Saturday, January 15, 2011

That Loneliness Thing

So, in this small town I live in now, pretty much nobody really knows me, or wants to. You get to feel so lonely at times. I do have friends here, but most of them were friends of my parents first, and only became my friends when I moved back here to be my parents' live-in caregiver for their last years of life. Only one or two of those is really someone I can count on as a real friend. Most of the rest have grown casually distant. People are generally friendly here, but not very intimate.

In moments of crisis, I'm almost always in the role of caregiver. When I'm having a crisis, it's almost always impossible to find anyone to turn to. It's like they all evaporate. Some are no doubt uncomfortable with seeing moments of vulnerability, weakness, and doubt in someone who they have turned to, who they rely on: the illusion of invulnerable competence is what they cannot bear to see disproved.

That has been a lifelong pattern: People turn to me for support, but don't usually reciprocate. I have one friend I can turn to, when I need a shoulder, but it's almost always on the phone, not face to face. Those late night things, from across a few state lines.

How do you define success? Is it happiness? Wealth? Having fun? Love relationships? Surviving one more day? Being married for decades with your partner? I define success in very small terms: I survived one more day. Most of the time that's all I can manage. The truth is, there are lots of times when I get so alone that I don't feel like there's any reason to go on living. Some nights you don't care if you live or die. Yet I've always been stubborn. Even if it hurts, which it can, a lot, I'm too stubborn to give in. It's not that I have any hope that "things will improve." I have no faith in that at all. I just go on enduring. Most of the time it's not much fun, just to go on enduring.

Lots of people think that their love relationships, or their religions, or their work, are the solutions to all their problems, all their difficulties, unhappinesses, and sorrows. They flush themselves with pride in their connections. They rely on their partner for all things emotional, mental, spiritual, and physical. Many such relationships crack under the strain of trying to carry too much in one container. Marriage is a container, but not necessarily a good container for all things.

Whenever I post a personal ad looking for some physical contact, sex, jerking off, massage, with another man, in this small rural area I invariably get a majority of responses from married men. Guys who want boys on the side. It gets annoying, after the first few rounds. You end up not wanting to post a personal ad, because of the predictable responses, which tend to make you feel even more alone. Some of them are recognizably from the same men, time after time. That can get boring, which can also add to the loneliness.

I'm not a sentimental person, not even slightly. I don't drown by choice in the romantic fantasies of blissful married life (no matter who you're married to) that seem to be the stock fantasies of most. I'm romantic, actually very romantic, but it takes awhile to get there, so if you were to come digging for it, you'd have to dig awhile before you struck gold. Mainly I don't like clich├ęs of romantic love, etc.

That's one more thing that sets me up to be alone: Not conforming to the mass fantasy of romantic love. Not caring much about the painstaking reaction in real life of such fantasies. Caring even less for reenacting fantasy scenes from novels and poems and movies.

Although I can be swayed with flowers. Or a kiss on the back of the knee. We all have our erogenous zones.

I don't confuse loneliness and solitude. Most people are afraid of solitude because they're afraid they'll feel lonely. Frankly, most people are pack animals. I'm not afraid of solitude. I seek it out. I do enjoy sharing my favorite places of solitary sojourn with one other, on occasion. You like to share the places you love, hoping that your lovers will love them, too. But as an artist I'm used to be alone a lot of the time. Alone and in silence is how best I hear those voices that lead me to poetry, to music, to visual art.

Loneliness is yearning in a way that solitude is not. Being solitary is complete of itself. Being in solitude is recharging, for people like me. When I'm alone, I usually don't yearn. I yearn more for company when I've had a recent fight with someone I care about, perhaps; and I yearn more for comfort when I'm suffering; and I yearn sometimes when I want to engage in something other than solo sex.

Loneliness is part of the spectrum of life, though. If it comes over you, savor it, experience it to the hilt, don't hold back. It's one of the bitter, more alkaline emotional flavors. Savor it. Don't try to mask it, or cover it over, with sweeter flavors. That does neither justice, and makes both hollow, in the long run. People who pretend to be happy all the time when clearly they're not do not serve themselves.

If I need to weep, for my own sake I must let it rain. And sometimes you get so filled with unspeakable joy, so full of feelings, that you can't say anything, words fail you. Don't hold anything back. It's only in letting it all happen, clean and honest like rainstorms and summer winds, that you cleanse yourself, and keep yourself from becoming mired.

I have to relearn what I once knew: Let it all out. Get it out of the body. Don't stifle it, and don't let it fester. Let it flow, in the moment, of the moment, and then when it's done, it's done. Harbor nothing. Save nothing. Just spend it all.

I know that lots of people in the rural culture I live in view that as impossible for themselves, that emotional flow, and they spend most of their lives suppressing their deepest feelings, especially in public. Not too much salt, never too much pepper. I know that I'm a heretic of deep feeling and intense living, here where I live. I've learned that I can't be any other way, and survive. For my own sake, I have to let it rain. And even when I'm feeling lonely, I have to feel lonely with every fiber of my being, knowing full well that I'll feel differently later, tomorrow, or some other day soon arriving.


  1. Feelings that sound familiar to me. I may be married but I still get lonely - not quite the depths I used to get to when there really seemed to be NOBODY - but hurting. I need alone time, too.

    I grew up in a small town, not a totally rural area, but moving to the city helped because there just are more opportunities for meeting & spending time with people who share interests. I still got depressed.

    It's okay not to get out of bed sometimes. I don't know that I want to feel the bad stuff to the hilt. Frankly, I find pretending I feel okay can make me feel better. Pretending to be happy is hard!

  2. There are days where all I can get to neutral buoyancy—not sinking, but not exactly happy—and that has to be enough. Pretending to be happy is hard, and at the moment it's toxic, too. I need to be what it is, at the moment.

    Overall, I basically agree with you on all counts.