What is Loneliness?

“You come home, make some tea, sit down in your armchair, and all around there’s silence. Everyone decides for themselves whether that’s loneliness or freedom.”  Anonymous

I hear you. I understand you. You feel alone in body and in soul. You see others walking about in pairs. You are not part of a pair. You ride your bike alone – I know – I saw you as you saw me. You are having a beer at the local pub – alone. However, when we are alone we are free to observe others without any hindrance and that can be illuminating. Walking along a downtown street I saw a woman struggling to open her car door with her hands full of groceries – I offered my assistance and she cheerfully accepted. Twenty yards ahead I then saw someone who was holding two speciality Starbucks coffees give one of them to a homeless man. She stopped ahead of me to light a cigarette when I turned to tell her what a beautiful action it was that she did – she smiled and thanked me.

So, are these examples of loneliness or freedom that is queried by the anonymous writer?

To combat loneliness we may force ourselves to be busy and that is often defined by being occupied with people, but you know that is only a temporary respite from what ails us. Yet the benefit of being alone is to be able to think a lot more – to contemplate life as it were – unfortunately, that is not routinely a positive practice.

For an individual who has suffered abuse, their solitary time hinged with their haunting and tragic memories, can potentially exacerbate the trauma. For them, therapy is crucial. I cannot fathom what that type loneliness feels like.

But like most of you, I do know what it is like to be alone with random troubles escorted by the echo of our internal deliberations reverberating around a sometimes-empty chamber of existence.

A most unsettling type of aloneness is when we are with others and yet at the same time feel secluded from them, as if we weren’t even there. It is the feeling one gets when our partner fusses with their smart phone while out together – ignoring us. It is the observation I wrote about recently when one party rudely walks in front of the other. It is also the sense that the significant other in our life doesn’t seem to understand us. And there is always the emptiness of an unrequited love. Any of this sound familiar to you?

The world now has 7.5 billion people and there have never been more lonely people than there are today.

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong? ” John Lennon

Sitting here on this computer and writing is being alone but also splendidly being free as well. Writing my book When Walls Become Bridges or even this blog, have allowed me the glorious opportunity to figure me out. But I have a confession to make: I am still a work in progress and while I am miles ahead of my starting point, at times I still struggle. And that is okay.

At the end of the day, loneliness, like any other sentiment is not a concrete thing. We have created the acceptance of that particular state or emotion and allowed it to infuse our consciousness. How in theoretically identical circumstances can one person be lonely and another not? For example, two widows, two divorcees, two singles – some feel alone and some proclaiming freedom. I really do believe in the independent ability and capability of making choices in our life. Not just in the choice of action to turn left or to turn right, but owning the power of thought to either think judgementally or alternatively with the freedom to embody and accept the present moment as applied to others and to ourselves as well.

I am not dismissing the fact that many of us feel lonely at times and for many different reasons, all I am saying is that we don’t have to. I feel the same way about hate …

As we move forward together, I hope that we all continue to find joy and discovery in life.

8 thoughts on “What is Loneliness?

  1. I have been thinking a lot about this recently, the difference between being alone and being lonely…and as I drive alone now thru remote Newfoundland in the rain, I just read the following great line in the book I am reading (Alligator, by Lisa Moore- of Newfoundland!):
    “Everyone becomes who they are in a stark landscape of undiluted solitude and bad weather”

  2. A few random thoughts. First Stuart, your ability to self-express has grown exponentially on your blog. This one is your best yet. Second, this is about self-realization…the difference between me at 20 not eating rather than sitting alone in a restaurant versus now, where I relish doing so every once in awhile. You’ve written about being comfortable in one’s own skin…the younger people are when they “get” that, the luckier they are for having the knowledge. Best always…/ps

    • Thank you Peter – I always value your input – positive or constructive, which is also positive. It is always about our perception.
      Best to you too my friend.

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