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