I am a good friend to loneliness.
I take long walks with it and let it sit next to me while I read. At times it visits, uninvited, but I still open the door and offer it some chai tea. I guess it must be lonely too.
I wonder sometimes if I’m being too nice—making too much space for it, sharing my own yoga mat with it when there is hardly enough room for just myself. Is this a one-way friendship with no reciprocity, I ask.
Loneliness, like any other feeling, shows up for a while carrying a message. It’s telling us to pay attention, because something is lurking beneath all the layers of our life. It’s a compass pointing us in the direction of what needs tending, what is hurting.
When we follow it, we find it leads us to truths we often don’t want to face. How easy it is to brush it off, push it away, and carry on with our tasks. Life gets busy, distractions abound, other people and situations steal our attention. But loneliness returns, creeping into the corners of our day, the silence in-between the noise, the momentary pause in our daily routine.
What is on the other side of loneliness when we take the time to look deeper? What is it trying to say?
If loneliness could speak, I think it would say: “you are not alone.”
Ironic, I know.
But being alone is a prelude to the realization that you are part of something greater. In fact, an essential part. It is in the lonely hours where we come face to face with our truest selves, our deepest yearning, and most consuming ache. It is here where we are forced to resign our resistance, if we truly want to change, and allow whatever needs to be healed to begin healing.
Loneliness graciously seeks to force us into isolation that we may come home to our authentic self and bring to light our essence. The solitude offers the gift of distance from all the voices surrounding us, that we may finally find our own.
Through this transformative process we come out the other side imbued with a radical understanding of ourselves and our relationship to the rest of the world. Often this enlightening experience sparks in us a desire to share it, to lift up others and contribute something good with the insight we gained. Is there a better purpose to enlightenment than this?
Next time loneliness comes knocking on your door, don’t be too quick to usher it out. It may not always be welcome, but like the Natalie Merchant song, “Kind & Generous,” you may find yourself on the other side someday, saying “I’m bound to thank you for it.”
What’s on the other side of loneliness?
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Anokina Shahbaz
Editor: Catherine Monkman