Loneliness

I offhandedly said in therapy the other day,

“I don’t get lonely. I am not sure what it even means to be lonely.”

and then I kept talking.

She stopped me and asked what I meant when I said I didn’t get lonely.

“I don’t get lonely. I like being alone. There are a lot of times when I prefer it.”

and then I kept talking.

She stopped me again and wanted to talk more about it. She asked if I didn’t feel lonely as a child. Ever?

“Nope. I always liked being alone. I always felt comfortable alone. I don’t remember feeling lonely. I was alone a lot. I loved it. I guess I got bored sometimes but I don’t think I was lonely.”

This time, because it was clearly an issue, I waited to hear what it was about this statement that had stopped my therapist in her tracks.

She said it was unusual. Most people get lonely. Particularly people who have suffered from depression. Depression and loneliness are related.

“Really? Huh. I didn’t know that. I know I always liked being alone. I guess I just feel like myself when I am alone. No one to please. No one to judge. I can just be myself.”

She sat and watched me as I processed what I was saying. She watched as the realization came on in my brain. She raised her eyebrows a bit. She knows me well. I know her well. I could feel the lightbulb turn on. My need to please. My need for affirmation of my “okness” from others. It actually makes perfect sense that I am happiest alone. I am. It doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy the company of others. I definitely do. But alone, I do not feel the need to please, to be liked, to be approved of. Oye. Not a realization I was really in the mood for.

I miss people I love. I miss my kids so much when they are staying at their dad’s. I miss them hard. I miss my love when she isn’t around. But lonely? I have absolutely no idea what that word even means.

So I looked it up.

lone·ly [lohn-lee]
adjective, lone·li·er, lone·li·est.
1.affected with, characterized by, or causing a depressing feeling of being alone; lonesome.
2.destitute of sympathetic or friendly companionship, intercourse, support, etc.: a lonely exile.
3.lone; solitary; without company; companionless.
4.remote from places of human habitation; desolate; unfrequented; bleak: a lonely road.
5.standing apart; isolated: a lonely tower.

Ok, well. Maybe I am super lucky that I have always had good friends who I could call on if I needed them. That’s kept me from feeling lonely.

In the past several days, since having this conversation, this concept has been nagging at me. Lonely, alone, depression, do I feel that? Do I feel alone? Have I been depressed because I was lonely? What was my depression, (which I no longer feel at all) coming from if it had nothing to do with being lonely?

I did some more google searches on the subject. I like figuring shit out. So I started typing… Is it normal to like…

As I finished typing “Like”…google finished it up for me.

Is it normal to like being alone? 56 million results.

Alright then. Nice. I am not the first person to think about this. That’s good. That’s normal. There was a lot of information about being an introvert. I think I have a streak of introversion but I am not really an introvert. I like being in gatherings, I love meeting new people. I don’t think that’s it. Not entirely anyway.

I also found this quote from Charles Bukowski:

“I’ve never been lonely. I’ve been in a room — I’ve felt suicidal. I’ve been depressed. I’ve felt awful — awful beyond all — but I never felt that one other person could enter that room and cure what was bothering me…or that any number of people could enter that room. In other words, loneliness is something I’ve never been bothered with because I’ve always had this terrible itch for solitude.”

I think that’s it. I think I have a strong need for solitude. I love quiet. I really, really love quiet. I crave alone time. I always have. I think this is why being a mom was so hard for me at first. Mom’s are never alone. Never. Not even in the bathroom. Nope, even that becomes a shared experience. I did not enjoy that part of being a mom.

The google search also brought up this poem:

“Alone”
BY EDGAR ALLAN POE
From childhood’s hour I have not been
As others were—I have not seen
As others saw—I could not bring
My passions from a common spring—
From the same source I have not taken
My sorrow—I could not awaken
My heart to joy at the same tone—
And all I lov’d—I lov’d alone—
Then—in my childhood—in the dawn
Of a most stormy life—was drawn
From ev’ry depth of good and ill
The mystery which binds me still—
From the torrent, or the fountain—
From the red cliff of the mountain—
From the sun that ’round me roll’d
In its autumn tint of gold—
From the lightning in the sky
As it pass’d me flying by—
From the thunder, and the storm—
And the cloud that took the form
(When the rest of Heaven was blue)
Of a demon in my view—

I was a little shocked to see that poem. Because I discovered it in high school and fell in love with it. It spoke to me of my feelings of being different, unusual, not like everyone else. I remember copying it and taping it up in my closet, where I had a wall filled with things I loved, poetry and magazine clippings, and photographs. I even recited it in a speech contest once. But today, during my google search, I learned it was about loneliness. I was like, what? That poem isn’t about feeling lonely! It’s about feeling different. It’s about feeling like you don’t fit in. I couldn’t believe it was about being lonely. Well, that’s what the experts say. I don’t see lonely in that poem. The demon isn’t loneliness. It’s feeling separate. Is that what loneliness is, feeling separate?

Back to the thought, is it normal that I don’t get lonely? So much so that I don’t even recognize lonely in a poem that I love so much. I still don’t see loneliness in it. Even now.

So an hour later, a blog later, an hour of complete aloneness in which I felt entirely comfortable and happy and at peace I decided something.

I don’t really give a damn if it’s normal or not. I don’t know what it means.

And I can’t muster the energy to care much. I don’t want to waste anymore beautiful alone time worrying about it. I am sure there’s some good self discovery in there…the fear of not pleasing people, of having people feel disappointed in me causing me to prefer being alone, to feel completely relaxed when I am alone. I think I could probably be aware of that tendency. For my own sake and for my relationships. I should definitely put that in the back of my mind and remember it when I feel a strong need to disengage and I can’t because people need me to be present, people I love, particularly my kids.

But yeah, I don’t get lonely.

Number 4 million in the list of things I love about being past 40. The ability to just be ok with myself. That’s good stuff.

Peace and Happy Sunday.

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