But alone is alone

24 Jun

It occurred to me at 4 a.m. this morning that I was lonely.

It was an odd but familiar sensation, a sort of sinking in my stomach battling for prominence with the two bowls of Cinnamon Toast Crunch I’d decided to eat when I was half-asleep and hungry and justifying poor dietary decisions as a really early breakfast. I felt grossly full — and also, kind of gross in general. But the feeling I couldn’t really pinpoint was the one lingering underneath that, whatever subtle nagging urge had me curled up on my bed with my head near the foot so the fan would be even closer, even though for once I wasn’t sweating. And I realized, with sudden unwelcome clarity, that what I was feeling was loneliness, a state of being I once knew so well but has since become something I’ve come to regard as a childish affectation. Being lonely is for teenagers who write poetry and read Camus and make declarative statements about love two months after receiving their first kiss. (This is not me. I read The Stranger, but only when it was assigned for class.)

Logically, I know that loneliness is an incredibly common emotion, which is probably why human beings are always obnoxiously wrapping our arms around one another. I, too, crave physical contact, but at this point, I accept that begrudgingly as an irritating side effect of not being a robot. Companionship, while nice, is something I don’t often feel I need, and I say that as someone who genuinely loves the people in his life. It’s not a reflection on them, but on me, and the way I’ve learned, sometimes by necessity, to be comfortable by myself. And I go through phases, yes, where I truly do feel the need to be surrounded by people I love as often as possible, when I’ll double-book myself just to ensure I don’t have to spend too much time with my thoughts. But even then, if plans fall through and I’m left as solitary as I’d feared, it’s not loneliness I feel. Frustration, annoyance, and boredom, sure — not loneliness.

That’s why I was so caught off-guard at 4 a.m. this morning. It felt so absurd to me that I would be experiencing this useless concern I’d grown past. But of course, it’s completely normal and human, and the only truly strange thing is that I’d ever believed myself to be beyond loneliness in the first place. I don’t think of myself as a cold person. I’m not withdrawn. I guess it’s more that I’ve come to resent the idea of living your life with the purpose of finding someone else to share it with. And that’s not cynicism so much as hope that we can all be self-fulfilled, to the extent that any sort of coupling, conscious or otherwise, we entertain is an added benefit to an already complete existence. I still believe that, to some extent, even though it’s perhaps a bit short-sighted. And I still maintain that far too many people stuff themselves into relationships that very clearly don’t fit out of the vague but terrifying dread of dying alone. All of this can be true, and I can still have felt lonely at 4 a.m. this morning, without any real prompting aside from the fact that the pillow I was clutching to my chest had become too warm with body heat and I had to let it go.

But I guess this is all to say that, rationality aside, I could stand to let a little more loneliness into my life. And maybe someone else, if it came to that, but it’s OK if it doesn’t.

One Response to “But alone is alone”

  1. glennyfromtheblock November 23, 2014 at 11:22 pm #

    This is terrifically spot on. I connect to what you described to here with a specificity that vaguely astounds me. I have such mixed feelings about the increasing prevalence of the internet, but there is a strange irony in the fact that it enabled me to randomly stumble upon something that I find more innately relatable than a lot of things that I naturally encounter in my day to day life.

    I think in relation to what you’re outlining though, there’s a weird kind of Catch 22 about it. On one hand, the ability to truly *see* the human condition and this strange never-ending need for need most people have is something that I see as a sort of enlightenment, or emotional evolution (like the movie Lucy, but without the ability to mentally restyle your hair at will). It’s something I often think is necessary to realise in order to ever reach true happiness, understanding and contentment. But then that same realisation about most people means that you’re kind of doomed (horribly choice of word, probable side-effect of this afternoon’s Buffy marathon, but still) to less connected to most people, even the ones you genuinely love. Like the only way to truly understand something is to be slightly apart from it.

    Either way, I don’t think it precludes being able to get that kind of true connection with someone again, it just means that you’re more likely to be pickier about who you inevitably do find it in, and the calibre of that person will be Lucy-levels higher than what most people find themselves unknowingly settling for. It’s a longer road, but an infinitely more interesting and rewarding one.

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