When It Comes for You: Why Feeling Lonely Is to Be Human.
Loneliness is a nocturnal creature. The pre-dawn hours become its hunting ground. It cares nothing for the other breathing bodies in the house.
I can feel its approach, a creeping of icicles and squeeze in the spaces between my ribs. The dark is its ally, a comforting traitor. This compelling tag team of burden presses me deeper into stillness, deeper into the imprints of my bed.
My body stations, but my mind begins to activate with flashes of statistics and headlines:
“Loneliness Shortens Lifespan as Much as Obesity.”
“Loneliness Kills — It Is as Bad as Smoking 15 Cigarettes a Day.”
“Loneliness Raises the Risk of Premature Death.”
All of a sudden, I can feel hours of life and health leaving me, the great sands of time spilling faster, faster.
Little flares of desperation begin to erupt and I suddenly think I can out-breathe this loneliness, that if I change positions enough, that I can wriggle from its grasp. But these movements soon feel futile and I know better. Loneliness and I have been at this play long enough to know this is a three-hour kind of wakefulness. I must bear witness to the arch of feeling it all the way through.
Getting out of bed, I navigate the maze of the furry black bodies at my feet. I head to the sanctuary of the bathroom to give loneliness my full and undivided attention. It doesn’t want me to suffer, it just wants my presence. To stop evading its full weight. To listen up.
It tells me that we are connected yet alone. This is the loneliness of knowing we are all leaving for our own imminent annihilation. The loneliness of separate skin and individual barriers of perception.
The great sadness of knowing we will be separated from our most intimate ones, to partake in the dance of endings and beginnings. To know the reality of coming together and then falling apart.
This is the loneliness of knowing some relationships have shrunken, their life force surely unbreakable, now easily rips away. Time and distance stretching us thin. Testing the cords of what once seemed so strong.
This is also the loneliness of not feeling seen. The isolation of not following the horde, of not always being understood. To walk the edge of yourself with only your own hand to hold.
Then I stop, knowing that the night-mind is a seductive conspirator. It feels alive, attentive to my ramblings, excitedly convincing. Every urgent contemplation argues its logic and importance. I wonder if there will be any scraps of these thoughts in the morning.
But loneliness wants to come for me again, the wild puppet of a Chinese dragon, mouth empty and clacking, shaggy fur waving silver in the moonlight. It is still hungry. Lying upon me, its bulk is the undeniable stone of sorrow.
It wants me to feel more. It reminds me that under all of the busy distractions of life, all of the surface niceties and casual chatter, there is the void underneath. The termites have eaten away the scaffolding, now what is left below?
The point is this emptiness, to be emptied out yet again, in so many ways. To have nothing to rest on. To be kicked out of the cradle. To not know. Who do you think you are anyway?
With this thought, my husband flips the bathroom light on. “What are you doing?” his incredulous voice doing nothing to hide his concern that I am sitting on the cold bathroom floor in the middle of the night, writing away with my flashlight. “Aren’t you tired?” Like what could possibly possess you to want to sit on this floor in the dark? I just nod.
Of course I’m tired, tired, tired… its resonance echoing through my head. But I am sitting with loneliness right now.
Gratefully, the light switches back off.
I look through the skylight and into the night’s abyss. There are no answers, no rights or wrongs, just the truth of feeling. Maybe we are all actually together in our separateness. That to feel the touch of loneliness at times is to palpate our humanness. Maybe it is not loneliness that is so dangerous after all, but isolation. That I can feel alone sometimes even when I am surrounded by those who love me tight.
Maybe loneliness is just conspiring with the stars, knowing there would be no other way I would get up to see them. With all of their beauty winking, they pull me to them for a while. Resting with their wisdom just long enough for loneliness to fade, just long enough to let my pillow dry, just long enough to trust that sleep will come instead.
Kendra Ward is a writer/teacher/healer, braiding these roles like sweetgrass to wear as a crown on her head. She stirs a black cauldron that holds her loves of energy medicine, eco-spirituality, and shamanism. She is currently finishing her first book, Mystic’s Revolution: Freedom in Feminine Confidence, taking your inner rebellion into the outer world. For the last 15 years, she has taken joy in her work as an acupuncturist and herbalist, in mossy Portland, OR. Learn more about Kendra at her website, or connect with her on Facebook or Instagram.