The funny thing about loneliness is how very little it has to do with actually being alone.
The saddest, truest kind of loneliness seeps in when you least expect it. It arrives silently: while lying in the arms of your lover, measuring the frequency of their hand as it runs back and forth, up and down, caressing the dimple of your thigh. It’s noticing the way their touch occasionally slows, falters – the way they’ve grown so easily distracted by the static, violent movements of their video game, the one you bought them for their birthday.
It’s remembering the way your body once commanded their pulse to quicken, their heart to race. It’s how your touch once brought light to their eyes and tiny, dancing goose-bumps to the skin of their neck. Loneliness is is the pull-back to your lean-in, the hug to your kiss, the question to your certainty; it’s the time between replies, as you sit, staring at your phone — wishing death upon all those who dare message in their silence.
Loneliness isn’t measurable by numbers or bodies or answers to a questionnaire; loneliness is the perpetual state of seeking that which you so crave, that which you so need. Loneliness comes with settling for less than you deserve just as surely as it comes with reaching for that which you cannot attain. It’s incurable by company, it swells in the presence of friends; it grips you unforgivingly, from within.
Loneliness is the isolation that comes with nursing a feeling unreturned — an expectation unmet.
Aloneness is different. Aloneness is finding freedom in this very same isolation; it’s the strange state of bliss that comes with being truly, honestly, unapologetically content in your own company.
Being alone is buying a single ticket to a foreign film you know absolutely nothing about. It’s sitting in the back row, tearing open the wrapper to your favorite chocolate bar, immersing yourself so completely in the fictional love of fictional characters that you all but forget the to-and-fros of your own trivial existence. You forget about that person you met at the bar last week, the one you gave your number to but never heard back from. You forget about the photo that your ex just uploaded on Facebook; the one with their new love interest, laughing carelessly behind designer glasses. You forget because, in that moment, nothing matters more than the sweet crunch of your chocolate bar and the eventual union of Character A with Character B.
Aloneness is a Saturday night when your best friend is on a date and you forgot to make other plans. It’s walking to the wine shop while listening to that song you love and buying the second-cheapest bottle of wine — because even though you have no money, you deserve to be treated. It’s building a fort in your bedroom, one with high-speed WiFi, walls of pillows, and a moat of old DVD cases. It’s drinking your cheap wine in your cheap castle and understanding that nobody’s coming to save you. Because you don’t want them to. Because you don’t need to be saved.
Loneliness and aloneness stand as the two pillars to the one, emotional pendulum. There will be days when you’re so physically alone, so abandoned in your own company that you find yourselves smiling, laughing without reason. Then there will be the days spent by the ocean with the one you love, when you find yourselves suddenly, inconceivably, on the verge of tears.
We can’t allow ourselves to be defined by the people we surround ourselves with. We can’t allow ourselves to be defined by our relationship status or our weekend plans or the screaming silence of our mobile phone. If you’re single, please understand that a relationship isn’t the ticket to happiness. If you’re in a relationship, please know that being single isn’t a sentence to sorrow. We’re all just swinging on that same, rickety pendulum — forever in flux between being alone and being lonely. We’re all just trying to find our balance, wondering how or why or what we’re doing there — wherever there is.
Just know that, whichever you happen to be or feel at this exact moment, the power to maintain or change it will always be in your own hands — not in theirs, or in anyone else’s.
And sometimes the best cure to loneliness is, in fact, to be alone.