Alone is calm. It’s being somewhere with nothing other than your own thoughts, able to hear the things that you often intentionally block out with meaningless conversations and loud music and well-attended parties. Alone is listening to the things you have to say to yourself, giving time to the more important reflections that you often allow to settle in the back of your mind like a fine dust swept under a rug.
Lonely is talking to yourself to the point that you are sick of your own voice inside your head, the nails-on-a-chalkboard sound of your own echo chamber — your thoughts and your thoughts alone, reaffirming themselves over and over until almost nothing has any meaning left. It is wanting a sounding board for all of the things you’ve discovered on your own, the things you want to confirm with the comforting reality of hearing another human being speak them aloud.
Alone is eating dinner for one, taking the time to savor each dish instead of having its flavor interrupt you as you try to carry on your conversation. It is reading a book in the corner, undisturbed by everything else going on around you, happy to exist in a scene where the only partner one needs is the soft din of conversation around you.
Lonely is seeing this scene, this dinner for one at a table in the corner, as a reality that has become too routine to see as special. It is wanting to talk about how good the food is, how professional the service, how charming the decor — and having no one in particular to give their opinion in return. It is leaving a review on a website so you have someone to share the experience with, because you don’t want to feel as though yet another meal has served little purpose other than to give you momentary nourishment.
Alone is taking a break from the pressures of your social circle, happy to stay at home for a while and simply recharge. It is ordering food, choosing a movie that you’ve been wanting to see forever, and cuddling up with as many pillows as you want to take for yourself. It is feeling the satisfaction of selfishness, the refreshing reprieve from having to take others’ concerns into account. It is being as informal and messy as you want to be, happy in the knowledge that no one will be there to judge you if you don’t get to the dishes right after you finish eating.
Lonely is allowing this freedom from judgment to take root in your life, to become a reason to let things go. It is dishes piling up in the sink, a bed going unmade for days, the same greasy meal being ordered from the same takeout place every night for an entire week. It is losing perspective of other people to the point that your entire world narrows down to you and exactly what you’re doing in that moment.
Alone is walking along a street, just you and your city, taking things in that you often don’t take the time to appreciate when you’re busy with other people. It is allowing your senses to be your company, talking to you with a million different voices of how good this smells or how wonderful that feels. It is taking the time to soak in your surroundings, instead of just existing blindly within them.
Lonely is seeing something so beautiful that you feel your heart cannot contain it all by itself, that it is going to burst from the radiance that it is longing to express. It is wanting to turn to someone, anyone, and say “Look at that. Isn’t that wonderful?” and realizing that, as with so many other memories of late, there is just no one there to share it with.