There is a distinct difference between loneliness and solitude, I think. I always think of solitude as a chosen state. I go in search of solitude and quiet and relaxation sometimes so I can return, refreshed, to my work and other efforts towards a better life. Loneliness, though, is an enforced state for the most part. You are faced with loneliness when life, work, or circumstances prevents the time, location or desire to engage with others. Loneliness is often something we feel is chosen for us, not that we choose ourselves. We feel loneliness when our wants, needs and desires aren’t being fulfilled, not matter how much we would like them to be.
In today’s busy, busy, world, I think much loneliness comes from the constant movement, striving and desire that we all face. Even when we might feel like we don’t want to be lonely, we allow life to push us around, distract us from those desires in search of fulfillment elsewhere. When this happens to me, I can recognize it by the emptiness I feel. No matter what I might accomplish in any other realm of my life, if I am feeling lonely nothing can fill that hole. It aches there like a deep muscular pain, clouds my mind and distracts me further and further from other goals. Given enough loneliness, I descend into unproductivity in all aspects of my life. Dishes go unwashed. The garden goes unweeded. The cruft of life starts to build up around me. I risk becoming the dirty hermit living in a cave if I let it continue.
Alone on the trail
The main problem is solving this loneliness, though, is that many other people are feeling and acting the same way. We are all looking for a better life, but that search can lead us astray from some fundamental needs in our lives. When enough of us do this, the cumulative effect isn’t additive (1+1=2) rather the destruction is exponential (10^10= 10,000,000,000) When enough of us are feeling lonely, we fly further and further apart — becoming lonelier both individually and collectively until something breaks in a drastic fashion.
It can be difficult when others don’t recognize your loneliness — and the need to break the cycle, both for you and themselves. Loneliness can easily turn to anger, resentment and recriminations, especially in long term relationships. As the old saying goes, “Familiarity breeds contempt” and we can slowly learn to ignore the wants, needs and desires of those closest to us — and they can do the same to us. It takes an open mind and open heart to prevent loneliness from turning to contempt, but as we often see, it can happen much more quickly and much more easily that we might expect.
Facing deep loneliness yourself? Even in the depths of loneliness you must remember that it is up to you to solve it. If your current community isn’t satisfying your needs for companionship, look elsewhere. Look far afield. Look close to home, but look. We are all fighting our own battles and others may be so involved that they no longer have time for you. Don’t hate them, but don’t wait for them either. They may eventually come out of their own loneliness, but they also may not. You can’t decide that for them, though. You can only face your own battle with loneliness as best you can and move on.
Previously on End of the Day:
- Some days are best when they are over – End of the Day for May 6, 2014
- Control your technology, life, work, don’t let it control you – End of the Day for May 5, 2014
- On tradition, ritual and the smaller moments of life – End of the Day for May 4, 2014
- Of boats and oceans and foxes – End of the Day for May 3, 2014
- Off to the islands again tomorrow – End of the Day for May 2, 2014
- End of the Day for April 2014
- End of the Day for March 2014
- End of the Day for February 2014
- End of the Day for January 2014