Lately, I’ve been feeling intensely alone. Not lonely. I very seldom feel lonely.
Here’s how I distinguish between the two:
Loneliness is that desire to be with other people when you are by yourself. That feeling you get when you really want others (or one particular other) near you.
Alone is something deeper. You can be surrounded by people, even people who love you (and who you love and want to be with) and still feel alone.
It is this ache deep in the heart that questions ‘Do I belong?’.
It is this fear (that verges on undeniable knowing) that you really are all alone in the world.
And in creeps alone-ness.
The other night I was all snuggled up with my boyfriend when this feeling of alone-ness crept in. I knew he loved me. I could feel his love for me.
And yet, that lonely ache wouldn’t ease. I snuggled closer. I engaged him verbally – anything to convince myself that I wasn’t alone; that I was loved and safe. It didn’t work. The ache remained.
Everything externally was in place. I was safe, warm and loved. There was nothing external to warrant this sense of alone-ness. And yet, there it was.
It’s pretty normal, I think, to try to ease this ache.
Well, for myself, I might ask for more attention and reassurances than usual from my boyfriend.
If feeling really insecure (and simultaneously out of touch with the underlying sensation of alone-ness), I might even demand to know that I am loved and wanted – which doesn’t work by the way.
There’s nothing like desperately demanding love or attention to totally make another person want nothing to do with you!
There are other ways as well.
Perhaps through being around people even more.
Or through alcohol or eating more than usual or shopping or allowing the busy-ness of the holidays to just keep you go, go, going.
(Being super busy is a great way to distract oneself from uncomfortable feelings.)
I don’t have a quick fix for this sense of alone-ness.
It’s something that I think is, at times anyway, part of all of us – this uneasy sense that on some level we don’t belong.
Or, that we will always be alone in the world, whether or not we are partnered. Whether or not we are surrounded by a loving, connected family.
With the holidays essentially here (!), I think there’s a good chance that this alone-ness may be even more accentuated for many of us. It seems that many (myself included) experience intensified feelings of isolation and alone-ness at this time of year.
There are some things we can try to make it easier.
I find just naming what is going on to be very helpful. Here I am, surrounded by people and yet, I feel so very alone.
Also, spending intentional quiet time alone – exaggerating and allowing the alone-ness vs trying to buffer it by being around people constantly.
Going into Owl Eyes (wide-angle vision) and tuning into the physical sensations (the ache itself) of alone-ness. Allowing the ache to just be there and using Owl Eyes to help find some space around it.
Or, perhaps writing a letter to the part of you that feels so alone – using sweet words to remind that part of you that the rest of you is there wanting to listen and offering love and support.
For myself, when this sense of aloneness is particularly strong…
… and after I’ve realized that this sense of alone-ness is what is fueling an intense insecurity and a desire to control things and to know (through some external means) that I am safe and loved…
Then… I practice feeling that ache, allowing it to be there, and I whisper my fears and insecurities (in private, most often, or to a tree or something else that won’t judge me).
I say out loud how alone I feel and I ask for help:
- For help just being in the mystery that is life.
- For help trusting that it is possible for love and safety to exist for me – both within and without.
- For help in meeting the ache with compassion and kindness.
- And, for help forgiving myself… for the times when I am unable and instead demand safety and love from others a in a vain attempt to ease this ache, this alone-ness.
For you, today:
I’m offering my story in the hopes that if you experience anything similar, especially now at the holidays, you will know you are not alone.
It’s not just you feeling this ache and this sense of not belonging.
I guess what I’m saying is this:
Perhaps we all feel alone – together.
I’m so grateful this Thanksgiving week (here in the States) to be here. With you.
As always, your thoughts, comments and stories are welcome.