It is not impermanence that makes us suffer. What makes us suffer is wanting things to be permanent, when they are not. ~ Thich Nhat Hanh
Society is afraid of alone - a striking line in a poem I ran across. How much of life is made up of loneliness avoidance, as if our worth as a human being depended on it? Afraid of loneliness, we keep trying to fill this feared hole with filler behaviors, perhaps unhealthy habits, relationships that are draining rather than energizing, drugs, food, alcohol, shopping, material fads, work - the list goes on.
The experience of loneliness is complex. First, there is the simple, objective matter of being by oneself, which in itself isn't (usually) harmful or dangerous. And then there is the "story" we tell ourselves about being alone, what we tell ourselves about our loneliness. And this is where the emotionally destructive hook is. That story may be about how we feel unappreciated or misunderstood, how we are not worthy of love and affection, how there must be something wrong with us to feel this way. Conquering loneliness has little to do with whether we have friends or not—we all know the feeling of loneliness even when we’re surrounded by others. It has everything to do with examining and ultimately rejecting the story we tell ourselves about what it means to be alone.
If you silence the stories you tell yourself about being alone, a whole new world of wisdom can open up. One insight could be that you are always here and everyone and everything else comes and goes. Everything is temporary. No material possession, relationship, feeling, health state is here to stay. Rather than it being depressing, this can increase the "wow" factor of life: You are the only thing that is always here with you, so how can you be good to yourself, love yourself?
How To Be Alone by Tanya Davis
(Available as a highly watch-worthy, uplifting video poem here)
If you are, at first, lonely - be patient.
If you've not been alone much or if, when you were, you weren't okay with it then just wait,
you'll find it's fine to be alone... once you're embracing it.
We could start with the acceptable places: the bathroom, the coffee shop, the library.
Where you can stall and read the paper,
where you can get your caffeine fix and sit and stay there,
where you can browse the stacks and smell the books
you're not supposed to talk much anyway,
so it's safe there.
There's also the gym.
If you're shy you can hang out with yourself in the mirrors, you can put headphones in.
And there's public transportation
- because we all gotta go places -
and there's prayer and meditation
no one will think less if you're hanging out with your breath
seeking peace and salvation.
things you may have previously avoided based on your avoid-being-alone principles.
The lunch counter, where you will be surrounded by chow-downers,
employees that only have an hour
and their spouses work across town
and so they, like you, will be alone.
Resist the urge to hang out with your cell phone.
When you are comfortable with eat-lunch-and-run, take yourself out for dinner,
a restaurant with linen and silverware.
You're no less intriguing a person when you're eating solo dessert
and cleaning the whipped cream from the dish with your finger;
in fact, some people at full tables will wish they were where you were.
Go to the movies
where it is dark and soothing
alone in your seat amidst a fleeting community.
And, then, take yourself out dancing,
to a club where no one knows you
stand on the outside of the floor
until the lights convince you more and more
and the music shows you.
Dance like no one's watching
('cause they are probably not)
and, if they are, assume it is with best and human intentions,
the way bodies move genuinely to beats is, after all, gorgeous and affecting.
Dance until you're sweating
and beads of perspiration remind you of life's best things,
down your back like a brook of blessings.
Go to the woods alone and the trees and squirrels will watch for you.
Go to an unfamiliar city, roam the streets,
there are always statues to talk to
and benches made for sitting
give strangers a shared existence
if only for a minute
and these moments can be so uplifting
and the conversations that you get in
by sitting alone on benches
might have never happened
had you not been there by yourself.
Society is afraid of alone though,
like lonely hearts are wasting away in basements,
like people must have problems if, after awhile, nobody is dating them
But alone is a freedom that breathes easy and weightless
and lonely is healing if you make it.
You could stand, swathed by groups and mobs or hold hands with your partner
look both further and farther
in the endless quest for company,
but no one's in your head
and by the time you translate your thoughts some essence of them may be lost
or perhaps it is just kept,
perhaps in the interest of loving oneself,
perhaps all of those sappy slogans
from preschool over
to high school's groaning
were tokens for holding the lonely at bay.
'cause if you're happy in your head then solitude is blessed and alone is okay.
It's okay if no one believes like you
all experiences unique, no one has the same synapses
can't think like you
for this be relieved,
keeps it interesting, life's magic things in reach.
And it doesn't mean you aren't connected, that community's not present.
Just take the perspective you get
from being one person alone in one head
and feel the effects of it
Take silence and respect it.
If you have an art that needs a practice, stop neglecting it.
If your family doesn't get you
or a religious sect is not meant for you
don't obsess about it.
You could be, in an instant, surrounded, if you need it.
If your heart is bleeding make the best of it
there is heat in freezing, be a testament