The last time I left the apartment was twenty one days ago. In that period of time I haven’t had any visitors. I had one personal telephone call. I did write quite a few emails.
Being an introvert is some sort of hipster trend these days. I notice that places like Reddit promote a sort of “I am emo, but I am not” ego identity. One way I see this phenomenon is that its popularity grows in proportion to the widespread reality that people do feel lonely — even whilst in a crowded room.
As a teenager, many years ago, I had a group of people I could be around. Some of them were friends, most of them were merely being friendly. Back then, and in the present, I always felt like I could only fit in so much. At a certain point, I just felt tired and unloved and misunderstood.
You may have heard that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. I know this to be true. It can be more complicated sometimes, though. Sometimes, if you have a health condition, you can’t get out of being alone. You can’t go to the party or make coffee shop dates. Perhaps anxiety leaves you paralyzed in the middle of the grocery store and you just want to run.
Sometimes we have the luxury of choosing to be alone and sometimes we don’t control it. But loneliness goes further. Loneliness is a feeling you can have even if someone is holding you in a warm embrace.
There is a common misconception that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Maybe it is. Maybe it isn’t. The truth, for me, has been that loneliness isn’t squashed by something outside myself. Still, my mind often insists that if so and so would just love and accept me and if I had friends, I would be happy and complete. Deep down, this just is not true.
Maybe loneliness is really me not accepting me and me not loving myself. It’s the “I wish I could love myself.”
I read a quote the other day that said, “there is no one on this earth that, if you heard their story, you couldn’t learn to love.” Think about that. How does it make you feel? Maybe the starting point is simply to admit that one has the potential to learn to love oneself.
When we cannot accept ourselves, how can we accept others? Let’s admit that this just might be the hardest work we might do in our lifetime. Yet, as we open our hearts to others we see the good and the bad, and we see that we can accept them exactly as they are. Love is an embracing of the whole package. If we see this potential with the world outside of us, it must be true that it is equally applicable to the world within us.
Tomorrow, I am invited to a stranger’s birthday party. At first I was shocked to be invited. Then I felt happy. Then I started to panic and had to do deep breathing.
Will I go? I said yes, but a huge part of me wants to say no. When the moment comes, I’ll make a choice one way or the other. I accept that it might be an answer to my social needs but I also accept that sometimes I need to be gentle with myself and know that I don’t want to feel that overwhelmed.
“If your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete.” — Jack Kornfield
Perhaps loneliness is teaching a lesson to us. What do you think?