I’ve been trying for a while to accurately describe the feeling of loneliness. Each time it feels like I’m missing something. I never come close enough.
It’s a tricky one – it’s not as expressive as sadness is. Doesn’t gut you, slice you open the way grief does.
Loneliness works differently. It doesn’t slap you in the face like anger or jealousy. It takes time penetrating your life.
You ever have a friend that you didn’t particularly like? You don’t know how you became friends. It seems like they’ve always been around. Not sure why. Not sure the moment they went from stranger to a contact in your phone. Loneliness is like that. Yeah, like an invader that moved so slowly, you didn’t even notice.
I guess it just sits there. Like some bruise that’s close to being healed. Sometimes you think it’s gone. If you stay distracted, plugged in, never fully present, you might not feel it at all.
But like a bruise, if you touch it, you’ll wince. You’ll be reminded it’s still there.
In my experience, loneliness rarely has to do with being alone. Sure, that might amplify it. But it’s never the root cause. Loneliness shows up when you forget yourself. It’s present on the nights you feel like a stranger in your own body and wonder how long you’ve been on autopilot.
On those nights, you’ll ask yourself, “Have I always been this lonely?”
When it becomes too much, on the bad nights, you’ll look for immediate distractions. We’re good at that, us humans. We have figured out how to be so plugged in all the time. We’ll numb ourselves with food or alcohol or superficial connection. We’ll text someone we shouldn’t. We’ll binge on Netflix until the screen is forced to ask, “Are you still watching?”
On those nights, you’ll hate admitting just how lonely you are. It feels like a failure of sorts. Because loneliness, unlike sadness or anger, is harder to figure out. Why do we feel this way? And how can we fix it?
I’m still not sure I know the answers to those questions.
But I do know loneliness does not go away if you just ignore it. It sits. It waits. It stays tucked away for the next bad night – the next night you lower your defenses.
Perhaps there is a feeling of unity in our loneliness. That even in our most isolated, in our pangs of pure lonely, we can know others are feeling that way too. Maybe we should speak of our loneliness more. Maybe that’s how we take its power away. We share. We grieve together. We try to understand this feeling.
I wonder how many of us are hurting right now. I wonder how many of us are afraid to let the world know just how lonely these nights can be.