For the Lonely

This is what I wish someone had told me when I was lonely. It's what I say to myself during lonely moments, now that I understand that I am not the way that I feel. I am who I am, no more and no less.

Feelings come and go. You know this. You know sometimes you can go from being happy to absolutely devastated in a heartbeat, for no reason at all. Sometimes there is a "real" reason for it, like a sad piece of news, but sometimes there doesn't seem to be any reason at all. Am I right? 

Feelings come and go, that's just their nature. Of course they are precious, of course what so many of us long for is to just feel something, anything to let us know we are still alive. But this doesn't mean that the feelings have to necessarily mean anything or serve any purpose other than to teach you or remind you that you are alive. 

Something I really struggled with growing up was when my feelings weren't acknowledged by others. Sometimes that's still a struggle for me, but I'm growing more sure every day of the fact that my feelings are valid simply because I am feeling them. Sure, it's nice to share with a friend sometimes. But I don't have to share a feeling for it to be real. I have all the power I need to say, "Hello, feeling. I see you." 

And another thing, you can't make feelings stay or go. The difference between joy and happiness is something I've been pondering lately. Here's what I think: happiness is a feeling. It comes and goes as it pleases. Often compared to a butterfly, it is fleeting and chasing after it is the worst way to actually touch it. Joy, though, is a state of being. It's a state of contentment, of realizing life is happening right this very second. It's a state of inner peace. For me, joy is feeling my roots. It's the weight of gravity holding me down. It's the warmth in my fingers (my fingers are only cold when I'm anxious, not present in the moment... or when it's really cold out, obviously). 

Happiness is coming home to a house full of puppies and Christmas lights. Joy is knowing I am home, even when I wake from a nightmare in the pitch-black, freezing cold apartment. Joy is walking down Main St. without anxiety because with every step and breath, I know I am home in my own body. 

You can't be happy all the time, but you can experience joy all the time. Like experiencing suffering all the time, joy takes practice to become a habitual state of being. I think suffering is more tempting because it is more openly recognized in today's cultures. There are messages of need and want and suffering and caution everywhere you look. Society is constantly validating your suffering. Where do we see true joy validated publicly? There is no advertising to tell us that we already have- already are all that we need. That wouldn't make anyone very much money, would it? 

I want you to know it's okay to feel lonely. If you try to hide from the feeling or pretend it isn't there, it will only cry louder. You've got to comfort this loneliness. Recognize her. Tell her you see her, tell her she's okay. Let her know you are listening to her. Listen to why she is here, what made you feel lonely? If it is something that you can change, change it. If it is not, just let that loneliness know you understand her pain. Give her permission to rest, just for a little while. When the time feels right, open the door of your heart and show the loneliness out. Feelings demand to be felt, but you don't have to allow them to take up permanent residence in your heart. 

You are loved. 

You are so loved. 

You may feel lonely, but I promise you are not alone. 

Sometimes you've got to reach out. I know it's hard, but life is very busy. Everyone carries burdens, and you can't always see them. Your mother, your friend, your brother, they all have burdens you know nothing about, just like you have burdens they don't know about. Just because they seem happy, light as a feather, without a care in the world, doesn't mean that is so. Forgive them for not noticing, and then ask for their help. Ask for their love and comfort. It's okay to ask for help. 

You are not annoying. 

Your loneliness might annoy you. You might feel clingy or needy, but you are not. You are not annoying. You are not needy, you have needs. It's okay to have needs. Everything takes time to learn, you can learn to meet many of your own needs if you just start practicing.

Start today. It won't be easy, but you don't have to do it all at once. Do one thing, one tiny thing to meet a need you have. Do it today, do it every day for the next week. Then reflect on it. Did anything change? Decide whether this thing is worth doing again for another day, and each day decide if you will do it again. You're not going to transform over night, but you can always take the first step. 

I believe in you.

This feeling won't last forever. It really won't. 

When I was lonely, I felt like I literally couldn't get out of bed. I couldn't move. Opening my eyes, checking my phone was too much effort because the loneliness weighed on me so heavily. But you know what? I have taught myself a tiny level of discipline, and that has made so much difference. I'm not saying your fatigue or exhaustion isn't real. If you truly cannot do something, I am not pushing you to do it. This is not medical advice. But ask yourself this one question, and then answer with complete honesty: What could you do today? 

Could you reach for the ceiling and then bend down to touch your toes when you get up to use the restroom? (Even lonely people who stay in bed all day have to pee sometimes. I know.) 

Could you create a playlist, or borrow one, and play it for a little while each day? Something gentle, a little sad, beautiful, and mildly encouraging works best for me. Pick what would work for you. (The Most Beautiful Songs in the World and Your Favorite Coffeehouse are two of my favorites on Spotify if you need recommendations.) 

Could you step outside, maybe walk around your building once today? You can go in pajamas, you don't have to fix your hair. Can you just get your body a quick bit of fresh air today? 

Could you bake something today, in pajama pants and your favorite sweater? Something easy? 

Start with those little things. Think about little things that delighted you before your loneliness set in. Is there anything you can commit to doing today? Can you say to yourself, "yes, I feel lonely. I feel sad and my heart aches. I feel a little numb... but I still have a body and this body needs my care. Even though I feel lonely, I am going to stretch when I get out of bed. Even though I feel lonely, I am going to step outside and look at the sky tonight." 

I am sorry you are carrying the heavy burden of loneliness; I wish there was more I could do to help you out, but there isn't. You are strong enough for this. You can do it. Even if your one thing is to take a very deep breath in and then exhale for a long time, three times or even only once each day, that is something. This is how you grow strong. This is how you learn that you can trust yourself. 

You are trustworthy. 

You are strong.

You are worth the effort. Life is worth the effort. 

Nobody can cure loneliness, but you can learn to make friends with it. She's not so bad, once you get to know her and once you establish some boundaries. Boundaries are important in any friendship. Let loneliness know when you've got to get back to your daily life. If she insists on sticking around, let her know she'll be running errands with you because you've got things to do. 

One final tip I have is this: when you are feeling lonely, acknowledge it as it is. "I feel lonely." not I am lonely. You are you, you are not Lonely. You are you, and you are feeling lonely. Remember your soul, the essence of who you are in whatever form you believe it exists... That is you. You are not the human embodiment of loneliness, no matter how tragic and poetic that might sound. You are you. You are not Loneliness. You are simply feeling it. Maybe that is silly, ignore it if you like. But it works for me. 

If you ever need to talk, I will be here to listen. 

I wish you all the joy in the world.