I have been lonely all my life.
I was writing that to a friend of 30 years standing the other night and found myself weeping uncontrollably.
Loneliness is not depression. I have had my fair share of the latter and written about it extensively. Depression is an illness that is out of one’s control. Yes, you can have therapy, you can take drugs to try to control it, but, at the end of the day, the despair that is the heart of the sickness is a beast that chooses you. Any time. Any place. You don’t get to decide when it is going to be unleashed.
But loneliness. That’s different.
Let me say at the outset that I have a wonderful family and a ton load of amazing friends, many of whom I know are there for me 24/7. Some of those friends have known me for 30 plus years, and, in the case of my closest school friends, 40 plus. I am truly blessed in my relationships.
This isn’t a great place to be right now, though. Mid-fifties, single, female, pretty much broke, and always feeling on the periphery of everyone else’s circle. Everyone has a partner, children, grandchildren, dogs, and there are days when life feels like a conspiracy of togetherness holding up a NO ENTRY sign to you alone.
Aloneness is something I have chosen. I have a solitary job, am totally at ease in my own company, and love the freedom that not being married or being a parent brings. I am extremely close to my friends’ children, who, I am sure, would soon go off me if I were their real parent. They would soon see that what they currently regard as the epitome of cool and the “I wish Jaci was my mother” syndrome would transform in an instant into “I didn’t ask to be born!” reaction in response to my “What time d’you call this?!” if they had sprung from my loins.
Loneliness is different, though, and, it might be a cliché, but you can be lonely in a relationship, too; given the choice, I would rather be single and lonely than married and lonely.
Something happened this week that suddenly made the pain of loneliness so tangible, I just wanted to try to define what it is. It feels self-indulgent to do so, because, after all, it’s not a life-threatening illness, and people go through far worse. But, as a society, we are not good at recognising emotional pain, which is why, when people commit suicide, so many remain baffled as to what could have been the reasons behind it.
I have written elsewhere in my blogs about that kind of despair, but loneliness is harder to categorise. When I was in NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming), my therapist (Martin Weaver – check him out, he’s great) noted my physical movements when I was describing emotional pain. So, this week, I watched it. Loneliness, for me, is two clenched hands pressed against a tide of sadness in my chest. But maybe that’s every kind of sadness. It’s the heart. And the heart is the spring of everything. Good and bad.
This has been a bad week. I don’t want to go into detail, but this is the lowest. It really is. And it’s only Tuesday. Blake Snyder, whose screenwriting book Save the Cat, first brought me to the US, would call it the “All Is Lost” moment on page 75 of a screenplay, followed by “Dark Night of the Soul”. But, ten pages later, there’s the “Break Into Three” – the solution. Oh, Blake. I miss you so much. But you’re still there. Talking me through the loneliness.
I don’t have a solution to anything I’m going through at the moment, but I am blessed in my friends who get me through the darkness and who, despite their busy lives, are there for me.
Someday soon, I hope I’ll break into Act Three.
Synthesis. I’ll get there, Blake.
I just might have to re-visit Act Two to sort it all out.