Day 77 Learn to be lonely.

Child of the wilderness
Born into emptiness
Learn to be lonely
Learn to find your way in the darkness
Who will be there for you
Comfort and care for you
Learn to be lonely
Learn to be your one companion
Never dreamed out in the world
there are arms to hold you
You’ve always known your heart was on its own
So laugh in your loneliness
Child of the wilderness
Learn to be lonely
Learn how to love life that is lived alone
Learn to be lonely
Life can be lived, life can be loved alone
   Andrew Lloyd Webber, Richard Henry Zachary Stilgoe, Charles Elliott Hart.

I have been thinking about loneliness lately.  And not just my own but the aloneness that is experienced by all people in every form of living.  The isolation of the divorced, widowed, the unpopular, the maimed, the elderly, those in hospital and the marginalized.  I have been considering the conditioning that infiltrates our upbringing; the terror of keeping one’s own company.  How often do we make undesirable social choices in order to avoid the tragic possibility of being lonely? 

Obviously loneliness affects all of us regardless of the size of our family or the success of our primary relationships and yet for most of us the thought of being uncompanioned is akin to being trapped in a nightmare.   Elizabeth Gilbert in her famous “Eat, Pray, Love,” writes, “When I get lonely these days, I think: so BE lonely Liz.  Learn your way around loneliness.  Make a map of it.  Sit with it, for once in your life.  Welcome to the human experience.  But never again use another person’s body or emotions as a scratching post for your own unfulfilled yearnings.”   

I cannot help but wonder if it is possible to befriend loneliness – not to merely fill it with entertainments and distractions but as Gilbert suggests; “sit with it.”  To examine the size and atmosphere of being alone and thereby tame and minimize the dread accompanying that state of being.  Ultimately, I suppose loneliness is a complex package, wrapped and encircled with the issues of self-esteem, God, love, desirability, perspective and time.  Nevertheless, with whatever time I have I left, I want to extinguish as much energy devoted to fear as possible.  Wouldn’t it be wonderful to be at the end of one’s life and be afraid of nothing?     

All great and precious things are lonely-
     John Steinbeck – East of Eden
The most terrible poverty is loneliness and the feeling of being unloved-
     Mother Theresa
This entry was posted in being single, Catholic, Friendship, God, Jesus, Peace and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Day 77 Learn to be lonely.

  1. Martha Dolciamore says:

    I suffered a terrible loneliness when my mother died in 2012; when I learned a niece was living in her car, I invited her to be with me as a caregiver companion. And for a while it was nice to have someone with me. But things changed and I am about to be on my own again. But I like what you said about just ‘dealing’ with it and not letting it take one over. And I need to keep reminding myself that with God in my life, I am never truly alone. God bless, Fr Matt

  2. Lisa B says:

    Once again your words come to me at the exact right moment. 🙂

  3. molliebruno says:

    when talking to the person of God, whom you can’t see, doesn’t it follow that listening might push us to be closer to the reality that loneliness is a lie? Do we really need to learn to be lonely? Or is that that if we feel alone, we need to learn that we’re not?

  4. Susan Suddjian says:

    I think loneliness can creep up on us, like a brewing storm, and sometimes, it comes upon us suddenly, like an earthquake. I usually treasure my time alone, but loneliness is much more than being alone. Some of the worst loneliness I’ve experienced is not being able to comfort someone close to me who was suffering a terrible rejection, even when all the outward signs indicated that all was going well. At those times, the confusion, disbelief and anger swirling through the mind and emotions can cause such withdrawal that it’s hard to find the words to get though – to give peace and a sense that all will be well. But I believe that it will all be well for those who love God, and the loneliness and confusion we sometimes undergo is actually a gift to help us sever ties to this world, and to move on to other experiences that God desires for us. One of my favorite quotes is our Lord Jesus to St. Julian of Norwich: “All will be well, and all will be well, and all matter of things will be well.” We have that promise in Christ, even when we are confused, lonely and sad.

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