Three weeks ago, I slipped on a wet stair and hit my foot on our metal door. Then subsequently developed cellulitis from the open wound.
In some ways, my foot injury has been a blessing, as are most uncomfortable issues in life. It’s put me back in touch with the meaning of loneliness.
When I first moved to Europe, and couldn’t speak the language, I felt very isolated. I had no local family or friends, only my husband (who was both family & friend). I had vast amounts of time daily, when he was at work – -and when he was out of the country, at workshops, that’s the most time I’ve had alone ever. Ever.
I would walk alone in the city, just to take in the beauty of nature and human existence. Never speak a word during the day, for days on end. I never even spoke to cashiers, as I couldn’t understand them, nor did I want to reveal I was American (even though my clothing and hairstyle probably revealed that).
And, it’s funny. It didn’t even matter. If they mumbled something to me, I just nodded as if I understood, and was on my way. An old woman on a street train would be growling some comments and I’d nod politely.
Language is not companionship. Only our presence is.
It was my first encounter with real loneliness. Instead of being depressed, I questioned attaching a feeling with being alone. It drove me deeper, to why I’m here. And drove me within, to a place of feeling a connection with something great, something joyful.
Now with my injury, and Daniel out of town for nearly three weeks, I’m usually needing to lay with my foot elevated and have only gone out to the doctor twice in two weeks, minor shopping while I’m out, and the garden just once. And again, I recollect similar remembrances of being isolated. But even in the US, I can do the same thing with cashiers. Nod, smile, say “yes” to having a nice day and “finding everything OK.”
It’s occurred to me that loneliness is creative, just as boredom is creative. We find all kinds of ways to fill in the time to avoid feeling lonely or bored.
But, the most outstanding thing I’ve learned is how we can never be free or independent unless we face loneliness. We can’t avoid it, push it aside, and fill in the feeling with other things. As long as we do, we are dependent on all those things, people, events, sex, food, etc. How can we have a voice of our own if we’re always seeking approval, to fill in the loneliness?
If we fear loneliness, we will always say what’s needed, in order to be accepted. We can’t be ourselves if we’re saying things, dressing, behaving, to be accepted. We want to be accepted because we don’t want to be lonely.
Try being lonely. You might find, like I have, that friendship is usually a set of agreements that have nothing to do with companionship. When those sets of agreements change, that person is no longer interested in us.
So what is it to just be a companion to someone, without an agreement? Without a conformity? Without doing something for their approval? What would happen if we are who we really are, and not trying to be what we think someone else wants? And further, not being secretive because we fear rejection if people only knew who we really were. How many lies do we live by, just to be accepted to avoid loneliness?
You want freedom, we all want freedom. But unless we’ve walked through loneliness, without trying to change it, we can’t be free. And worse, we won’t find the source of true companionship within us. To be joyful, without cause, is freedom.