In A Grief Observed CS Lewis describes the many facets of grief, not in the cold analytical manner of a scientist or psychologist but in the way of a man whom has just lost his wife. Through this mixture of diary and commentary comes an almost unbearable exposition of the nature and evolving monologue of grief. It is one of the most poignant, devastating and empathic books I have ever read. In her blog-post Are you lonesome tonight?, @seamusandmaggie openly discusses her feelings of loneliness, and her inability to communicate that loneliness to those around her. This inhibition is in itself both a consequence and a cause, she cannot communicate for fear of rejection, for fear that those she opens up to will not respond or understand her, nor does she wish to burden them with her feelings and emotions. By not doing so she continues to distance herself from what she needs most.
As in A Grief Observed, and when looked at objectively, we can see that there are several threads and many faces to the word loneliness. It means many things to many people, and can mean a number of them at the same time. I know, I have felt them strike me with particular vigour on more than a few occasions.
What strikes me most about @seamusandmaggie's post, beyond the honesty contained within it, is the resonance it has had amongst her audience. Lesleykim hits the nail on the head with her comment about 'connections'. This is fundamental to the concept of loneliness. As the Orange ad pithily declares "We are who are because of...".
I am me. Genetics, heritage, culture, the choices I make and that uniqueness attributable who knows what help define me. Yet I am nothing without the people I have formed relationships with over the years; they have challenged me, grown me, pushed and pulled and twisted me from whatever I could have been into what I am. My thoughts, opinions and personalities have been strengthened, resolved, changed, destroyed and built by these people, and I would do them an injustice not to acknowledge that.
Fundamentally, despite all these interactions, these connections, I am alone. I always will be.
I have a theory about boundaries that pretty much defines the way I think and feel about things. One day, if you are dreadfully unlucky, I will endeavour to share it with you. When and if I do, this might make more sense.
We are defined by the boundaries above (and more), those very boundaries define who and what we are, no matter how mutable they may be. Between each of us exists a vast space of singular experience, a gap defined by our differences, and yet that gap is bridged in many places by shared experience, by understanding, compassion and empathy. In @seamusandmaggies' post, the very wall of loneliness shows itself breached by the understanding of her audience, in that there is some comfort. The fear is, as she rightly states, that people retreat back into their 'bubbles' as if the bridge was never made.
Connectivity links us all, to a lesser or greater degree. We form friendships, emnities and loves based on those connections, on the belief that that the person so linked has a deeper, stronger understanding of who we are, of what we are. The absence of such is loneliness and it is a fearsome demanding beast. At its height it dictates a level of commonality and connectivity that is rare indeed. Loneliness has no sense of mercy, it simply is and wants and needs and all other considerations, all other bridges and connections are deemed unworthy of remembrance. 'I know, deep inside, that I have people who care, and who love me, and would listen'. @seamusandmaggie demonstrates this beautifully, what you know is irrelevant in the face of loneliness. It does not matter what is, but what isn't.
Loneliness thrives on fear, the fear that you throw out a hand and there is no other hand to grasp it, to pull you in and hug you. It lives because we believe we are not strong enough to cope with another rejection, with another temporary, fleeting fix. It holds us back from taking the risk of another's beneficence and thus we perpetuate the problem. We do not build the bridges for fear that there is nothing at the other end. Or that there is nothing to come back.
Loneliness is about being needed as much as needing. Because we do not build and connect, we lose the opportunity for an intimacy of experience and trust, and for someone to turn to us and hold out a hand in need.
The Girl posits that, should the worst come to the worst, I will be perfectly happy on my own, that I would cope. She is, on many levels, correct. However, even when surrounded by friends and family I feel am perpetually alone. I can feel the gap and the boundaries between you and I, and a bridge built will not last.
But she does not see the times when I stand in the house empty, the tremendous draining energy of loneliness stripping me bare or when I sit in a cafe or walk the streets and witness the flickering intimacy between groups of friends and so on and I feel like screaming in useless, needless rage.
I don't know if I have anyone that I can talk to in the way I probably need to, and I don't think I have had for a very long time. It is the nature of me and my loneliness to be so, and with that comes a fierce gladness and a savage sadness.
In many ways, I am who I am because of loneliness.
Loneliness has so many faces, it is the lack of common-a-day connectivity, the lack of reinforcement of shared experience between friends, the missing of a loved one (human or otherwise) or the sharing of the heart and spirit with another. It, like grief, lurks in so many places and has a way of revealing itself when least expected, in many different forms.
@seamusandmaggie leaves us not with hope, but with a sense of forlorn sadness strangely at odds with her upbeat and persevering nature. It is left to Lesleykim to remind us that connectivity is vital, and that it, too, can be found in many unexpected places.