I won’t lie to you: I’ve had some really lonely moments lately. I live alone now, and I live very far away from my family.
So after my Peter Frampton record is finished playing and I’m bored with my book and I’ve eaten my entire chocolate letter and it’s raining outside and there’s nothing that sounds fun to do….
I get cozy with loneliness.
Being lonely is a unique sort of pain. You can feel it, physically, like a dull aching.
Loneliness creeps up on me when I’m being lazy and haven’t made any plans, because God knows I am loved and have the capacity to be with others. My family loves me from afar via chat and skype, I have a small group of really amazing friends, and my “ex” reaches out on a regularly basis, having coffee at mine or asking me over for dinner.
But still, I get lonely. I feel like my mind is dull, and I’m not inspired by anything. I feel like I can’t concentrate on writing a short story, for example, something I’ve been fixin’ to do for the last month or so. I have some ideas up my sleeve, and I just want to have fun with the process, but I lollygag around my house in my pink robe doing other productive things (like reading gossip or looking up the benefits of taking ice cold showers).
The silver lining of being lonely
Being lonely myself has brought on a surge of compassion for all the lonely people out there in the world. I know my loneliness is temporary. I know I created this situation by choice.
How many of us out there are lonely not by choice? How many elderly husbands and wives have lost their partner of decades? How many ex-husbands had their wives up and leave them for another man? How many nerdy, awkward children have no friends? How many colleagues just can’t seem to get it right and end up the odd one out?
The Beatles song keeps popping into my head:
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?”
A way to self-soothe: be around random strangers
When I’m feeling lonely and know it’s going to result in my weeping into the soft belly of my teddy bear, I get myself swiftly to my favourite haunt, Dudok Cafe. There is an excellent magazine table there, and all the regulars just huddle around reading the paper, pecking away on their laptop or reading a book. I do all three, and when I’m not, I’m people watching. People watching cheers me up because people are kinda fascinating.
Right now I’m sitting here, and there is a youngish man with his calculous calculator out, face scrunched into a point, peering at something on his screen. He looks awfully uncomfortable with his back all bent over the contraption, but he seems too stressed to notice. Every once in awhile, he gently pounds his fist on the table. He’s having a tough time with a math problem, I presume. Then there’s the couple I’ve never seen. They are laughing and looking into each other’s eyes, occasionally stealing a kiss before they gaily return to some light-hearted conversation.
Then there’s the really old guy who I always see here. He’s smells pretty rank, like moth balls and bad breath, but we all just ignore it. He just took about 1.5 hours to finish his meal. He does crossword puzzles while he’s eating and then reads the paper about an inch away from his face. When he’s finished with his bread, he eats the remaining butter straight from the little plastic container. He goes to town until every last bit is gone. I have to look away when he engages in this ritual.
This old man…I know he’s lonely. Sometimes when he’s doing his crossword, he’ll fall asleep right there in his chair. I’ve snuck a picture for you, above.
He looks very grumpy until he orders another cappuccino, at which point his entire face lights up. Then I see that he just looks grumpy from having his face in that expression for decades. Kinda how mine is starting to freeze up into a scowl between my eyebrows.
Some of us are lonely, and some of us are not. We all have moments of both – phases of life where we experience the bliss of companionship or the dagger-like pain of rejection and isolation.
Whatever we’re feeling, we should have a little compassion for the people around us. Love them for the state they’re in. Don’t be resentful of their happiness; don’t be fearful of their loneliness.
P.s. You know what just happened? An elderly couple just approached the old man. Apparently they are old friends. The woman said she’d spotted him through the window as they passed by on a tram, so they stepped off to say hello. They’re now having a coffee and a nice chat together.
🙂 Small miracles. Let us love by reaching out to others in need of companionship.
A special thanks to Gina, Richard, Shaan, my mother, my sister, and all the other friends and family who have blessed me with their love. I’m so thankful for you!