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"Don't you ever get lonely, travelling most of the time?"
- A friend
Was there ever a point in my life - from way back in childhood - when loneliness wasn't around me to some degree? Isn't that what being a human often looks like? We don't like to talk of loneliness; to dwell on the associations around it. Capitalism is predicated around loneliness! That, teamed with a minimal amount of time to reflect on your lot in life; as few hours and as little energy left as possible to ask questions.
Loneliness, though, often has very little to do with aloneness. The wrong people, the wrong situations, the wrong lifestyle, finding one's self (especially long term) in a place where one does not fit? It's all lonely as hell. A lot of loneliness revolves around consent. Aloneness one has chosen? That can be pleasurable; luxurious. Aloneness when one yearns for company? Frequently the opposite.
I'm inclined to think loneliness is something that rises up from the soul itself: a silent scream as to what needs changing.
I spent my childhood and teens feeling mostly un-met on a soul level. That's not to say my family didn't love me, and that I didn't (some of the time) have friends. It is to say there was an awful lot wrong under the surface in my life. Hit emotional rock bottom enough times (and believe me: I have) and you may well hone a sharp instinct as to what in your life needs changing.
I've written a lot in the past about creating a life that fits one's self (and this, I appreciate, can be easier said than done). About throwing yourself in the direction of what terrifies you. The latter's not an imperative. The former? It is a bit; as best you can. When I construct my life around what's not really -for- me, it tends to topple so dramatically around me that there's little I can do but launch off in search of myself; a better fitting life.
To do that I am often alone.
I spent years running from my own aloneness. The loneliness of childhood hung around me. The societal questions asked and implied of those who are alone; the stigma of the whole thing. The: don't they have friends, or people who care about them? (I'm lucky enough that I do. They're scattered, though).
Eventually it dawned on me (a constant learning) that I must find the things that scare me most and turn them into my power. Wrap them around me, cloak-like. Protection. That's how I learnt to inhabit my own aloneness. We frequently have little choice as to circumstances thrust upon us. Our reactions? If we're lucky, we get a bit of choice.
For months' this year my instincts were whispering to me to go to Ireland; learn its land and mythology. So impractical! Good and sensible, I moved back to Brighton, inadvertently re-acquired mould poisoning. Left. An acquaintance made contact, asked: fancy coming to housesit and kitten-sit in Ireland? I'm so emotionally stripped down this year, it's easy to be open to things. I answered: sure. And that instinctive voice grew louder and said: yes, go to Ireland. Write a book that begins there.
That's how I ended up in small-town Ireland in midwinter. No direction to go but inward. Truly hearing myself: the medicine I've needed; the medicine that - in a nomadic year of only days or weeks in most places - I hadn't previously had the energy to reach. When you're constantly leaving, you never have a chance to fully arrive to yourself.
Finally, I hear myself; my needs. I string necklaces, draw, write, cook, cuddle the kitten, explore beaches, look to the future. When I finish up here, I'm in warmer climes for a while. I harbour relatively few expectations at present. Heal. Write. Teach. Feel the sea on my skin.
Am I lonely? No lonelier than when I'm living the wrong life, or when I'm with the wrong people (I'm picky, these days, about to whom I'll give my time and energy. Be willing to meet me at a soul level, though, and I'll definitely show up). Don't I ever get lonely? Who doesn't? Rupi Kaur says it best when she writes:
"Loneliness is a sign you're in desperate need of yourself."