You can’t write about a subject like this unless you are going through it, or have gone through it. And why should I be lonely? I am surrounded by people. I am almost never
physically alone. Lately, nonetheless, I have been afflicted with loneliness, often intense loneliness. Perhaps its because I am going through things in my life that are difficult to share.
Loneliness is like a cancer. It eats away at you from inside. It is rooted in desire. You desire not just companionship, but a certain type of companionship. It reminds me of my time, many years ago, on the road. I had frequent, though fleeting, sexual liaisons with those I met in passing, but these relationships did nothing to assuage my loneliness. Nor did having people around me. For example, during my time at the firefighting camp in Northern California I was surrounded by all kinds of people, but I felt no kinship, no bond, with any of them. My loneliness was something deep, something elemental. I knew not what I sought or what would satisfy it, but I could not rest until I found it. The loneliness debilitated me as would a disease. It made me restless, dissatisfied, full of angst and despair, unable to fit in anywhere though I kept searching for a place to belong.
Solitude, on the other hand, is energizing. Artists, philosophers, priests, prophets, all
seek solitude at some time or other. Sometimes warriors seek solitude on the eve of battle. Solitude is a good thing. It gives calm, perspective, and peace of mind. It bestows inner strength. Invariably, if sought with the right motive and under the right circumstances, a person who finds solitude will be better afterwards for it.
But what is the difference between loneliness and solitude? Merely a twist of the
mind. And it came to me recently, as I have been struggling with an intense, gut-wrenching feeling of loneliness, that perhaps I could turn my negative loneliness into positive solitude, that is, something to be desired and sought after rather than something to work through and get over with or past. Often people who crave solitude cannot find it. Here I am in the position of feeling more alone than I want to feel. Why not reach out and grasp the touchstone of decision, of free will, and turn my leaden loneliness into the gold of solitude? After all, I cannot force decisions upon others. It is only myself I can control, and that imperfectly. But at least I can choose not to despair, and instead relish the opportunity that has been presented to me. It will not last. It never does. But while I am alone, or at least feel alone, I should make the best of it, not the worst of it. I will turn my chains into wings, my despair into hope, my tragedy into triumph. I will not weep for myself, nor for others. I will contemplate, I will pray, I will plan, I will dream. In the Book of Proverbs it says, “The righteous man falls seven times and rises up again.” So I will. So I will, once again. And as often as I must.