Saturday, February 21, 2015

Sitting Through Loneliness

During this time in my life I am single and have been for a bit now. In the past, for me, being single meant being unlovable or undesirable, even something to fix. I would see myself getting older and alone and that would feel terrible to me. It felt important to couple up so I wouldn't be alone, so I'd fit in with the rest of the world and to prove to myself that I am loveable and desirable. For some reason I wasn't able to see that for myself and needed someone to show me.

I'm happy to say that my perspective on this has changed. Being single isn't something that needs to be fixed. It's another way of being in the world and although it isn't what everyone is comfortable with, it's a legitimate way of living in the world. It doesn't prove that someone is unlovable, undesirable or incapable of being in a relationship. It simply proves that people can be comfortable with themselves outside of romantic relationships.

One of the challenges I'm finding while in this space of singledom is loneliness. Yes, I am surrounded by family and a few close friends (when our schedules permit) who I make deep and meaningful connections with but I still have moments of loneliness.

During those periods of loneliness I used to do everything I could think of to make the loneliness go away. Old thought patterns around it would lead me to begin searching for someone to date or putting myself out there as someone who would very much like to date. I felt as if it was something that I needed to fix or cure by coupling up. But, that's really never worked for me if I'm really honest about it. It may work for a brief period of time but it doesn't last. The loneliness comes back.

So I started thinking about what it was that I really needed to do with these, or in these, periods of loneliness. Buddhist teachings tell me to sit through it. Don't pick up the phone, don't send out an email or a chat message or do anything to distract from those feelings. Just sit through them. Allow yourself to feel them. 

To say it's difficult to sit through them would be an extreme understatement. But I'm finding that by allowing myself to sit through the feelings I am better able to understand them and find their core. It's even sometimes productive in a creative sense because some of the world's greatest pieces of art have come from these dark spaces. Not that I've created any great piece of art, but the potential is there.

Of course, as someone who tends to read and research the things that are challenging, I did some online research on the subject of sitting through the loneliness. A couple of articles really stood out for me around this. One is over on Lion's Roar by Pema Chodron titled Six Kinds of Loneliness. I highly recommend reading it if this is something you've been thinking about yourself. The paragraph that really stood out for me is this one:
As human beings, not only do we seek resolution, but we also feel that we deserve resolution. However, not only do we not deserve resolution, we suffer from resolution. We don’t deserve resolution; we deserve something better than that. We deserve our birthright, which is the middle way, an open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity. To the degree that we’ve been avoiding uncertainty, we’re naturally going to have withdrawal symptoms—withdrawal from always thinking that there’s a problem and that someone, somewhere, needs to fix it.
Yes. We deserve something better than resolution. An open state of mind that can relax with paradox and ambiguity.

Another article that I found fascinating is over on 2machines. The article is titled What Facebook is Doing to Your Brain Is Kind of Shocking. Honestly, I don't think it's all that shocking anymore, but there are a lot of valid points in the article. I also recommend watching the videos (not the smaller marketing videos - the other ones) embedded in the article. There are some interesting TED Talks and one video titled The Innovation of Loneliness.

What the author describes in the beginning of the article is something that I could have related with in the past. They are exactly the things that I would have done to make the loneliness go away. But, in the end I would have come to her conclusion, as well:
I have plenty of friends on Facebook and Twitter and close relationships with family and loved ones, but the barrage of chats, likes and tweets don’t do much to assuage that piercing, sharp sadness of loneliness. In fact, it makes me feel just a bit more forlorn. 
I'm really glad I've come away from this way of thinking about loneliness. I still have more practice to do, for sure. As painful as it is to sit through it, I think that in the end, I am grateful for it. 

How do you handle those moments of loneliness?


  1. All of us feel loneliness at times, even when as part of a couple or surrounded by family and friends. I think you know by now how much everyone loves you. Just observe the loneliness and let it float away. I experience loneliness regularly. Your post helped me realize that the fact that homo sapiens have so many emotions simply because we are able to think! Sometimes thinking too much is not such a good thing. ;-0 Hugs, hugs, hugs!!!

    1. Indeed. I do think a lot. :) Hugs!

  2. Thanks for this post, I've written one in response (ish) to it. I needed to read this! Here's my response: x

    1. Thank you so much for sharing your link! I look forward to reading more of your posts. It's always good to know that I'm not the only one dealing with this sort of thing. :) Strength to you.

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  4. WOW! This is exactly what I feel. My girlfriend (with whom I was certain we could overcome any and everything together) broke up with me recently. I was and still am heartbroken, but facing a single life is no longer as daunting as it once was. I still feel lonely, but I'm okay with my lonliness. Well, I would just be writing everything you just said. I get it. This was a wonderful read. Thank you.

    1. Thank you for reading! I'm so glad you found your way here. Strength to you! Heartbreak isn't easy, that's for sure. Being single is easier than most think, though. Hang in there!