A few titles of songs from my youth – “Alone Again Naturally”, “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry”, “Lonely, I’m Mr. Lonely”, “One Is The Loneliest Number”, “All By Myself”, And “Only The Lonely.” All of these song titles present the sad realization that being alone can put you in a lonely state.
I just wonder if being alone and being lonely is the same thing.
For a big portion of my life, I had an evergrowing family of 8 (complete with all their friends) which at some points seemed to bust out the walls of our house. It was crazy, busy, loud, and certainly not a time I felt lonely. However, I would actually crave for moments to just be by myself. I am sure all moms can relate to this. “I’ll be right back..I…need to…go to..the STORE. Yes, the store. I need…um…butter! Yes, I need butter! Gotta go, see ya!” And I’d run to my car like the next half an hour was a mini exotic cruise or luxury vacation. Throw in some loud music and a cup of coffee and my alone time was nothing short of epic. Alone and loving it.
Fast forward to present day empty nest and widowhood, where except for the times my grandkids are with me – it is quiet. Definitely not loud, and yes – at times I feel lonely. Wait. Didn’t I WANT to be alone? Wasn’t that my idea of a luxury vacation? Well, yes – and no.
I asked my friends for some of their thoughts on this – and ALL of them agreed that indeed being alone and being lonely are two different things, and yet they intertwine or weave in and out of each other. It is an interesting phenomenon to live through.
My good friend and writer Chris Mooney put it this way – “They are definitely different. But I don’t think lonely is always a negative. I think it’s a natural, normal part of life that doesn’t always mean something is wrong. It nudges us in a direction, like being hungry gets us to eat. However, I’ve been hungry right after eating a ton of food or forced myself not to eat in certain situations for health reasons. I had to learn what different types of lonely are for me, and when I need to do something about it.”
Alone But Not Lonely
What makes us want to be with another person? How does this contribute to our own personal well being? Well, it brings you comfort, tests your thought processes (bouncing ideas off of them), sharing joys and sorrows, laughing, moral support, comradery, sharing the same human emotions, understanding, a sense of belonging (they ‘get me’), sharing experiences like baking or walking or hugging, and a million other things, and just having the physical presence of another human being WITH me. The key tie that binds seems to be ‘sharing’.“Two are better than one because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down one can help the other up.” (Ecclesiastes 4:9,10).
What makes us want to be alone? How does this contribute to our own personal well being? Well, we all need a minute to regroup, to think; need to get ourselves together; we need ME time. In a loud and stress-filled world, we need peace and quiet! Maybe we need to pray or cry or vent or grieve in private. “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil for Thou art with me; your rod and your staff they comfort me.” (Psalm 23)
How then do we find a balance, and IS there one?
We all will travel the road of loneliness and being alone, either together or separate. I call it the ‘solo journey’. We all will experience having no one nearby to ask if our hair looks nice or if our coffee was strong enough. On the other hand, we could have hundreds of people complementing our hair and draining our coffee maker. Either or. You can be alone, and NOT be lonely. You can be lonely, and NOT be alone. I don’t think there is a golden buzzer answer here for loneliness but I DO think we can learn how we can benefit from our alone times.
Our soul is crying out for the intimacy of our Creator
I really REALLY try to see the glass half full. It is who I am. So if I am in a room full of people, I strive to enjoy every noise fulfilling moment of it. When I am in a room full of just me, myself and I, I strive to enjoy every purpose filled moment of it. We can truly learn to be content in whatever state we find ourselves in, and we can learn to see the purpose of whatever is currently happening in our life.
For me, the current alone season equals TIME to write. I have time to research and study and pray and cry and think and ponder and edit and dream and ALL of that translates into my writing. I could never have accomplished THIS with that evergrowing family of 8. To everything, there is a season. Strive to be happy no matter what.
If you find yourself in a season of being alone, yes you may also experience loneliness. Can I offer that perhaps loneliness is an internal call for us to go searching for our Beloved; that our soul is crying out for the intimacy of our Creator? You can have all the fame and all the accolades and shouts of adoration and STILL be lonely. Ask any movie star.
So then – being WITH people doesn’t necessarily solve the internal cry for companionship. At the end of the day, I think because we are created beings, that our soul is on a constant search for a relationship with our creator.
We are fulfilled NOT by the people around us, but FIRST by our God relationship within us. THIS fills the void. It then drives us out into the marketplace, and our into the world where we who once needed comfort will GIVE comfort. That comfort then bounces back to us.
Find joy that is internal and then the external can’t steal it away. That way you can be alone, but not lonely.