On Feeling Alone

Friends on a BeachI don’t care how many friends you have or how many heart-to-heart talks you manage with your loved ones, I think we all have moments when we feel alone. Moments when we’re stuck inside an emotion that we don’t see any possibility of sharing. Or when we’re thinking thoughts we have no way to convey. These are moments when we keenly feel our separateness from others, our isolation in our own heads and hearts. It can be a deeply troubling experience.

I had a moment like this a few weeks ago. I don’t remember what caused it, but I remember sitting on my bed, staring out the window at the desolate winter landscape, and starting to cry as I thought, “I feel so lonely.”

But, unlike other times I’ve felt this way, I found myself mentally replying to this statement in a kind, understanding voice that said, “Of course you do.”

Huh?

“That’s the reality of physical, earthly, biological life,” I continued. “Separation. You feel deprived of the unity that you feel when you’re in your normal spiritual state. But separation is the reason you came to Earth. To have this experience, so that later you can have the joyful, ecstatic experience of being reunited–entirely and completely–with the ones you love.”

These ideas, I’m sure, came partly from some things I’ve recently been reading: primarily, accounts of near-death experiences. But the application to the question of loneliness seemed new. I didn’t recall reading any discussions of the reasons for loneliness, but when I thought about it, it seemed obvious. The physical world, in which we are each localized to a particular body in space, is inherently a world of separation. In this world, we can’t share our thoughts and feelings with one another directly. Whether we share them through words, or through arts like music or painting, or through the sense of touch, the connection is always mediated by something. Sound waves. Skin. It’s never literally heart to heart, or soul to soul.

And yet I’ve often felt a longing for a more direct connection. Something you might call communion. Unity. I’ve wanted to share myself, and share in others’ thoughts and feelings, without having to use words or any other hopelessly inadequate tool. And when I spoke to myself that day in the bedroom, it was like some more knowledgeable part of myself was affirming that desire. Affirming that it was natural. And that it would one day be satisfied.

I’m not interested in arguing for any particular view of spirituality or the nature of the non-physical world. What’s important to me is that a lot of people do feel this loneliness I’m talking about and desire a deeper, more intimate sort of communion with others. It seems to me that, if there is hope in this world, if there is something good and beautiful at the root of all things, then there must be the possibility of that deep communion.

The power of the idea that communion is our natural state and that it’s natural to long for it was evident in its effect on me. As soon as I said these things to myself, I felt worlds better. I had just been crying, but suddenly I leapt from the bed, filled with new energy and ready to get on with life. I realized that, in my loneliness, I’d been worried that something was wrong. That the sense of separation I felt was an indication of failure. And that it might mean I was condemned to this state of isolation forever. But then I had the realization that this sense of separation was part of a plan, and was only temporary. My true state was to be joined, heart and soul, to the other people I love. That state of communion was just being obscured for a little while, in order for me to have this experience of earthly life, with its unique opportunities. It was akin to taking a trip somewhere on your own, just to see what it’s like. You get a little homesick, sure, but you don’t let that worry you, since you know you’ll be back home before long. As soon as I thought of things in these terms, I wasn’t sad any longer.

The truth of spiritual teachings, I believe, is most clearly evidenced by their effects. They are good teachings if they bring about love, hope, and joy: the “fruits of the Spirit.” The fruit of this personal talking-to was great hope and energy. That’s why I’m inclined to believe that it points to something deeply real. That we are not meant to be alone. That moments of loneliness are just that: moments. But our eternal destiny is something much, much more.

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18 thoughts on “On Feeling Alone

  1. I am convinced, as you are, that this feeling is widespread. My own term to describe our situation is ‘exile.’

    Wordsworth’s greatest poem – Ode on the Intimations of Immortality – absolutely captures it much of it for me. For example:

    Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
    The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
    Hath had elsewhere its setting,
    And cometh from afar:

    Perhaps he feels the connection more with nature than with human beings, but the essence of the feeling is the same. The whole of creation is connected but we can hardly feel it anymore from within our physical bodies. As you say, knowing this means we need not feel abnormal because sometimes we are so sad for no apparent reason.

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts on this subject.

    • I knew it was going to be valuable to have a poet following this blog! Thank you so much for this Wordsworth quotation. It’s so perfectly apt. As are your own comments. I especially appreciate your statement, “The whole of creation is connected but we can hardly feel it anymore from within our physical bodies.”

  2. I commune with you on this one. ( Oy forgive my utter dorkyness) but in all seriousness, I do so very much relate to what you write about and I applaud you for being brave enough to not only share your loneliness but also the remedy. It’s not something so many people talk about (near death, after life, reincarnation) and it’s something I very much subscribe to. Did you see the move Made in Heaven with Kelly McGinnis? It’s one of my favorite movies ever (haven’t seen it in years) and if you haven’t seen it, you might really enjoy it based on what I read in this post.

    • I almost put the word ‘reincarnation’ in this post, but I chickened out! I didn’t want to scare away people who might otherwise identify with what I was saying. But the many true stories I’ve read lead me to believe that it is a real thing. And your recommendation of Made in Heaven in connection with this post make it a must-see for me. I’m going to look for it on Netflix now. 🙂 Thank you!

  3. One more for the poetic-minded:

    Codex

    It was a late book given up for lost
    again and again with its sentences

    bare at last and phrases that seemed transparent
    revealing what had been there the whole way

    the poems of daylight after the day
    lying open at last on the table

    without explanation or emphasis
    like sounds left when the syllables have gone

    clarifying the whole grammar of waiting
    not removing one question from the air

    or closing the story although single lights
    were beginning by then above and below

    while the long twilight deepened its silence
    from sapphire through opal to Athena’s iris

    until shadow covered the gray pages
    the comet words the book of presences

    after which there was little left to say
    but then it was night and everything was known

    (I do not know the author because I found this poem taped up on the wall of a cafe.)

  4. Dear Sharon,

    It indeed is a brave post. In present day we are so afraid of being alone that we check our cell phones even at the shortest traffic signals, there is a panic that gets triggered the moment we are left alone. we don’t seem to listen to our own self, let alone others while we are all making constant noise. All of this obviously makes one want to find, a better way of communication, a much deeper connection. while I am not sure if it can only be attained post death, but I know this is the reason why I meditate.

    Regards,
    PS

    • You are so right to point out that there are ways of experiencing this deep connection that don’t require death. They may be few and far between, but I do think the possibility exists in things like meditation or other spiritual experiences. I’ve certainly caught glimpses of it, and that’s part of what makes me so hopeful.

  5. Dear Sharon, I needed this post today and for the last month. You have validation to the humaness in each of us. We crave that ultimate connectedness..and sometimes it is in a room of people.

    You are a deep thinker. I look forward to reading more!

    • You’re right: sometimes it’s in a room full of people. It’s amazing how we can be so close physically and mentally so far. And then other times we can be incredibly close in spirit to someone thousands of miles away….

  6. “You get a little homesick, sure, but you don’t let that worry you, since you know you’ll be back home before long” — I’ve thought this, too, and it definitely makes me feel better.

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