The path winds and twists ahead. I breathe in the musky pine air and feel the soft moss-covered ground support my steps. The birds beckon me with their trills and tweets. I pause to sit on a sturdy wood carved bench forcing myself into my meditation to-do. Instead, the tears gather at the corners of my eyes afraid to budge. In the shallow first second, I want to laugh believing that the welling wetness in my eyes is born from the ever-present frustration I carry of not being able to quiet my mind. (Ever). But as I sit with my senses acutely awake, I feel it first, and then my brain concedes. I am lonely.
This concession feels like weakness wrapping me in a too-tight cocoon and I want to resist it with the determined resoluteness that drives me through most of my days. I am reminded of a friend who just a week before confessed his own struggle with singlehood after an unexpected health scare. In his vulnerability I admired his strength. I ducked out from under the double standard I had applied to myself and let my heart soften and tears fall.
By nature, my ten-out-of-ten on the introverted scale sends me regularly into solitude. I hand-stitch, read Jane Eyre, piece together puzzles, and dance with no one watching – literally. I restore my batteries and burst into being the boss, parenting my teens, and litigating the law. Luxuriating in these forms of loneliness trick me into believing I am immune from intimacy. Rarely do I look at, let alone acknowledge, my own deep-seeded needs.
My need for a hand to hold was lightheartedly put on my 2022 goal list when I was filling out a goal book and my over-achieving type-A cells didn’t want to leave a line blank – so “hold someone’s hand on a walk” was identified in the romance goal slot. My dear friend’s eyebrows lifted in surprise when we shared our sheets. “I was going for realistic – too much?” We laughed.
Here, now, seated on this bench, I think how nice it might be for someone to help shield the sting of heartbreak this season is bringing me with my oldest daughter soon graduating from high school, and my youngest struggling in the tempest throws of being 15. I know well how I could likewise support a partner being always the cheerleading optimist and loyal lover. And while this feels nothing like the loneliness I endured in my failed marriage, my heart hurts with the longing for shared affection.
There is something in being a truth-teller to myself. And while it is true that lonely is as fleeting a feeling as happiness or fear or elation, that should not serve as my excuse to avoid my needs. In reckoning with this truth, I feel compassion come to meet me in this space. I sigh as I stand and smile as I continue my walk without a hand to hold.
In the next weeks, I will continue my exploration of loneliness. I hope you will join me on my path.