I’ve learned via a couple of channels that my post last week about friendship made some others lonely.  This makes me feel terrible, because one thing I am – extremely often – is lonely.  I know the emotion intimately, and I hate knowing that I have contributed to others feeling it.  I am so familiar with loneliness, in fact, that I wrote a post a few years ago called Flavors of Loneliness.  Sometimes the reaction people have to what I write here makes me feel misunderstood, and this is one of those times.

How is it that I can be certain that I am hugely blessed with wonderful friends and, at the same time, often, profoundly lonely?   It’s actually not only not a paradox, it is absolutely at the root of what I consider the most toxic and icy kind of loneliness: loneliness when surrounded by people.  It is true that in the last many years (and even since November 2009, when I wrote Flavors of Loneliness) I’ve become increasingly aware of how wonderful my friends are.  For sure.  I would go further: I am more aware of everything.

But I still feel lonely.  Very.  Often.  I still gaze out at the sumptuous riches of my ordinary life and feel like I’m staring at them through glass, from a cold place where the temperature is turned down too low.  Yet, somehow, maybe because the glass is clear, nobody else can tell how isolated I am.  I suspect that this loneliness has its roots in my cognizance of our essential unknowability, which, while I believe it firmly, I continue to agitate restlessly against.  I want to be known – don’t we all?  I also want to really know those I love best.

I am writing this post sitting in an airport alone on a Saturday evening, after having gotten up at 4:30 to start my day.  I can assure you I feel lonely.  But as I’ve noted this kind of loneliness is precisely because of the fullness of my life; if I didn’t feel so much love and joy (and, sure, pain) in my regular life I wouldn’t ache for it when I was away.  While I dislike this loneliness, it’s nothing compared to that sense of being alone even when surrounded by people, to that creeping, shadowy consciousness of how fundamentally alone I am that follows me through my days.  That loneliness is corrosive, and, unfortunately, for me it’s also a relatively common feeling.

As I’ve mentioned, lately I’ve been particularly noticing the moon.  Specifically, the shadow of the rest of the moon in the night sky, even when only a sliver is bright.  Maybe that’s what this is – the changingly visible but omnipresent remainder of the whole, even when only part is bright.  It’s part of the deal.  Loneliness is an integral part of my life, simply one manifestation of the dark that is both inextricable from the light and crucial to its meaning.

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  1. Posted February 27, 2012 at 6:53 am | Permalink

    Beautifully said…

  2. Posted February 27, 2012 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Oh this IS hard, Lindsey, and this is so keenly accurate.

    I am lonely in a crowd less often than I used to be, and more than I would like to be. And that holds for the other kinds of lonely, too. It was only when I saw how misplaced I felt in the world and let myself feel those feelings of being utterly different and on my own that things began to shift… it’s still painful, of course. And it may always be – I wonder when we will all understand that deep down, every single one of us feels “other”, and that only we can change begin to change that.

    I don’t believe your words can make anyone be lonely, btw, or anything else, for that matter. I think they just shine a light on what is already there inside each of us, allowing us to see what we hold onto. And perhaps, what we might be ready to release. The rest is up to each individual.

    And so, as I often remind you, your words are an immense gift.

    Thank you.


  3. Posted February 27, 2012 at 10:55 am | Permalink

    There is a certain beauty to time alone, to loneliness. It makes us more aware, more alert, more perceptive – it sharpens our sense of the universe and our experience of it. And then solitude rolls into loneliness and we are ready to give up that sharpness for the rounded edges of companionship. I love how this post navigates the dance between loneliness and solitude, companionship and friendship.

  4. Posted February 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    Actually, I found your blog on friendship very inspirational and now this one on loneliness too. When I feel lonely I know it is time to pull up head and look around. ‘It’ isn’t all about me…

    I live on a small island between Vancouver and Victoria in Canada and so there are many weeks that my husband is the only human I see. So there could be room for loneliness. I do feel it particularly after I have spent time at either my daughter’s house or my son’s house. Then I feel a certain level of loneliness.

    And there are still days when I want to have my children back here at home, young again and our family of four just that. But I have gotten to the place where I can smile about that and not weep anymore (much).

    There comes a time when you begin to recognize more quickly and accept more readily the cycles of time/life/growth. Loneliness is part of everyone’s life just as companionship is. I agree with the girl about the value of ‘alone’ time.

    And it is true, your words were good, telling a story, and we the readers do what we wish with the words you send.

    Thanks for your blog.

  5. Margaret
    Posted February 27, 2012 at 9:56 pm | Permalink

    Lindsey – I’m sure it is difficult to blog for both the best of friends and the strangest of strangers! I’m sure that is where you may run into trouble with any misunderstandings. But your blog and your words are so full of wisdom, compassion, sensitivity – and you are obviously so perceptive on multiple levels. For the strangers, those of us who have never met you (but obviously feel as though we know you as our friend!!), it is quite impossible to have any misunderstandings or feelings of loneliness. For those who are already dear friends of yours, there is absolutely no way they can feel lonely as a result of reading your words, if they re-read those words and re-think their thoughts, feelings, and perceptions about the meaning and intention of your well-chosen words. They are your dear friends for a reason – whether from childhood, the magical college years, or current neighbors – and to be smart and wonderful enough to be chosen by you, they are not going to feel any loneliness for long. The strangers who read your words who may feel any loneliness will also only be left with learning more about what it takes to be a true friend and to find true friendship. And – by the way, when I read “How is it that I can be certain that I am hugely blessed with wonderful friends and, at the same time, often, profoundly lonely?”, I gasped out loud. Those are my words. I have said these words, felt these words, and they are often at the center of what I am feeling during times of loneliness. I understand them to my core. I hope you are feeling better and understand that you could never cause anyone to feel lonely!

    admin Reply:

    Thank you for this hugely thoughtful comment. It does make me feel better! I felt like I needed to add, though, that very few of my real-life close friends read this blog. Very few! I stumble over your line about blogging for them and also for strangers – truthfully, I think I blog mostly to figure out my own thoughts. That people like you read it, and share such stirring responses, it is a huge bonus. xox

  6. Posted February 27, 2012 at 10:41 pm | Permalink

    Honestly, I found your post heartfelt and lovely. It reminded me of my own friendships, those friends with whom I catch up so easily, effortlessly, who have influenced and enriched my life.

  7. Posted February 28, 2012 at 9:35 pm | Permalink

    Such a beautiful post that captures the blessings of connections and the loneliness that still abides.

  8. Posted March 1, 2012 at 7:34 pm | Permalink

    Well, your post didn’t make me feel lonely. It made me call up my oldest and dearest friends. I am lonely all the time too though. Sometimes most lonely when around other people.