Living with Loneliness: A response to a panel discussion on CBC’s The Current.

Repeat after me: EVERYONE IS LONELY SOMETIMES, OR A LOT OF THE TIME AND THAT’S OKAY.

YOUR FRIENDS ARE SOMETIMES LONELY. YOUR FAMILY IS SOMETIMES LONELY. THAT STRANGER YOU BUMPED SHOULDERS WITH ON THE STREET IS SOMETIMES LONELY. YOUR BOSS IS SOMETIMES LONELY AND SO IS YOUR NEXT DOOR NEIGHBOUR, THE ONE THAT ALWAYS MOWS THE LAWN AT 7:30 IN THE MORNING. THAT PERSON YOU AWKWARDLY LOCKED EYES WITH THROUGH THE CRACK OF THE BATHROOM STALL IS SOMETIMES LONELY TOO.

TO BE LONELY IS TO BE ALIVE (sort of) AND IT’S OKAY TO BE LONELY.

(It’s okay if you didn’t repeat it–I’m not mad.)

I was certainly repeating this to myself earlier this week (not in these exact words) while I was listening to this lovely panel discussing our society’s “loneliness stigma” on The Current. The York University professor jackhammers straight to the core of my own psychological uneasiness with loneliness when he very eagerly says this:

“Our society admires people who are successful. If you’re lonely, that means that you may not be good enough for others to want to be with you–if you’re not good enough, then I don’t want to associate with you!”

Piya makes a understanding hmm at this, and I did too when I heard the prof say it that morning.  I pretty much hmmed at the entire thing that morning, walking down Huron St. underneath the large, uncut branches of the trees lining the sidewalks.

We don’t ever really seem to talk about loneliness. Or when we do, it’s all at once, rushed and anxious like water in the sink after you pull the plug– we admit to each other in those 2am conversations, in conversations clasping hands with our loved ones, or in those conversations where the listener is staring intently & silently at the confessor, who blurts everything out while staring unseeing at either a spot behind the listener or down at their socks on the hardwood floor (you know the ones I’m talking about).

Maybe it’s hard to talk about loneliness because I am lonely, haha! Jokes on me because it’s true and I am a very lonely person and saying it out loud it makes me lame! Haha lol!

But maybe it’s something that we-I-should talk about more. In talking about it, we can reach out to others feeling the same way who don’t know they’re feeling the same way.

I’ll say this then: It’s okay that it hurts sometimes. It’s okay to admit that it sometimes it hits you in the middle of a mass of other warm bodies, that it hits you as you lie alone on the bed staring up in the darkness, that it hits you when you’re standing at the front row of an outdoor Lorde concert, clutching the iron bar of the fence with tightening white knuckles.

I’ll tell you about my loneliness, because I am lonely and that’s okay:

My loneliness sways in a slow sine wave on a spectrum of lonelinesses: there’s quiet lonelinesses, the ones that slowly creep into you in the darkness while you’re lying in bed, staring blankly at the black space above you where you know there’s the ceiling and its distinctive suburban ceiling sand (the utility of which you’ve never completely understood). But there’s also the loud lonelinesses, and it’s loud like Oprah spreading her strong news anchor arms out to her adoring audience on the Oprah show, screaming You get some loneliness! And you get some loneliness! And you and you and you and you! while a roaring, ecstatic audience calls back to her in indistinguishable excited noises–those are the lonelinesses that suddenly drop like ice in you while you’re walking down a busy downtown street, while you’re in a mass of people in a house party, while you’re standing in the middle of the beach on the hottest day of the year while your body sweats all your sunscreen off your skin and your heart grows faint, your insides are screaming, and you feel so lonely.

The thing about loneliness that I’ve always believed is that loneliness itself is not a character trait. It’s an externality of other more relevant, precious parts of me that I rather like: a fierce independence, a way of adapting to current circumstances like slow-moving liquid fills all the corners and crevices of a space, a tendency to catalogue memories and feelings away in the form of colours and sounds and smells (which make it harder to tell people about) rather than words.

I was listening to another interview earlier this year (and I think that the fact that the radio is one of my media of choice says something) when the guest was talking about a conversation that she’d had with a senior who was living alone. It went something along the lines of the senior being happy to live alone and had lived quite a successful, fulsome life, and that, yes of course she was lonely sometimes, but that it happens. Everyone gets lonely. It happens as surely as aging, as the world turns, as the sun rises and sets

Earlier, in teenagedom and kidship, loneliness used to hurt probably like it does for all kids and teens feeling like no one could understand them and that they were all alone. But now, in my millenial 20-something-ness, loneliness is something that’s morphed into aloneness, and the two are not synonymous. Aloneness is simply being alone, loneliness is being alone and feeling it. really like being alone now. I don’t know when it happened or how it matured into taking myself out on movie dates to watch Mad Max a second time, but… I’m more than okay with it, and that’s okay too.

A friend and I were talking about this a few years ago (and I don’t know if she still remembers this). She said, “Maybe you’ve been alone for so long that you’ve gotten used to it.” and at the time, I remember thinking this a tragedy, but now, it’s more a blessing in disguise. There are so many worse things that could happen to you slowly over time, like coming to hate someone you used to love, cancer, and slowly finding yourself liking Big Bang Theory.

I don’t know what to tell other people about everything that I’ve just vomited. This definitely is not a “loneliness and being alone worked for me and here are 5 ways that you can make it work for you!”. I think there are certain predispositions of mine that make me more naturally inclined to liking being alone like that I am introverted, and write my feelings better than talk and whisper and say them.

So never was this supposed to be a “you should do this and that to make you feel better”, but a “loneliness is something that we should talk about, and I am”!

And now that I have, I’m done. Peace and love, xoxoxo gossip g’earl

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