When I was in college I would frequently walk from class to class lost in my mind. Alone with my thoughts. As I’d carefully cross the muddy train tracks that cut the sidewalks, I would think to myself if I died right now, no one would notice for at least a day or two. The morbidity of this contemplation was expanded with the reality of its truth. It was the deepest loneliness I’ve ever felt.
Now don’t get me wrong, I had a wonderful family and friends who loved me. But no one actively thought about me throughout the day. No one would notice if I didn’t call to check in because I didn’t have one person that I talked to every day. My roommate, a person who was simply that, would assume that I just went home for the night and my family would assume that I was sleeping soundly in my dorm. I was utterly alone and it was terrifying.
When I moved to Arizona, this loneliness seemed to take a vacation. Perhaps distracted by my new job or encouraged by my growing friendships, I was too busy to contemplate eulogies. I had plenty of other emotions to make up for it though. Regret, exhaustion, selfishness to name a few. But I always had my Clarrissa to dance and drink martinis with, my Monday morning Megan to share coffee and discuss my weekend with and family visits every few months or so.
Loneliness did sit on the shelf and whisper to me though. Creeping down at night and making me insecure. Telling me that things were meant to be when they were clearly just simply ugly. It asked me constantly who are you and I ran around wildly seeking that answer. Often returning with I am not enough and looking again frantically for what might complete me.
I don’t believe that a person can save you. But I think love can. Today I have a husband who cares deeply about me. I don’t know how it came to be. But, it is. We text throughout the day, call each other after work and kiss each other goodnight before we go to sleep. He asks how my day was. He listens when I answer. He notices the tiny details and he appreciates the idiosyncrasies. Perhaps it is true in the “Good Book”, because some days I think we really did become one.
In addition to my husband, even though they are scattered across the United States, I am literally “plugged in” to my family and friends through technology. From three thousand miles away, I was the first to “see” my newest niece Lydia via Skype. I can almost always tell you what my family had for dinner last night because of Facebook posts and I can depend on a daily email from my mama. While just one of these securities would be an utter blessing, the fact that I am surrounded by a wide variety of people who would notice is an incomparable feeling.
Yet, a few weeks ago, as I looked through my contacts list in my phone and could count on one hand the friends I’ve made here in Oregon, I found myself feeling sadness similar to that which sank my thoughts in college. I began to once again feel sorry for myself. I felt pathetic. I longed for comfort, the feeling of home. I missed my family, my coffee dates with Megan, my Grandmother’s backrubs. Amid the constant comfort of feeling love by my husband and family, how could I feel so lonely?
One thing about living with and loving your best friend, there’s no hiding anything. Mike notices everything, including the sinking in my heart. And how awful is it to hear that you wife is lonely? He expressed regret that he couldn’t make me happy. While this is not at all true, it does suck to realize your partner is hurting and there’s not much you can do about it. You want to fix it all. But how do you fix chronic loneliness?
You see, I’ve come to realize that I’ve always felt lonely. Perhaps it’s my personality, needing physical affection and interaction. When I was in high school, I would always try to sleep in the same bed as my mom or my sister. Though it may have driven them crazy, I always needed at least my foot touching them. I needed to know they were there. Today, as I watch TV on the couch with Mike, I tuck my toes under his legs. I feel safe, tucked into love.
If loneliness is the problem, wouldn’t being surrounded by people be the solution? I was still pretty stumped at how I could feel lonely living a house with my husband, two dogs and my brother in law and having the comfort of a friend or family only a phone call away. But when Mike goes biking and I’m at home cleaning the floors for the umpteenth time, loneliness begins whispering in my ear again. Who are you? And I begin to reply to it I’m not enough.
I’m reading a pretty new-agey book called A New Earth upon recommendation of my friend Megan. And while it is full of a lot of psychiatric mumbo jumbo, one part really stuck out to me. It talks a lot about the ego and how it is that voice that whispers to you that you need more. That your beauty is not enough or is fading and who you are is equivalent to how much you have.
Realizing that one can feel lonely, even while surrounded by people reveals a more deeply rooted problem. Christians call it sin, Buddhists call it dukkha, in Hinduism the term is called maya or “the veil of delusion,” and this book calls it ego. I believe about a year ago, I described this condition as chronic disappointment syndrome. And I’m realizing that it speaks to me from a variety of designations, including loneliness.
The opposite of being lonely for me seems to be tied to the feeling of being enough, feeling adequate. Not always wanting more and being content. Not chasing my identity, rather just being me. Including all the beautiful details and the awkward idiosyncrasies. It is then that I may experience that peace that passes all understanding that I hear so much about. Simply, disentangle myself from the veil of delusion.
Simply. Ha. If only it were…
I guess the first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem. But at least I’m not alone.
© 2011 D. Willson