His eyes were the kind you only read about. I wondered now if eyes like his were the “limpid pools” I had often read about.
He is stout, with a barrel chest and big arms. He sports a beard and white teeth. There is some grey in his beard and a tiny bit in his coarse, wavy hair that’s always covered by a ball cap that says “Cabela’s.” I have never been attracted to a man with a beard before. I tend to like men who are clean shaven; but over time, when he smiled, I found myself wondering what it would be like to kiss him. But it was what came out of his mouth I liked the most. His voice was deep, and I found it extremely sexy. More importantly though, he was smart, and he chose his words carefully. He spoke with confidence and ease. I found myself wondering what it would be like to hold one of his big strong hand, or to have his muscular arms wrapped around me.
He had said that he used to work nights, but he had boys at home he needed to take care of. No ring, and no mention of a wife. I assumed he was either separated, or divorced. We chatted some, and found that we had some things in common. Later, I confided in him that I was afraid they were going to let me go; because technically, according the rules of the temp agency I worked for, I wasn’t supposed to be driving. I had overheard my sup on the phone with a rival temp agency telling her that “they said she can’t drive.” I took this to mean that she was looking to replace me with someone from a different agency that did allow their employees to drive company vehicles. I told him that if he wanted, I would give him my number, in case I was let go and didn’t get a chance to say good-bye to anyone. He nodded affirmatively.
“I’ll use it, too.” He had said.
I went and wrote my number down on a pink piece of paper for him and handed it to him. He said he would text me and then I would have his number also. That was on a Thursday. Friday came and went, and they had not let me go. The weekend was spent doing my chores and whatnot. I did not hear from him, and did not contact him either. Monday came and I thought for sure this would be the day they let me go, but they did not. Tuesday did too. I saw Jake several times at work, but things were busy and the boss was being his usual ass of a self, so we didn’t get much of a chance to talk. That evening I texted him.
ME: I have been watching some of the videos you recommended. I really liked them! Thanks! It’s been crazy at work, so not much time to chat. Hope you are well.
JAKE: I’m glad you liked them. It’s good to hear from you. I have wanted to text you, but didn’t want to bother you.
I found this encouraging. I decided this was my chance to see if he was married or not for sure.
ME: I was thinking the exact same thing! I didn’t want to get you in trouble with your wife though. I try to be respectful of other women. Plus, some of them are down right scary! Haha
JAKE: You are not bothering me at all. No need to worry about a wife. I am on my own.
I was excited and relieved! Woo hoo!
ME: “Oh…How YOU doin? (She said in her best Joey Tribiani voice.) Haha
The next morning I was sent to service my boss’s Hummer and since he was ranting and raving at everyone, I was glad to get out of there. Jake and I had texted some that morning about what a douche he was.
ME: Maybe I should just run away with his Hummer to piss him off! Meet me around the corner!
JAKE: That’d do it. But I would meet you anyway.
ME: Aww shucks! Blush blush
That afternoon, we sat in the break room and chatted during lunch. He told me about how he was having surgery soon on his arms, because he has no feeling in his first two fingers of both hands. He told me about how he had ridden too many bulls and done too many crazy things, which probably resulted in his physical condition. He told me about how he liked to restore antique sewing machines, which I found interesting and a bit of a shock. Then he started talking about how he and his wife had a residential cleaning business; but we were interrupted by a couple of people wandering in and out and wanting to have conversations of their own with us.
I was confused. So, is he married or what? Maybe he was going to explain how this was before they separated? I wasn’t sure. I wanted to talk to him and find out for sure one way or the other.
That evening I texted him.
ME: Whatcha doin?
JAKE: I let the water out of our above ground pool a couple days ago, and the wind today got hold of it. Trying to fix it.
ME: You want to talk later when you’re done?
By 10:00, I had still not heard back from him. I wondered if maybe he had fallen asleep or something. I began to look back over our texts and delete them. Then I saw it. I had completely misread the text he sent to me. How could I have missed it?! I was so angry with myself. How did I get it wrong? But there it was, staring me in the face. The text he had sent me did not say what I had thought at all. I read it again.
JAKE: No need to worry about the wife. I am my own.
I put down my phone and went to bed. We were going to have to have a talk. But what was I going to say? I kept going over it in my head, and nothing seemed right. I couldn’t really be mad at him because I apparently read at a kindergarten level. Yet, since he was married, he should not have been….
I decided I wasn’t going to say anything about his behavior. I could only take responsibility for mine. I was still extremely nervous though. After all, I still had to work with the guy.
The next morning I got up, and saw his text. Sent at 11:03 p.m.
JAKE: Sorry so late. I just finished.
More like the wife is finally asleep, I bet. I am so not playing this game.
I did not respond. I got ready for work, and rehearsed what I would say on my hour long commute. He and I were usually the first two there in the mornings and would have a good five or ten minutes before anyone else arrived, I thought. It didn’t work out that way that day. So, instead, I grabbed my phone and texted him back.
ME: Sorry, I was asleep when u texted me last night. But I owe you an apology. I read your text to say “I am ON my own” instead of “I am my own” the other night. I don’t flirt or get involved with married men. While I know it’s completely innocent at this point, it’s just not something I do. I want you to know that if I seem weird for a bit, it’s just because I feel like an idiot, and embarrassed. But I’ll get over it, and see no reason why we can’t still get along.
JAKE: I am the one who owes you an apology. I can be a flirt sometimes, and I hope we can still be friends. I can’t guarantee I won’t still flirt with you though, but I will try. (wink)
Well, at least he’s being cool about it.
ME: Yes, we can still be friends. (smiley face)
It was awkward that day, but after that, it was fine. Things went back to the way they were before, and no harm done.
It was hard for me to walk away from that. Especially since I have moved here, and been year a year now with no new friends to speak of. I’m starting to get a little lonesome! Not only that, but I am a good 50 lbs overweight, rarely wear makeup, and dress so frumpy-I really thought no one would even notice me. It has been kind of a goal…but it was nice that he did.
I felt this overwhelming loneliness for a couple days that I had not felt in a very long time. It’s one thing to expect to be on your own, and that this is apparently the lot God has given you. It was yet entirely different to find that someone noticed you, even though you felt completely invisible, and you had to walk away from it.
Wolves typically live, hunt, and travel in packs. There is safety in numbers, and you can get more done when there’s more of you. But they can and do survive alone. It’s just harder for them, I guess. I have plenty of time alone to think about what happened and try not to be too hard on myself. I am a work in progress, just like anyone else. Despite the skills I have developed, I am still going to make mistakes. But I am getting better at seeing things sooner, and fixing them more quickly. That’s the good part. Just like a lot of things in life, it takes practice, I suppose. Still, I once lived where I at least had friends I could go do things with before I came here. Now, I am more isolated than ever. I have to wonder; how much longer I can do this before something has to give somewhere? Family is great, and I am glad I am with them. Yet, living near your family of origin has…challenges…of it’s own. One being, that I can’t find the quiet alone time I once had when I want it. Believe it or not. The flip side of it, is that it’s nice they are there to talk to at times, but they can’t always provide the comfort you need.
Yes, loneliness and solitude are two different things. I know the difference, but many do not. I realized that while I love my solitude, I have also become lonely. It only took me a year…not bad. Fortunately, I know what to do about it. I have learned that reaching out to friends, even on the phone, is helpful, and to just do something fun and break up the monotony is helpful. I can be such a home body since I am an introvert, and forget to get out and about. While this is the case for me, it may not be for other people.
The key, I think, is recognizing the difference between loneliness and solitude. One is good for you, the other…not so much. Then choose solitude. Loneliness becomes so many other things that can be detrimental for you. I understand it though…sometimes people need to connect, feel understood, and on it goes. Sometimes a person just needs to be held. A baby will die without it. I don’t know about grown people. My guess is they end up doing stupid things. I don’t want to be one of those people. I want to be something more.
“Whosoever is delighted in solitude is either a wild beast or a god.”