It's Okay To Feel Lonely

I've been lonely for a long time. Few people guess this about me. I've worn my mask so long I almost forgot it was a mask. I only became consciously aware of it six or seven years ago, and only now am I beginning to FEEL how it has been smothering me. I don’t think it’s a problem that gnaws at my heart like an open wound. Occasionally though, when I am able to sit silently in my own stillness, I can feel my own emptiness, and I weep new tears.

And this is good. For while I have chosen a life apart from others, I've avoided the honest emotional consequences of my actions for over twenty years. I have done this by intellectualizing everything, by smoking pot nearly every day, and by losing myself in introspective, hedonistic pursuits and fantasies.

It seems obvious to me now however that honest introspection must eventually destroy itself. I am finally experiencing something of the first budding fruits of my recent nervous breakdown. For with my new sobriety I am experiencing emotions I've hidden from myself for a long time, and as acutely painful and confusing as they sometimes are, to feel them so new and honestly is liberation beyond my capacity to describe. Yet by example I shall attempt to, because something happened to me today that I want to share. I shall take an indirect path however, so be patient with me [or click elsewhere].

I’ve never pursued a life partner, so convinced was I of the emptiness of searching for happiness through other people. However a long set of circumstances made me recently realize that I’m not the Dalai Lama and that my spirit as well as my loins yearn for a woman. I know I don’t need one to live, that I am strong and can flourish alone – but pretending I didn’t truly want one, that part of me doesn’t desperately need one, wasn’t helping me to flourish. If it’s my destiny to be single, so be it, but I won’t impose it upon myself through a naive pretence that I am wiser and stronger than I am.
So a couple of weeks ago I returned with a new perspective to an old dating website I've used in the past, and which has been the source of many valuable lessons and humiliations. I started emailing a few women but soon ended up in a deep, open, fairly unrestrained dialogue with one. She gave me a private email and said she was closing her dating account because I was the only one she was interested in. Since she was the only one whose emails excited me I eventually did the same, though I was male enough to hesitate a week, enamoured as I was by the stunning appearance of a Chinese legal professional who seemed to like me.
Anyway, a few days ago I upped the ante by writing her a long and particularly deep and heartfelt confession of my nature, circumstances and direction. After a day’s anxiety that I had just embarrassed myself and scared her away she replied, openly in awe of my words. This of course only sucked me in further and i wrote her back with more restraint [but with traces of mania nevertheless]. Her next reply [last night] was very brief and practical, talking about how she had constant Christmas social engagements all weekend and that she probably wouldn’t be able to do my reply justice for another three days [we’d been close to daily communication at this stage].
This is where it got interesting for me, because when I read this I felt like I’d been kicked in the stomach. Now I rationally understand how unreasonable this response was. I mean, it’s friggin Christmas. I expect her to spend it at her computer talking to a stranger? Obviously it’s really about my own illusions and projections, my impatience, and my sick desire to be continually stroked by a mother figure. Most of all however, reflecting on my reaction, I was forced to face how real my own everyday loneliness was. Because she has everyday friends she can spend time with. The two or three friends I haven’t alienated by my nature are deep friends indeed, but they have partners and families and I can only see them a few times a year.
So I struggled with this for a little while before I distracted myself with Far Cry 3 [a naive, testosterone fuelled, but amazing computer game]. All was well and good until I went to bed and discovered I couldn’t think about anything else. Now since I’ve quit marijuana, pharmaceuticals and weeknight alcohol, I’ve been struggling with insomnia, but this was a whole other level. But I don’t usually get angry when this happens anymore, for I’m learning that when a feeling like this persistently blocks me from what I want, then I have to feel it, not just think about it.
So, returning to my first paragraph, I lay in the darkness and acknowledged with my heart how lonely I am. I thought about my life and how empty it is of other people - how I’ve gotten all the wishes of my youth but how hollow they have turned out to be. I won’t pretend I reached to the roots of this, that I transcended it, or conquered it. But I felt it in a way I’ve never felt it before, with a degree of acceptance. And I wept. Tears I’d never wept for such an object, at least not consciously. However even at the time I knew I was only scraping the surface of something ancient, and that mine were crocodile tears next to what lies beneath. I didn’t cry even enough to affect my breathing, and soon I was up again and distracting myself here on Q&A. But I shifted something I’d never tried to shift before and my next day [today] was something special, even with only four hours sleep.
It started out painfully enough, as it does when one hasn’t slept enough. I arrived at work with a headache and a sense of an unpleasant task before me. Yet for some time now I have been discovering that my powers are at their height when I experience my own sadness in the right way.  So as the day wore on, although the work was hard and my concentration was strained, my capacity to deal with my “customers” [i work in a social security office and the department so names welfare recipients] was responsive and effective. In my general awareness of my own suffering I was able to respond to the suffering of others more appropriately - without overcompensating friendliness, conversation, jocularity or speed. So as the day wore on I began to draw more energy from the people I served, and from the warmth of their responses to me [and i’m not talking about anything particularly overt or dramatic here].
Then towards the end of the day SHE came in. She struck me as soon as I saw her in the queue, and I discreetly checked her out as I crossed the floor. We made eye-contact later as I called another customer. Then later, like mana from heaven, a colleague interrupted me before I was about to select another customer to see if I could help this woman. It’s chaos in the office lately and she’d missed being called earlier. As soon as I acknowledged her and told her I wouldn’t be too long I knew she was special. By the time she was at my desk and I was conducting our interview I was in awe of her.
Apart from the fact that she was my type [a little younger than me, arty, dark hair and eyes, slightly exotic] I was instantly struck by a rare combination of qualities. She was physically beautiful and dressed with a colour and style that was original, feminine and sensual, yet modest all at the same time. She was graceful and intelligent, her manner open, her gaze warm and engaging, yet she was neither coy nor forward. It was all I could do simply to maintain my composure.
I engaged her in small talk as I went about addressing the various details of her appointment, but it didn’t stay small for long, and the natural, polite way she asked personal questions was utterly disarming. Fortunately [or unfortunately] I always had the matter at hand to ground me when I grew too dizzy from her attention. Nevertheless, as the interview progressed we discussed [amongst other things] her music, my writing, the texture of sound, the nature of bureaucracy, and i made her laugh more than once. We even had the same birthday! That I kept it together at all was amazing to me, but I won’t pretend I didn’t skid more than once. It seemed to take every ounce of psychic awareness I possessed simply to string  sentences together, and I have no doubt that I entered a slightly dissociative state [i needed a fifteen minute break afterwards to recompose myself].
As we approached the end of the interview I was conscious of how difficult it would be to say goodbye, both practically and to my own fantasies. We had gotten onto the nature of my work after she’d asked about whether she could be served by me again when she returned, and I was explaining how the system doesn’t cater to personal service. I was saying something about how the system itself is the hard part of my work, but I love dealing with all the people. In my daze I actually said that it allowed me to meet amazing people like her, to which she had to good grace to show embarrassment, though I could tell she wasn’t displeased.
At this stage I was barely aware of what was going on around me but I knew I had to end this discussion somehow. I can’t remember if I said this straight after, or if another sentence or two passed between us, but I know I said with a helpless smile and gesture, “get out of here, you’re too beautiful for words”. By which I think I honestly conveyed, ‘you’re killing me here and i can hardly speak, please release me.’
My behaviour was completely unprofessional of course, but utterly human all the same. So the next thing she says, is “give me your email and I’ll send you some music”. So do you think I refused her, and quoted the Australian Public Service Code of Conduct? You ******* bet I didn’t, and I don’t feel a shred of guilt or shame about it. I just gave her my email and a couple of musical references of my own I’m confident she’ll respect, even if she doesn’t like them [which i doubt]. Then I said goodbye with a smile and a lingering glance which I hope didn’t look too puppy dog, and I fled to the tearoom to debrief myself.
Now apart from boasting and sharing the best day I’ve had in quite a while my point is that without experiencing the emotional truth of my loneliness the previous evening this couldn’t have happened to me.  I’m not saying the one thing literally manifested the other [though this isn’t impossible]. What I’m saying is that because of the honest way I suffered my aloneness last night, I was already in an unusually grounded, emotionally real place today when she came to me, and without that nothing special would have passed between us. I was barely able to keep up with her as it was, so even the slightest degree less mindfulness in me would have broken our rapport. I would have broken eye contact with her too readily, looked at her too desperately, talked too much, shown too much fear, or not enough, or something [let alone be able to deliver such a finishing line in a genuine and spontaneous way]. If I hadn’t laid awake last night and wept a fraction of my true tears she would have passed me by as just another beautiful woman on the other side of the glass.
Not that I assume true love will bloom [though I pray it might and I’ll be watching my email for the next week or two], I’m not so naive as to think we are in some movie. But love, friendship and companionship have to start somewhere, and without knowing and feeling our own pain [loneliness or otherwise], all our dealings with others are slightly off-key, however effective they might seem on the surface. Much of the momentum I achieved and that allowed me to deal with my amazing woman [and i’ve met these women before but never been able talk to them sanely] came not only from the previous night, but from the email relationship itself that I first described, and the impulse that lead me there. Because it’s all the same thing, one thing leading to another like a chain, and it started with me accepting I was lonely. BUT WITHOUT WALLOWING IN THE FEELING. WITHOUT MAKING IT ANGST.
I was dangerously manic after this encounter for nearly an hour but I calmed myself down, reminded myself that nothing actually happened and that she certainly hasn’t given me her own email yet. For as wonderful as her spirit was, and as alchemically as it touched mine, it’s nothing truly real yet. At least not as real as my other ‘friend’ [which still is far from a genuine physical manifestation]. For it’s to her my mind now returns and to her email today that I must return my attention.
Yet statistically probably neither of these women will be the one I’m searching for, and I may never find this archetypal Woman. But really, the specific individual is not the point. My point is achieving the quietly sad but accepting and peaceful state of mind that draws the right people to me out of the blizzard of reality. We meet thousands of potential ‘soul-mates’ in our lives but we usually lack the vision to see them or the agency to ‘take’ them. This applies to making new friends, finding causal lovers, searching for a wife, looking for a job, or whatever. And facing up to the loneliness I’ve denied for so long is my key. For who isn’t lonely in the end? More or less.
I’ve a long way to go, but thank God I’m moving at last.
turtlesplash turtlesplash
41-45, M
5 Responses Dec 14, 2012

I really liked your honesty while writing this, I know.. You posted this in 2012, but I must say its beautifully written :)

thanks - it didn't work out with the woman who dazzled me - when i eventually visited her at her business and asked her out it turned out that she had a boyfriend - that broke the spell because i realised she was unconscious of her own flirtation, and with that her power over me vanished - it was my pride too, i guess

Ow.. I'm sorry :(. I really wish things were different, I mean, a 'happy ending' to your story. But you did the right thing, she was already taken.. And you know there are other people out there..

you're very kind, but i'm okay, it's all part of my Karma - i've had better luck than most overall - i've been with a young woman for the last 6 or 12 months and she's teaching me much - in fact, a story about her is well overdue, now that i've returned to EP after a long sojourn - it's a kinda unbelievable story

I'm glad you found someone else :). It'd be nice if you share a post like this one about her.. If that's okay with you :D. But why is it unbelievable?

i met her after/because i dreamt about her - or a woman just like her

Wow.. Please tell me more! :D. If only all our dreams came true.. Lucky you!

i had a dream about a woman that woke me up at 3am - i couldn't go back to sleep because it was a profound variation on an existing dream series and i knew it was important - i went online cause i couldn't sleep and i met the girl that i'm with now - her nature turned out to be the same as the girl in the dream - our dynamic together is the same as the girl in the dream - fcuking crazy sh1t - never would have believed it could happen when i was young

I'm so happy for you :D and yes, it sounds so crazy.. It could be a like.. A movie? lol. So, it was just a dream or you knew this was the kind of woman you wanted to be with? I mean, you never imagined this happening before you met her?

she was a stranger from another country, an Indonesian Muslim 15 years younger than me, yet a woman similar to my mother in many ways - i don't know if i'll be with her forever but i'm contemplating it seriously - i've stopped smoking pot so i have a better chance of seeing clearly and making the right decision (she wants marriage and children) - when i say i never thought it could happen i just mean that i never believed it possible to have a dream that predicted/caused the future (with it's own time-travel paradox built in) - i used to be an rationalistic-materialist and never believed literal prophesy could happen - most modern people have no idea how divine the universe truly is, and how magically in can open itself up for us if we can but learn to get out of our own way - but enough, i'm waxing too lyrical and am in danger of growing proud and complacent - everyday i wonder why it is i deserve to be happy at all - you're inspiring me to finish the damn story, and i'll do it before i return to work on tuesday

Yes please, finish the story :D. I admire how you write in general, and obviously, I find your stories interesting!. I must say I find it really sweet you two are together, although you seem pretty different in many ways, right?

very different - but we share the same values overall

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This I and of honesty is ... wow!

thanks - and you know what? - i wrote this over a year ago and i'm only just returning to that place inside me from which all personal truth comes - it's like i spent my whole life trying to unlock that door, but once it clicked i have been terrified to do more than peek inside

My tablet changed what I typed. It should be 'this kind of'. I hate this mindless auto-correcting! Makes me look illiterate

yeah, and i hate typing on tablets, but your meaning was conveyed - you can turn of the autocorrect though

I'm a technophobe. When I meddle with stuff like that, other things go wrong. (But anyway how?)

1 More Response

your story is fluid, intelligible, and deeply beautiful, your soul shown through your words, very impressive.

thanks - i'm arrogant but i can be humble too

I now know ...the feeling. After realizing it myself yesterday for the first time.

this might sound trite but the slow turtle wins the race. i can relate to your story as a person that led a unhappy life as a younger person. becoming practically an outcast i learned to finally think for myself and now im going back in. i think my senior years i will make up for my sad years. learning about yourself and accepting yourself are goals that are under rated. good power to you.