I KNOW I AM NOT ALONE, I know I am not alone, and I know I am not alone. But sometimes it certainly feels like I am. And trust me, I know it is a hard thing to admit, let alone accept, that sometimes we might be alone; but, once we actually admit it, though, sort of like how I just did, something strange starts happens. We start to think, we start to look around, and then we start to assess our lives—-and, somewhere in that process, we discover that we were really never alone.
This may come as a shocker to most people, but I go through that process almost all the time. On average, and mostly during midnight and especially on the weekends, I sometimes feel like I am alone. Like, no one knows I exist and like the whole world has forgotten about me. And during those times, which by the way, is happening right now, I would ignore my feelings of loneliness; not contact anyone, turn on Netflix, go on Facebook, and even check Instagram to see how much fun other people were having. Basically, ignore, ignore, ignore was/is my way of coping with my leitmotif feelings of loneliness.
But what is loneliness, really? Is loneliness something that is restrictive solely to the mind, is it something that is triggered by the lacking of other persons in our lives, or could loneliness be both of those things? In view of that, what type of loneliness was I experiencing?
For some people, loneliness is the lacking of friends, but for others, loneliness is having too many friends and not feeling any real connection(s) to them. “People drain me,” said Margaret Cho, an American comedian, whose sense of loneliness is reflective of the latter group, “Even the closets of friends, and I find loneliness to be the best state in the union to live in.” And then there are people like Hilaire Belloc, a prolific Anglo-French writer and Historian during the twentieth century, who thinks that loneliness begins after the death of every friendship. “When friendships disappears, he writes, “Then there is a space left open to that awful loneliness of the outside world which is like the cold space between the planets. It is an air in which men perish utterly.”
Although people like Margaret Cho and Hilaire Belloc are right in their estimations of what constitutes loneliness, however, what rarely gets mentioned, and what I want to focus on, is circumstantial loneliness. For example, you might be feeling lonely because you live in a rural or suburban community with nothing around to do, you don’t have a car to go places with, and you don’t have capital to buy the things that you desire. So you see, circumstantial loneliness is a temporary disconnect from the people, places, or things around you that gives your life meaning. And that is very important to know. And why is that? Well, because, I feel, that when people say that they are lonely they are confusing the primary form of loneliness, which is circumstantial loneliness, with other secondary types of loneliness.
Another example of circumstantial loneliness is the example of a prisoner in solitary confinement. By circumstance, he or she is temporarily disconnected from the outside world, which within it, possesses all the people, places, or things that have the benefits of adding meaning to his/or her life. In this context then, if our prisoner would to think that he or she was lonely, it’s not that he or she may be wrong, but you and I would know that his or her estimations wouldn’t be quite accurate.
Now then, If we would to remove that prisoner from solitary confinement and place him or her in the larger population, or with the things that he or she loves to do the most, then naturally not only would they be happy but their life will have meaning again. But, I know what you’re thinking; that clearly, that prisoner can see that he or she is under solitary confinement and thus what other types of loneliness that they may feel is not the primary one. And my reponse would be, that, isn’t it interesting how when we’ve been accommodated with this example, to see how easy it is to confuse circumstantial loneliness with other types of loneliness—-as oppose to when we are on the receiving end of loneliness. Conversely, the only way to be aware of circumstantial loneliness is to not ignore the secondary feelings of loneliness like, how I was originally doing, but to fully acknowledge it. Furthermore, being aware of circumstantial loneliness rather than assuming that you are alone for other secondary reasons, is a very powerful mental exercise—-because it demonstrates to us that feeling lonely is a choice. And when we realize that we have choices in life everything changes—and we become more in control of our lives.
Having said that, and to answer the question of what type of loneliness that I was feeling?, well, it was circumstantial. I was feeling lonely because I live(d) in a rural community—-far away from and all the happenings of the city life. But rather than being down and mopey about my spatial isolation, I took this time to reflect on it—and in doing so, realized that I had a choice in choosing to be happy about my circumstance or to be angry about it. Also what I have discovered is that there is no bad or good when it comes to loneliness—it’s all perspective. And for that, and just like Bruce Barton, an American author and politician, I too now believe that “It would do the world good if every man would compel himself occasionally to be absolutely alone. [Because] most of the world’s progress has come out of such loneliness.”
Facebook | Instagram | Twitter