Do you ever get lonely?
I get asked that question a lot. And before I get into where I’m at with it, it’s worth prefacing with this: There are some emotions that tend to be seasonal and cyclical and tough.
Loneliness is one of them, in my opinion.
Let me add: I don’t have loneliness figured out. There aren’t five magical steps to never feeling lonely again. I don’t have a cute correlating story that drives home a warm and fuzzy point. What I can offer on this topic are the following thoughts and a few questions.
Loneliness is not predicated on whether or not you are in a relationship. I spent eight very lonely years in an unhealthy marriage. On the outside, I didn’t look lonely. On the inside, some of my loneliest days were during those eight years. And it wasn’t all terrible, but it was lonely. Because it felt to me, one-sided, un-reciprocated, unengaged, stagnant, distant.
There are married people wanting “the spark” back, single people wanting a relationship, stay at home moms wanting someone other than a two-year old to talk to, working moms wanting conversations about things other than budgets and deadlines and performance reviews. The introvert wanting the phone to ring. All feeling lonely.
However, regardless of the relationship or situation, what will go away or become a reality if the spark comes back or the phone rings or your work or home status changes?
I’m convinced that whatever it is, it will not be solved by another person.
Which brings me to my second point.
Our hearts are worth examining. At it’s root, loneliness seems to be the recognition of some kind of real or perceived lack. Lack of connection or intimacy or cause.
So, it’s worth considering: Are you calling it loneliness when maybe it’s something else. Maybe envy, jealousy, fear, discontentment, or [insert your issue here]?
The hard work on this point will pay dividends later. Because if I’ve learned anything in this game called life, it’s that if I don’t learn the lesson this time, I’ll be given “opportunity” after “opportunity” to learn it until I finally get it.
So, if you are lonely for friends, and envy trips you up now, envy will trip you up when you’ve got a close-knit circle and someone shows up with a bigger this or a shinier that. And then envies close cousin, discontentment, will mean that you want to blame someone for why you don’t have the bigger this, or faster that. And, because looking inward at ourselves is hard, we make room for resentment and judgment and more envy.
It’s a sneaky little spiral. Examine your heart. It’s worth it.
You can be alone and not be lonely. When I boil it down, I think there are a few critical pieces worth every ounce of effort to make true in our lives:
- A community.
- A cause.
“It’s hard to be lonely when you’re busy,” a friend of mine recently said. “Especially when you’re busy with things you like and want to do.”
So, could it be as simple as instead of focusing on lack, whatever it is, change your perspective, to focus on what you do have and work from there. We all have much for which to be grateful. If you’re alive, man, you’re blessed.
And then, let’s find and build and be communities where people, including us, can be vulnerable and real and honest. Let’s work together and support each other and celebrate victories as we work towards our cause, our holy discontents, our passions.
When those four things are in motion, it’s extremely hard for loneliness to find a place to camp. How can it have room when your heart is overflowing with gratitude? When do you have time to tend to it when you have a packed calendar with people who know you and love you and who you love back? And what place does it have when you’re pouring your life into something you believe in?
Our lives have the potential to be so full. Let’s make them overflow.