Sunday, December 14, 2014

The temporal death that is loneliness:

As a child, I equated loneliness with being alone. It wasn't so much that if you were alone, you were lonely but, rather, that you could only be lonely when you were alone. People are the cure for the disease that is loneliness. This is what I thought.

But as an adult, I now recognise that loneliness is no respecter of persons or relationships. Most of those times that loneliness has weighed heaviest on me are moments when I am quite literally surrounded by people. Because there is not just one type of loneliness. There are dozens, perhaps even hundreds of lonelinesses.

There is the loneliness of being in the middle of a crowd that is engaged in watching or singing or being, and you are somehow disconnected from it all. There is the loneliness of being at a gathering where everyone is sharing and talking and laughing, but you can't speak because tears are close to the surface and to speak would make them spill over. Then there is its counterpart, that other, seemingly irrational loneliness that hopes someone will intuitively know what's up, seek you out, help -- care.

There is the loneliness of evolving friendships, of someone who was once very dear in your life slowly moving out of it. There is the loneliness of not having someone's hand to hold as the clock ticks over midnight and the fireworks blaze up into technicolour life. There is the loneliness of heading north while everyone else is headed south. There is the loneliness of someone saying "I wish I could help you," and then the deeper loneliness of someone saying, "I don't want to help you."

There is loneliness in unfulfilled expectations. There is loneliness in having to keep quiet when you want to speak. There is loneliness in fighting a battle that no one else around you is fighting. There is loneliness in the dying off of traditions. There is loneliness in frailty and loneliness in weakness. There is the loneliness of someone laughing at your dream, and the loneliness of endless rain.

There are perhaps as many different lonelinesses as there are happinesses, and each one of them feels like a small death -- a death of belonging, a death of hope, a death of security. But perhaps that is the very thing that is redemptive about loneliness, too: that just as it can come out of nowhere and make your throat tighten with unfelt feelings and uncried tears, so too can happiness. Just as unexpected, just as powerful.

In the loneliness, though, joy feels far away. Joy feels impossible. In those moments, I have to talk to my soul, to remind it that tomorrow, or next week, or next month, the sun will come out. I remind my soul that loneliness is a side effect of being human. I'm lonely because I'm alive -- which is, after all, the complete opposite of death.

[this post was inspired by the Life Captured Project]


  1. I can so relate to this... being disconnected from those around you and having people laugh at your dreams are ones that really resonated with me. Thankyou for this post, Danielle, because yet another form of loneliness is thinking that nobody can understand how I am feeling. What a relief to discover that someone else does understand and can put it into words for me! :)

  2. One of my favorite rhetorical theorists is Kenneth Burke, who argued that we, as people, are NOT fundamentally driven by trying to persuade each other, but by trying to connect with each other - a process he called identification. He said that "identification is compensatory to division;" that it is our fundamental motivation because we are separated from each other. So we use language to connect.

    Beautiful post, and particularly fitting for advent, as we ponder our division from God and the baby born do that we might have connection with Him.

  3. Then there is its counterpart, that other, seemingly irrational loneliness that hopes someone will intuitively know what's up, seek you out, help -- care.

    Ack. This. So relate to this post.

  4. That is very well said, especially the parts about being lonely while in the midst of people. I know I can feel perfectly content on my own and yet completely separate from people in a crowd. It reminds me of my orientation day for uni, where you would think that barely anyone could know anyone else, yet there I was, surrounded by a cloud of chatter while I just sat there and wondered how everyone managed it.

    Loneliness can be difficult or it can be just what we need at any given time. And as you say, it doesn't necessarily last forever.

    (It's good to see you back on your blog, too. It must have been experiencing its own form of bloggy loneliness without you! :D )

  5. Thanks for including the link to the Life Capture Project, by the way. That's a great website!

  6. You speak the words of my heart lately. I can be in a crowd of people and feel that loneliness creep up on me. It's so hard not being able to 'connect' with anyone. I miss having special friends near and dear to me. It's particularly lonely because I never thought we'd go our own separate ways; I thought we'd be together forever.
    I'm praying for the sun to come out in your life and in mine. *Hugs*


  7. This is my first comment on your blog. As a man I'm going to be a thorn among the roses on here. Keep up the good work.

  8. Danielle! This is Grace (peaceinyou from LJ a long time ago). Even though I've stopped blogging, I come back to yours occasionally, and I always find myself just enjoying your words and the sweet spirit they portray.

    This is a drive-by comment, but I've been reading your blog for about an hour, and I've thoroughly enjoyed it.

    Bless you! <3

  9. A very belated comment to send you some big hugs! xx


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