It would be impossible not to think, even a little, about loneliness right now. It’s a feeling that comes and goes like every other emotion under the sun, catching me off guard as Monday becomes Tuesday becomes the weekend once again. Loneliness is a word I have forever shied away from, but after these past four weeks of self isolating alone, I have a couple new feelings (and of course, thoughts) when it comes to the L word.
Everyone feels loneliness, it’s an emotion that is part of being human. And despite rationally knowing believing this as fact, loneliness has always had a way of making me feel personably responsible for its presence. All until this time in self-isolation.
For me, loneliness is one of the most gemini of gemini emotions, an emotional paradox that is never just one thing. You can be lonely when you’re by yourself or you can be lonely when you’re in a room full of people. Loneliness can worm its way through social media, emanating off the smiling photos of people traveling the world with their 107 closet friends who couldn’t possibly ever be lonely! Or it can hit you when a close friend talks about their weekend plans, plans you would have probably said no to but would have liked to have been invited all the same.
As humans, we naturally crave connection and especially during these times of uncertainty, being able to talk with friends and family has been vital to staying afloat. But no matter how many Facetimes I have a day, or how many Zoom calls are sprinkled throughout my calendar, I have still find myself having lonely moments; missing not being able see people in person, my long walks to the water overlooking the city skyline, the long train ride to my boyfriend’s apartment where I could just dive into my book, and the hundreds of other little things I took for granted pre-self isolation.
Over the past two years, I have had a number of best friends leave the city and following their departure, I feared being lonely. I was afraid the feeling would sweep me away so completely that I would be unable to make new friends because they would smell the loneliness coming off of me. So whenever the feeling popped up, I’d run in the opposite direction, looking for a cure all. It took a long time to dismantle the myths I had around loneliness. I had to learn that instead of fearing it as a permanent state of being, loneliness can be an emotional signal telling me I am in need some human connection — even if it feels vulnerable and uncomfortable and hard in that lonely moment. The only thing that makes it worse is pushing it down and pretending it doesn’t exist.
Being self-isolated on my own, I’ve realized that the root of my loneliness in the past has often been intertwined with comparison to others. FOMO (fear of missing out), if you will. Feeling moments of loneliness during the pandemic has felt different because it’s a feeling I can’t immediately solve by going to see a friend in person or going for a run or committing to a writing workshop in the city.
Now, loneliness feels more like a natural emotion that comes and goes, never staying too long but still making its presence known. I know it isn’t personal, it’s just a sign of the times, so I’ve taken to inviting it for a cup of tea and seeing it on its way.
We’re all in the same boat right now and while more connected than ever thanks to technology, it’s natural to still feel lonely. In my experience, it’s important to say it out loud — even if just to yourself. It takes the power out of the words as yours friends nod along during your FaceTime, letting you know they understand all too well where you’re coming from. For lack of better phrasing, sometimes there is no immediate fix, it is what it is, and you’re trying your best.
So should you be feeling the tug of a lonely heart as you read this, remember, being lonely does not mean that you’ve done something wrong and brought loneliness upon yourself. Sometimes there is a way of changing it — meditating, less time on social media — and sometimes, like during this pandemic, it’s simply one of the many emotions that roller coasters around in your brain. Acknowledge it, share it, and let it pass — however long that might takes. Now, you’re back on your way.
PS. Thanks to Elena Taber for inspiring this post.