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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