Thought Catalog

How To Be Lonely

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Hi I’m Britt

When I moved out on my own, I entered a new chapter.

I began to recognize the evolution of being my own person, from someone terrified of sleeping alone in an empty apartment to someone who was doing it – bills, work, balance, fixing the wrongs, planning for the future. I was so busy with doing that I didn’t see what was waiting for me in the pauses and in the silence, because what comes up when you’re all done with your chores and errands? And I realized this one night as I sat down after a long day on my floor, ironically right up against the couch. I looked around my empty, clean, just-how-I-like-it apartment, and I realized I was alone. Truly alone. My friends had moved away or some were married and with kids, and I was alone. I was a newly strong, single, independent woman who had just gotten her arms around this life thing, and right when I wanted to share this new independence with my people, I realized my people moved on. They were all one step or two steps ahead, in some new direction in which I can’t yet go, because I’m neither married nor pregnant nor adaptable to selling my shit and traveling the world. It’s like when you were little and your mom gave you permission to go play outside, only all of your friends had already gone in for dinner and now you were standing in the dark awkwardly alone with all of this parental permission just wasted. And I realized in that silence and pause, on the floor of my clean and empty apartment, that I had all of this new life freedom with no one to share it. And the feeling of loneliness kicked me in the boob and flung me down into the depths of what I can only describe as a dark, musty barrel. And I shit you not, but I have been trying hard as hell to climb out of this, to set foot again on something tangible from where I can scream “I’M HERE! I’M DOING THIS ON MY OWN AND I WANT SOMEONE TO SEE!” But no one came, because everyone else has been busy with their own life, and rightfully so.

So, I gave in. I came home and went, moving through the routine of my days and weeks, crossing off grocery lists and planning class sequences and work schedules. I basically allowed myself to feel what it was like to not have plans for the weekend and yet watch friends Snapchat their NFL Draft beer cups and selfies. I realized that when you find your independence and those few extra years of late 20s, you also find a whole lot of pain, as well; pain at wishing you had one friend who could hold space for you while you fell apart in your loneliness, or if you’re like me, courage enough to open up to any friend and not fear that they will judge you, or worse, leave you. I also realized that your loneliness begins to gravitate toward the fear that you will end up a stereotypical spinster with a collection of cats, and that kind of fear really fucks with your head because in today’s time, that could easily be true. I COULD become a spinster with cats, bargaining my chips on cheap dates and Tinder.

But while I lived feeling sorry for myself, I also began to explore this idea of loneliness. I mean, this is something I would teach to my yoga students. Every Tuesday and Thursday, I tell them to go where it doesn’t feel comfortable because it’s the only way you’ll make it through to the other side of acceptance, love, and healing. Who was I becoming if I couldn’t take my own advice? A hypocritical yogi, that’s who.

So, I gave in even more. I sat down with this bitch called loneliness and I allowed myself to feel. Truly feel. Yes, it caused me to ugly cry over some journaling and candles, and I felt more like Bridget Jones every day for weeks, but I stayed with it. I took a friend’s advice and watched sappy romance movies because she said it was a good way to release emotions, and I watched them alone. Do I think my love story will end up with any man swinging via jungle vines to reclaim my love? Probably not, but if loneliness is bad enough to make me unrealistically dream, let me get my fucking popcorn.
Somewhere around day 12, I started to get really honest with myself. I started looking around at where I was in life: I was a teacher and a writer, and who the hell knows what that means anymore? But I didn’t care. I was these things in the moment in which I taught a student something on their rubber, Five & Below yoga mat, and I was these things when I decided to sit the fuck down and write this post, because guess what, world? I am not OK, if you were wondering. And I don’t know who ever came up with the correction that we needed to be OK, but I’d personally like to meet that person and kick them in the shin. Because these times of desperate loneliness are times that need to be shared and openly talked about.

Independence is fucking lonely.

After all the strength and willpower and success of making it, you find loneliness at the root of it. And loneliness is like an old friend – our Shadow – who’s been waiting for us, waiting on us to come around, get older and allow the trivial things to fall away, and allow the drunken nights of our early 20s to sober us up.

Loneliness begs to be felt. It asks us to sit at its feet and welcome it, even though it hurts, even though we’re restless. Loneliness stays with us until we allow it to crush us and break us in ways that we need to be broken so that we can feel again. Loneliness feels like the bottom of some musty barrel, like the heart can’t fall any deeper and it can finally touch the bottom and stand up, looking up at the light above. Because I think that’s what loneliness looks like….like a looking up into light from some really dark place. Because loneliness is not the end. There is always a rising, but not before we stop fidgeting and willfully fall to the bottom, to where there is no one around to distract us or tell us to fight like hell and climb back up.
No. Loneliness is without others.

It’s an empty and desolate place, made only for us alone. Our people, our tribe, they’re up there, old and new alike. But they don’t get to fall to the bottom of loneliness with us. Only we can do that. And this is where it begins to hurt. Because we’re so used to being with people who will travel and walk with us, that to imagine a trek as painful as falling alone is deemed impossible. And our heart knows that this is where we need to be – alone – but the mind fights. And that’s where we dig in our heels – in the middle, tugging at the rope that we hope will save us, only it’s that we wish the rope is held by people. Because we still think that our savior is with them and not with ourselves alone.

The old me who believed in full-time happiness would have told you that you’re never alone and that, through some hardcore self-lovin’, you wouldn’t need anyone else. But when you’re alone and going through Hell, do you even know what self-love is? And if you know where it is, could you let me know? Because I can’t seem to find it. Thankfully, I’ve also discovered that this is OK.

If you’re here at the bottom of the barrel, can I ask you to stay? Because even though it stinks and feels kind of like the end, it isn’t. It can’t be. We have so much more cool shit to do and see, and we have that romantic falling-in-love scene somewhere in our future, but maybe with less apps and more appetizers. I love this life because it kicks me in the boob and pushes me into deep shit like this, where I can publicly say that right now, I’m not OK and I’m lonely and tired and tired of being tired. But God, does it feel good to know that if this is the deepest I’ll fall, that I’ve landed on my own two feet – the same two feet that have been living, succeeding, and surviving, and the same two feet who will rise again.

Have faith, my people. Crumble and fall and stumble your way into this shit, because the more you kick and scream, the more life will drag you down, United style. Loneliness is just another chapter, the long history-book kind, but just like being on our own or getting married or having a child makes us realize who we are and are becoming, pausing in the shitty standstill is STILL our immaculate, badass, Warrior evolution. TC mark

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