I feel deep loneliness at the core of my being. It’s part of me. It runs through me and my life like a river. I observe it and know it more intimately as I grow older. With knowing, I’m learning that loneliness is not necessarily “such a sad affair,” words famously coined by The Carpenters in their 1971 hit song Superstar.
Loneliness is neither worse, nor better, than happiness (which I also feel at the core of my being). Some people say we choose our feelings. Others say our feelings choose us. Maybe both are right. I believe loneliness, like happiness, just is. I spend a lot of time alone. I always have. Partly due to circumstance, partly because of who I am.
As a girl, adolescent and young woman, I never quite fit in. I was painfully shy and had few friends. I longed to be part of the group, but seemed never to be included. Somehow I didn’t quite belong. That brand of being alone was difficult. It still is.
Much of my work involves writing, for the most part a solitary activity. I spend hundreds of hours alone at the computer. This kind of solitude, during which one is engaged in creative pursuits, reflection, or work, can be both joyful and rewarding.
Being alone and being lonely are totally different. One can be alone without feeling lonely, and yet feel lonely when not alone, even in the midst of a crowded room or in the close proximity to someone we love. Thus loneliness, like happiness, it would seem, comes from within.
Underlying my own loneliness is a feeling of profound isolation. I struggle constantly with an overwhelming need to connect and a deep desire to be alone in my solitude. Both are vitally and equally important to me. One of the themes of my life is learning to balance and reconcile the two – in work, in play, and in relationship.
My writing, poetry, and advocacy on behalf of women and elderly people living with dementia are all parts of the reconciliation process — the results of my continuing struggle for both connection and solitude, gifts from the loneliness at my core.