“Language has created the word loneliness to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word solitude to express the glory of being alone.” —Paul Johannes Tillich
Many years ago, a wise old man told me that the source of my pain would some day become the source of my joy. I didn’t understand. There were too many tears at the time; too much anger.
I was deep in grief. I was busy with recriminations, placing blame on anything, anyone who had caused such chaos in my life. I blamed myself mostly for having been so dumb and naïve in the middle of the obvious.
The blow had been severe. It was sudden, unexpected.
It was incredibly difficult to resume living. I only knew how to think in terms of “we.” I could not make plans for myself. I didn’t know how. Even my cooking prowess suffered a huge setback. How does one cook for one person alone? (Brings to mind the song, “one less bell to answer, one less egg to fry,” doesn’t it?)
When the pain is still fresh, one seeks distractions to take the mind and heart to more pleasant pastimes. We crave company, for anyone’s presence, rather than be confronted with our aloneness. God forbid it should be quiet.
But nothing, no other person or place, no sound, no wine nor magic potion can draw our thoughts away from the agony of the moment. But because God is gracious, no one dies from a broken heart. And this is true: what does not kill you makes you stronger.
Time, which we sometimes perceive to be our worst enemy, always proves to be a loyal friend. What seems endless during the bad times does come to an end. If this were not true, I would not be here today, hammering on my faithful PC, in the hope of leaving footprints to guide some mindless romantic who may follow me on that convoluted bumpy road to nowhere.
What a joyful day it was when I found that it was, after all, a wonderful thing to plan just for “me.” I discovered a precious treasure called “me time.” And I loved it.
Slowly I began to appreciate the quiet moments. I started to look forward to a respite from work, from socials, even from the company of friends. There was a time and place for all these, but I longed for quiet time.
I now sought silence. I listened to my own musings. Some of them were actually funny. If tears ever surfaced, I let them flow. I didn’t care if people saw me. I stopped caring what they would say. I didn’t bother to hide.
It was during these times that I prayed. Not your traditional repetitious drone; but heartfelt, sincere, “are you listening God?” type of prayers. It was a plea for sanity, for clarity, for peace; a desperate appeal for a lifeline.
I know now, that the sweet quiet voice I thought I heard was His. We are never alone.
Our happiness should not depend on someone else. Happiness is within each one of us. We only need to tap it, confident that we can handle whatever life throws our way.
There is a saying in Spanish, “Mas vale sola que mal acompañada.” (This comes from an African proverb, “It is better to travel alone than with a bad companion.”) Although this offers no comfort on a cold night, there is a lot of truth in what it says.
I have asked several “blessedly single” friends what is the top perk of being free of emotional entanglements. The most common answer (especially among women) is that one can come and go as one pleases; that no one asks for an accounting of your every move, and no one asks where you have gone or where you are going.
But one lady disagreed. “That’s a non-perk,” she remarked. “I find it sad not to have anyone ask me where I’m going, or where I have been. It makes me feel that nobody cares.” True, too.
That just goes to show that no condition is perfect. What makes one blissfully happy can make another person totally glum. Life can be so complex! But there is a reason for everything.
Just because a person is alone does not mean that she/he is lonely. Sometimes loneliness overwhelms us even in the middle of a crowd. I have known married couples that are lonely together. There is hardly any communication between them. It’s a grunt here and a sigh there type of conversation.
Loneliness is a temporary condition usually caused by the absence of a meaningful person. It is often the result of divorce, the break-up of a long relationship. Sometimes it sets in after a simple thing, like moving to another location.
What is the color of loneliness? If I were a painter, I would dip my brushes in somber and gloomy grays. My strokes would be dark and heavy.
Solitude is a deliberate choice. It provides a form of freedom. They say the richest and most successful relationships are those that understand and allow one another some measure of solitude. It is the time we recharge, and have room to grow, rest, think, and work without being disturbed. Our creative juices are allowed to flow, unhindered and free. It is the time that we can discover who we are.
I would paint solitude in light pastels. I see tall green trees, a placid lake and deep purple mountains in the horizon. It is peaceful, quiet and restful. I see me. I am happy there.
“The best remedy for those who are afraid, lonely, or unhappy is to go outside somewhere where they can be quiet, alone with the heavens, nature and God. Because only then does one feel that all is as it should be.”—Anne Frank