There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. The latter smacks of zen like karma, that space of oneness with nature, the universe and all is as it should be. A feeling of peace. Loneliness is the exact opposite – experiencing intense loneliness is the same as having a slow heart attack. It should kill you, just it doesn’t. The physical grief of feeling alone is a bloodless, harrowing experience, a numbness of self and despair. It is the worst. Loneliness I believe, is the worst human condition there is.
This morning I was listening to a quip on the radio and it went something like this. How do you make your parents, grandparents, friends and children live longer? You visit them. It is heartbreaking to find so many elderly abandoned and living in the real fear of being lonely. It is not just the elderly, it is anyone who feels lost and vulnerable. It is an insidious disease.
I speak from experience. Until a while ago, I was never alone, literally and physically, always meeting, chatting, planning and engaged in the lives of others. Things happened and in the turn of a season, I felt totally bereft, so acutely alone. There were days I would walk through the city and wonder if, say I died, would anyone really care? What did my life matter after my divorce, the broken relationships, the letting go, of me. Call it depression or purposeless, it doesn’t matter, the feeling of being left behind with no clear agenda was all I knew. In that state, and if you are experiencing it now, you actually don’t want to reach out do you, you just wallow and wake in the early hours of the morning with feelings of panic, fear and worst of all, worthlessness. What have you lost, what have you achieved, what are you going to do next, what happened? And you feel so terribly alone. I have the badge, believe me, but I also managed to crawl out of the void and two things happened.
Only you can get up from the cold, lonely floor of despair.
No rush. You need to go all the way, and I mean, all the way down to reach rock bottom and then like JK Rowling, start all over again.
“Rock bottom became the solid foundation on which I rebuilt my life.”
Not sure how to begin? Herein is the first lesson.
You cannot stay there for the rest of your life. No-one but you can stand up from the floor. It may feel like learning to walk again, but you will. You need to get up. Being lonely sucks, I know, but it is up to you to say ‘ so what if I am alone, I will not be lonely, unless it is the way I want it to be.’ And then being alone becomes being alone on my terms. And being on your own will slowly become the empowering medium for you to take time out, re-think, re-evaluate and like the Phoenix, rise again, only this time, on your own terms. The being alone becomes the doing time, the dreaming time and you will come to value the time you, you unique, misunderstood, imperfect you, takes time out to undertake the most important mission of your life:
Take care of yourself.
And I let myself go. Like the wonderful Hyacinth Bucket (pronounced Bouquet) I did not resort to the trakkie pants and dirty hair, but I sort of stopped everything else. Eating well, exercising, going out, too much wine, indifference and self inflicted boredom. Being lonely had me being bored with things to do, and so, I did little. The basic daily things, and then … mindless TV, not going out, not engaging with the world. Thinking no-one else would care, I didn’t. Not for myself anyway. I became trapped in the wallowing. Take care of yourself, if you look great, you will feel great and great things will follow. Create a diary and be honest. Walk often. Make plans for trips, yup, solo trips are become the thing du jour. Work, work hard, even if you have to take a new job or better still, create your own. Hello you entrepreneur!
Embrace your loneliness and transform it into a positive things – it is a wonderful transformation. Soon being by yourself is rather creative and empowering.
The second thing that happened, is that I discovered I was not alone.
You are not alone.
Like an idea, it is never an original one. Your situation is not unique to you. Its life, even though you got dished a few more negatives than those around you, you are still better off than many others. Crushed relationships happen to everyone, empty nest and distant children are part of life (this took me a little longer too accept), losing parents and those you depended on is hectic, but that should not lessen you; you were there for them and if they are no longer there for you, all the time, or part of the time, you are not alone in this.
During my divorce, I spent hours searching for blogs, information, advice or just about anything to make me feel less than a leper on an isolated island, and was amazed at the amount of women, and men, going through the same experience. Living alone, being part of the grey divorce syndrome, having to find some validation for our lives. Many of us in the Baby Boomer generation did not have careers and strong financial accounts; imagine ourselves single. Some were suddenly homeless, orphaned, caring for elderly parents. Widowed too soon. I was not alone.
Thank God for my children who deserve medals for putting up with me whilst enduring their own grief in the separation of their parents. I was too indulged in my woes to really take it in. Thank God for friends who were supportive, even though I did not think they really could understand. And thank God for finding, as one does, so many others who are going through the same thing – strangers who connected in the ‘being alone’, became friends.
Turns out I was not alone. Lonely perhaps, but never alone. Now not lonely, but solo.
Now, many seasons later, I have become rather comfortable with being, not lonely, but alone. It has been the growth of me – and I had to go through the hell of it all to say this. I have grown immensely as a person, for being on my own, and taking it all in in the silent hours, thinking it all through, I am more about becoming the best of me than relying on others, to validate who I am.
Take heart. When you think you are on the cold, lonely floor of life, you are not alone. Never.
Here for you.
Hello to being solo, not lonely, and if you never thought you could do it, you can, and be the best you, walking out from the wings, onto centre stage.
Images: Ayden Rae Foundation, Weheartit