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The Art of Loneliness: How To Cope With Being “Alone” This Valentine’s Day

It is often the serendipitous events that happen and roll out magically in my own life, which give me the urgency and impetus to write. The past few weeks the feelings and thoughts of loneliness has really surfaced strongly, as thoughts and emotions, becoming stronger especially during moments of meditation. Simultaneously the pre-valentine’s advertisements and social media posts have been quite present, which only today I realized as I saw those awful tasting Valentine’s heart candies with the word SINGLE posted on someone’s beautiful portrait photo as an emoji.   But, the trigger to write didn’t come to me until I was doing my morning Facebook scroll from bed where I came across a friend’s post which said the following:

Not everyone who is single is lonely, and not everyone who is taken is in love.

It is triggers of the sort that make me jump out of bed, sans coffee, to start writing.

We are all alone. We all feel loneliness. Can we accept this as a general truth? At least for a moment, perhaps? Ok, I take that back. I am going to make this more personal and speak from the first person perspective.  I am alone. I feel loneliness. Now. moving forward and expanding on this statement.  I am alone, because I live alone and since 2013 have not been in a relationship, except for some very brief meaningful ones, but mostly quite meaningless and shallow relationships. Now, immediately with those statements I’m assuming that “a relationship” refers to either an intimate or sexual relationship, especially because during this month western media reinforces this paradigm. Then, I pause for a moment and think about all the beautiful relationships that fulfill me and quite wholly: those with friends, family members, colleagues and sometimes even strangers I meet. Do I not find moments of respite in these briefer encounters with the ones who I’m not physically intimate with? Of course I do. But, I forget that.

We often surround ourselves with the people we love and for brief moments in time, until parting ways, feel less lonely. But then, having the chance to dig deeper, we still find that we feel lonely and/or alone. Then this feeling manifests itself differently in our body and mind. It consumes us and makes us dig ourselves deeper into a hole of solitude and negativity. Why is that? Let’s leave this as a rhetorical question and come back to it.

I’m going to take a second scenario. In my previous long-term relationship (well, marriage), my partner was with me daily. During some months we even got to spend entire days together. Even though I was technically not alone, there were days I felt lonely. It is not to say that there weren’t days of sheer happiness, because there were plenty, but there were days I felt extremely lonely in the relationship. Being younger, I equated this to being out of love or having fallen out of love. Until it came to a moment where it affected our relationship, because those feelings caused isolation and distance, and eventually resentment. The latter resulted in pushing each other away, arguments and the gamut of issues that occurs before separation and official papers are filed. I felt lonely then when I was not technically alone. I felt alone the past few weeks, but I am in fact not lonely. I seek solitude, because I say I am independent and enjoy this independence. But, the truth is that my mind dwells on thoughts of loneliness and what loneliness looks like and doesn’t look like, which only gives me the perception of being alone. When my mind is restless and uneasy it tends to dwell on that which is negative and only causes more negativity to brew. I bring it to a point, perhaps of self-destruction and depression. But, luckily, this time,  I realize that I’ve done this before and I do not wish to dig deeper into that hole. I only arrive to this truth with certainty due to past experience, a certainty that is relative and will likely not hold true in the near or far future. But, this time, I choose not to let it consume me as I realize that I am not alone, that I do enjoy my solitude and all I need to do, as Rainer Maria Rilke says in Letters to a Young Power:

Have patience with everything that remains unsolved in your heart…live in the question.

This time I live patiently in the question of loneliness and being lonely. I decide, this time, to not call a friend and distract myself by going out and digging and drowning this pain. I sit with it daily and have a discourse with this emotion and develop a better relationship with why it’s there and how we can live together in peace. Because, in due time, I may find someone who I love and want to share my life with again. I may not. But in either scenario, this emotion will likely not cease to peek it’s head out and try to consume my mind. What I need to recall is this quote, again by Rilke, which was read to us in our Savasana by Carrie Owerko on one of the days of my week-long intensive training. As she finished our 5 hour long heart opening and backbend session, she ended with the following:

I hold this to be the highest task of a bond between two people: that each should stand guard over the solitude of the other.

We are all in this together.

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