Will You Give an Ear for a Moment?

I’m lonely right now. And I’ve been lonely for a while. Everyone gets lonely; it’s such a basic idea it might be considered trite. I know all this and I’m still ashamed to admit I’m lonely. It’s even hard for me to tell my friends. A silence tends to waft in and settle after. I’m lonely. I’m scared of telling people that. And all that makes me ashamed. Thing is, I don’t know where this shame came from. It’s not like anyone sat me down and said “John, look, sometimes you’ll be lonely and it’s a bad thing” but admitting loneliness is socially uncomfortable enough to be seen as a social faux pas. Again, let me repeat, we are all lonely at point in our life and it generally isn’t by choice. It’s not like we’re revealing an intimately placed tattoo of the “WHASSSAAAPP” Budweiser commercial to a group of strangers. Loneliness is not only normal, it’s inevitable, and can in fact be capital “g” Good at the right moments and in the right mind mindsets. But what about when it isn’t Good and we need to be able to talk to someone because we feel locked away? I remember I was in group therapy years ago and a woman was describing how she and her husband had grown apart. She described in great detail, the gentle but firm way he used to hold the space between her breasts and push his chest against her back and would quietly exhale on her neck as she slept. She said that in the past months they’d inched farther and farther from each other until they were on opposite sides of the bed, both slightly colder at night. She described the weight on her shoulders and the weight in her stomach. Then one day she just got out of bed and just drove. She was supposed to bring her daughter to school, but her husband could handle it so she just drove until she got to the great American void all of us at least consider visiting: The Grand Canyon. She said she stood out there and it was grey but it didn’t matter because she felt free, but sad. And yet it was a better sensation than the cold bed. The group psychiatrist, a wizened old fellow who commanded a room by being soft spoken said, “Sometimes it’s the moments that we feel alone that mean the most, because not only do we die alone, but often times we live alone as well. It is actually the moments we connect that are rare. It sounds like you felt, for the first time, that it was okay to be lonely.” To which she responded with a reactionary staccato, “Oh no, I wasn’t lonely, I think it was just nice getting away from my husband and our kid.” I remember being uncomfortable with how defensive she was, or at least, being uncomfortable and picking up on her defensiveness. The easiest thing to do with anything uncomfortable is shove it away (but loneliness is inside us, maybe even when we’re with others) or make fun of it. I do a whole lot of the latter. Doesn’t help much. I also know I picked that one up from TV. I could talk about being lonely without upsetting the mood. I could have my lonely cake and sit in the corner watching it as it sat on the table too. Of course, these efforts at humor (lord, how not-funny is that phrase?) were passable about best. Maybe I’d go on about wondering if there was a kind of lycanthropy that turned people into a cat lady. I think I got it when I started feeding the neighborhood stray every morning etc. etc. This didn’t work, the humor that is. Then there’s another attempt at defending myself: drinking and going on social media. This is another thing I do an uncomfortable amount. It’s the usual ploy of trying to drown a feeling and heal it with the third best thing: digital interaction. I think loneliness may be the most common Western-Developed-Nation form of suffering. It is a key part of depression (which might be thought of an acid loneliness that seeps into every cell). I think we aren’t very good at talking or working with loneliness. To me, Camus was right to ask is suicide worth committing. Not because I think it’s a valid question, but because the drive behind it was, is there something in all this (lonely) suffering worth hanging on to. He recommended we imagine Sisyphus happy. The unspoken key to this philosophical as that we are there to witness Sisyphus endlessly role his boulder. We are there to be happy with him. Loneliness might be considered the foundation of modern philosophical thought. When Descartes wrote Cogito Ergo Sum (I think therefore I am) he was only proving the existence of the one who thought. When he realized this cast everyone else’s existence into doubt, it meant he had to scrabble to prove other’s existed. He decided that by viewing other’s over time, one could surmise they really exist. There’s something absolutely wrong and something dead right about this idea. People around us do tend to be shades. We don’t know their passions, how they interact, how they make love. And we can’t know the exact experience someone is having at a single moment: their thoughts, bodily sensations, rising temperatures, and swirling passions are forever locked inside them. But just as they are locked from us, we are locked from them. What I’m saying is loneliness is etched on human bones. It is a fundamental difficulty of being a singular subject that we’re forced to struggle with. Sometimes we’re given the tools to do it, sometimes we aren’t.  The rituals we practice, whether in private social circles, institutional places (school, church etc.) end up determining how we feel about and handle loneliness. So why am I so fucking afraid and ashamed of mine? I cannot conclude this topic. To be totally honest I had this silly notion that I could write my way out of the hurt in my chest, write my way out of my loneliness. I think that’s why I write in general. To feel like someone is there, listening. I guess that’s what I might want (not that I don’t already have it), probably something everyone would want, a person to listen, to share with. I’m not the only one who feels like this, right?

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One thought on “Will You Give an Ear for a Moment?

  1. Great writing as always. It even inspired some thoughts in the lump on top of my neck. I think the topic of lonliness goes the way of faux pas because if it’s brought up the other person likely is thinking that you are implying that they are not as close of a friend as you hope them to be.

    I’m in Ghana now and during the day I have felt quite lonely. I can’t connect with the people (they don’t get my jokes!) for many reasons. The expats are all greedy racists of varying levels of each offense. I’m sure what I’m feeling is toned down from what you are experiencing because I am lucky enough to have my girlfriend come home at night but a lack of friends does take it’s toll. I’m just happy that this trip isn’t permanent.

    I’ve found that a lot of people don’t want to discuss deep issues but there are some. Often it may be political beliefs differing or heavy stress in life that make a person just not want to dive deep into a subject. Thankfully there are those that do enjoy tough shit but it’s tough to find and connect, but not impossible.

    Nature is always around to trigger thinking and reflection. Based on that bush on your face though I’m sure you spend plenty of time outside already. Being a farmer I suggest starting a garden, growing a hops bush or working a couple of hours per week at a local farm. We have some work shares and I think you’d fit well with the environment. If that doesn’t float your kitten then my next suggestion is to come down to Prov in or anytime after June (moving to a new place which is prime for hosting Mangos). We can try to write a coming of age masterpiece. For increasing the popularity of the blog I suggest more marketable titles suchas “Loneliness, you may not feel it, but could I feel you?” Sorry that’s not tasteful but once it was thought it had to be wrought. Keep it up Mango. You’re cool!

    Like

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