Today I have loneliness on the brain for a few different reasons, but I’m not lonely. Sort of.
I rarely feel lonely unless I am sick. At the time of this writing I am quite ill, and quite annoyed by this. I rarely pay attention to my body when I’m feeling great, but it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that we’re all walking around inside giant sacks of meat, water, and air as soon as they start functioning poorly. Sadly, well-being doesn’t feel urgent until it’s gone for a while.
I recently read a fantastic book called Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need For Social Connection. John Capiocco is the author. Highly recommended.
I now realize I was lonely when I wrote Coping Is Not The Answer, still one of the most popular posts on World’s Strongest Librarian.
The older I get, the more I enjoy my own company. I’m not a hermit. I’m not a misanthrope, I hope that’s obvious. I love people, but more and more, I find that I enjoy being able to choose who I see, and when I seem them, at least as much. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, unless my family is away.
For me, loneliness is on the edge of isolation and solitude. I like solitude, but I don’t like the feeling of isolation. I used to have romantic ideas about living in the middle of nowhere in Alaska as some kind of paradise. I don’t have those ideas anymore. A mountaintop cabin outside of Denver, and a helicopter pilot to fly me down into the city on occasion would be perfect, I think.
I do think it is possible to be lonely in a crowd.
I read a book called Blackbox a few years ago. The only scene I remember is that a radio talk show host, or someone on a radio show, told listeners to honk their horns if they had ever felt depressed or suicidal. The city shook with the noise.
I think painful loneliness is worth enduring in the pursuit of identity. My lowest points have been those when I was driving my friends away because of depression. I had no identity beyond what I was worth to another person. Backwards.
In Watership Down one of the rabbits describes a hollow, frightened feeling as feeling like “trees in November.” I love that. I think it’s a perfect description of being alone and wishing it were otherwise.
I don’t envy hermits, even if they’re happy.
Quotes on Loneliness:
~Lonely people, in talking to each other can make each other lonelier – Lillian Hellman
~If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company – Sartre
~No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world – Aristotle
~We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met? - David Foster Wallace
~One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it – Vincent Van Gogh
I’m not lonely today, just sick. Sick, maudlin, and wishing I was eating a box of Peeps. But no matter what I still think these quotes are beautiful, and melancholy is not without its pleasures once in a while.