Once upon a time, not that long ago, I feared the corrosive effects of being alone. I didn’t really have a life of my own, and so I wanted to avoid the empty, hollow times when I was forced by unavoidable circumstance to experience loneliness. I know from experience how the holiday seasons — summer vacation and in around Christmas and New Years — is fraught with images of family and connection. It is a time when loneliness, the feeling of being without, or beyond, meaningful connection is particularly hard. So, I feel compelled to write, at this time, to affirm what I have learned, the precious opportunity that loneliness presents, and the genuine hardship that comes along with it.
I spent some Christmases alone. Notice, I’m referring to more than one. I’ve had a chance to drink deep of the bitter seasonal ale, the one that ferments in one’s lonely heart.
I will be spending 4th of July alone. The feel of this time coming, contrasts so sharply with those days of the past. I was alone then in a painful heartbreaking way, now my aloneness blankets me with comfort, love, and support. I want to write about the difference, to remind myself of what once was, and to make sure I’m clear about how I made the change. My well-being relies upon staying clear about how a lame, broken and fearful man was converted into a sparkling and energetic mystery.
Aloneness was always a sign of my inferiority, of my inadequacy. I don’t know why. I could speculate about it. I’m sure I could come up with some compelling theories now, but then, it just felt like something must be wrong with me. I know I suffered a kind of dread about being alone. Loneliness came, despite me. I’ve gone from quaking before the possibility, to seeking it. Transitioning from one kind of experience, and one kind of attitude, to another, has been a great gift I gave myself. This gift has rebounded to others as well. How this happened, I want embossed in my soul, and available to others, because something quite miraculous lies deep within the alchemy of this change.
I learned to love myself. That would not have happened so clearly for me if I hadn’t been alone. Loneliness became solitude, because no one else was around to distract me. I sat in my own juices, some might say, “my own shit,” until I started to feel some compassion for what I was doing. The loneliness turned, it became something else, something friendlier and more supportive, because I had to face myself. I not only came to terms with me, but I began to hold my life as on-going miracle. Solitude began, when I realized that I, despite my fear and distaste, was always present. Solitude became something I hadn’t expected. There was someone in the silence, someone who heard my complaining soul, someone who stayed with me, and someone who eventually calmed me down.
I didn’t take to being loved, especially by me. I kept thinking, “it was a dirty job,’’ that “someone had to do it.” I wanted someone else to have to do it (this was no favor). But, no one else was around. Loneliness, the absence of anyone else, brought me to my self. Now, thanks to that unwelcome development, I know that I never leave my side. I am now never truly alone. I have reluctantly become self-possessed. I am accompanied now, never alone, happy to have time with the one who stands inside me, even when I am quivering. I am now full in a way I was never before, and it is because I couldn’t run away from me.
Loneliness became solitude, and solitude became desirable when I discovered that inside myself lives a being making my life a desirable mystery. I want to know, and be, this man, as much as possible. Solitude has become an everyday thing. It is my way of staying true to the one within me. My new world of social relations is enriched by the presence of this one. I am alive as never before.
Solitude has become an inner love affair. I want to spend time with myself. I don’t have much fear of a time of looking at my life, evaluating whether I made good use of it, because now I have the only real compass that was ever granted to me. I am, in part, what I am created to be. I chuckle now, remembering how much I wanted to hide from myself, how much I feared being who I was, I am happy now, as an aging man, because ripeness is setting in, and it all came through being alone. Loneliness became solitude. I became myself. The world opened. The miraculous became more evident.