“Write about something that scares you.”
A friend gave me this advice recently, advice from a writer intended to help me to develop my own writing and to push myself into new places. Hmmm, there might be one slight problem with that: what the hell could I be scared to write about?
Since beginning my blog 6 months ago I’ve written candidly about my depression, feeling suicidal, death, sexting, my children living with another man, close encounters with sex people…. Hell, I’ve even written about being pursued by camaltoe. Move over Stephen King.
I’ve racked my brains for ideas: sitting alone in my kitchen at the laptop, lying alone in my bed, relaxing alone in my living room, eating alone in the silence of an empty house.
Alone with my thoughts; alone, searching for my fears. Alone.
I am living what scares me. I am living my fears. I am living alone.
OK, that’s not strictly true, my children live with me half of the time; but there is still a sense of loneliness apparent in the role of single parent, where the everyday demands you once faced as a team you now have to face on you own.
I like being on my own. I like my own company and can think of many a worse way to while away the hours than burying my head in a good book, enjoying a cup of tea and watching the world go by. I have spent many an hour doing just that, and would often look forward to and savour such opportunities, those chances to escape from the busyness and repeated demands of everyday life.
But these moments take on a different meaning when they cease to become moments, when they cease to become an escape from everyday life and instead become everyday life. When being alone is no longer a choice that we make, but a fear we must face.
When loneliness makes our acquaintance it can take an almost physical form, of absence coming disguised as a heavy presence that we can feel beside us. A presence reminding us of our solitude, demanding to know why, in a world of 7 billion people, not one of them is with us.
We live in an ever more individualistic age, an age where everything from consumerism to modern spirituality is geared towards self-actualisation, towards claiming what we rightfully deserve, because we’re worth it. Where independence and strength are found in not needing anybody else but in marching to the beat of our own drum, where the rest of the world can accept us as we are, on our own terms. An age where we ain’t changing for nobody mister, where what you see is what you get and if you don’t like it then you know what you can go and do don’t you?
In our age of self, here’s what I’m scared to say: I get lonely.
I’d like to think I’ve been reasonably successful in my life; I love my job, I am strong, I am confident. I have close lifelong friends, I have wonderful children, I have a home. I can go anywhere and do anything; I can go where I want to, when I want to, with who I want to. I am comfortable in my own skin, so much so that I will lay myself bare for all to see – and judge – as I seek to better understand myself, in the process hopefully helping others that wish to do the same.
Yet it scares me to admit that I get lonely. That I am lonely.
As my fingers type out the words ‘I am lonely’ my mind seeks justification and prepares the case for the defence. ‘I am not looking for sympathy’, ‘I don’t want you to think that I’m some sort of sadsack’, ‘I’m not sat here crying into my Weetabix’…. (really, I’m not).
Because it is hard to write ‘I am lonely’ without a sense that it translates to ‘I am needy, I am weak’.
I am not. Here’s what I am:
We all crave connection, it is a core part of the human condition and we are by design pack creatures, social animals. We are products of our environment and our identity is formed in large part through our relations with others. As we journey through life our character is both developed and revealed in the roles that we adopt: son, daughter; brother, sister; friend, enemy; father, mother. Husband, wife.
We are one of the few species that create lifelong partnerships and this expectation of how life should be is threaded through the very fabric of our society. And when your lifelong partnership is terminated and you find you are alone, it is hard not to feel that something, someone, is missing.
I have met some wonderful people since I have been single, and I’m fortunate to live in an age where I have been able to virtually meet many more. We are able to connect and communicate with others more easily than we ever have before. But when the message alerts are quiet, when the notifications stop, the silence rings and reminds me of what I miss.
Someone special. Their smile. Their laugh. Their embrace. The hundreds of little things that add up to the biggest thing – that one person that will always be there for you, no matter what. Someone to laugh with, to make plans with, to dream with and to share your inner self with. Someone to unlock the parts of you that otherwise lie dormant, to whom you can offer the gifts of your best self.
I don’t need another half – the last time I checked I was pretty whole as I am (more whole than I would like to be in fact, but that’s middle-age for you). I don’t need anyone to fill a gap inside of me. I don’t need anyone to help fill my time, and I won’t accept ‘any one’ in an attempt to lock the door to keep loneliness at bay.
Because loneliness hurts, but settling for less than you deserve hurts even more.
If you feel lonely why not comment below? (Just so I don’t feel so alone…).
The 2 Of Us – Suede