“Maybe I’m lonely. It’s all I’m qualified to be.” ~Meatloaf
I’ve been lonely my whole life. I have suffered long periods of loneliness and isolation broken up by brief periods of connection. It is a wound in my heart and soul that won’t ever heal…because it keeps getting ripped open again and again. I’m so tired of having to say good bye.
And yet, good bye is inherent in every hello, is it not? Everything that has a beginning has an end, too. Forever is an illusion born from wishful thinking. Impermanence, as any good Buddhist will tell you, is in the nature of all things. Or, if you prefer more modern mystics, I give you the immortal words of Guns N Roses: “Nothing lasts forever, even cold November rain.”
Knowing that something would end never stopped me from clinging to it. Even when it was unhealthy. Even when it was abusive. Even when I knew it was wrong, or unrequited, or simply just not a good fit.I never stopped myself from forming an attachment if it meant the loneliness would be held at bay for little while.
I never intended this post to be a crash course in Buddhism, but here we are. Attachments are the root of all suffering. Release your attachments; release your suffering. It’s really that simple. And it’s really that difficult, too.
I am not a Buddhist, and I am not qualified to teach you anything about it. I’ve read a few books, and I’ve talked to a few people who are Buddhist. That’s it. So, I’m going to leave that to the experts. All I know is myself, and my experience of life, so I’m going to stick with that.
My experience of life is that loneliness sucks. It is the worst pain that I know, and I’m something of an expert on pain. Don’t ask…just take my word for it. Loneliness hurts.
As we all know, human beings are social creatures. We are meant to be together. Historically speaking, humans don’t survive long when separated from the pack. The myth of the lone wolf is just that – a myth. Without connections and bonds, we wither and die.
I feel like I’ve never really lived because I’ve always been dying from the loneliness. It’s no wonder that I cling to anyone who gives me a brief respite from it…no matter how much poison is mixed in with the water they give. I lap it up, but when I can’t take the poison anymore I cough and gag and spit it out. But even when my poison tolerance is particularly high, something even worse happens. It gets taken away from me, and all I can think about is how much I will suffer until I can get another taste.
Over the years, I have tried many different ways to ease this suffering, to break this cycle of codependency and unhealthy attachment. I have been in and out of therapy my whole adult life. I have read self-help and psychology books. I have thrown myself into my music, my art, and my writing. I have meditated and prayed. I have studied nearly every religion and philosophy known to man, looking for answers. I have spent time in nature, and I have sat at the feet of gurus and wise men. I have (and still do) maintained several close, deep, nurturing friendships with really good people. All of these solutions work together to keep me (mostly) sane…like a patchwork quilt keeps people (mostly) warm.
As I write this, the entire world is suffering from a global pandemic that is forcing us to remain isolated from each other. Many people are staying home, trying to halt the spread of a deadly disease. We are separated from each other in an unprecedented fashion. People are lonely, and scared. Isolation has come to all of us.
Isolation has come to all of us, and it has brought suffering with it. Even people who usually enjoy their solitude are finding it difficult to stay home when it is forced upon them. The only real difference between pleasure and pain is consent. Even the most comfortable clothing chafes when one must wear it to the exclusion of all else.
And so, I finally find a purpose for my suffering. For if my life has any meaning, that meaning is to use my own experiences to help others, and thereby make the world a better place. If I can lessen the suffering of even one person, then all I have endured is worth it. With that in mind, I offer the following suggestions for surviving this difficult time:
- Consume as much art as possible.
- Create as much art as possible.
- Stay connected through social media, phone calls, Skype, etc.
- Take walks and go outside as much as possible.
- Open your windows and doors to get fresh air.
- Express your emotions. Cry, swear, punch a pillow, primal scream.
- Eat as healthily as possible, but when in doubt, eat that extra cookie.
- Exercise. Dance. Play. Move.
- If you are lucky enough to be sheltered with others, love them fiercely.
Above all else, be kind and gentle with yourself, and with everyone around you. Everyone is stressed, and everyone is suffering. Be extra kind and compassionate…you can never be too good to each other.