I grew up an only child. I have always been familiar with being alone. During that time I used to wonder if it was odd that I was perfectly happy being alone? As an adult, most recently, I have been questioning if people, myself included, really realize what it means to be alone vs being lonely.
It has been exactly 3 months now since I experienced the feeling of being alone and lonely. While it is possible to be each of these things separately, there are a few times in life when the two cross paths and you are indeed both. It is at this point in my life when I realized the difference. And spent day after day differentiating between the two.
You see, loneliness is a state of mind. It’s a feeling of being disconnected from other people and emotions. It’s a heart wrenching agony of sadness and isolation. And what most people don’t realize is that loneliness can present itself even when you are not alone. You can be surrounded by people or laying in an embrace with someone that loves you and still feel loneliness.
Being alone is something quite different. It’s simply a state of being. Whether you are alone in your car, having dinner at a restaurant alone or enjoying a walk in your neighborhood alone, it the physical absence of another person in your presence. It is very possible to be alone, and be happy. Many people, myself included, like to be alone. Alone to think, to wonder or event to just relax and be quiet. Some of my favorite moments of clarity have come from being alone.
So back to the times when the two of these ideals meet: sometime, somewhere, somehow in your lifetime you will be forced to deal with both experiences. Whether it’s someone that you love passing away, the ending of a friendship, a dissolution of a marriage or even the loss of a pet, you will feel lonely and alone.
Of course I’m going to talk about the lonely and alone (love) scenario I know best. Being lonely after the loss of love can be quite emotionally devastating. Not only because your heart is broken, but because you long desperately to fill that loneliness with something new. Sometimes we aren’t willing to accept being alone and we settle for being lonely so that we can justify moving on from something more quickly. Have to fill that void, have patch that hole, have find something or someone to make us feel not lonely again. We have this innate urge to go to every extent so that we don’t end up alone. Humans are in deed a social species, but maybe to a fault.
But what I have found to be the wiser decision after the loss of love is to just be alone. Yes, there will be moments of loneliness, times when you feel sadness desperation for an emotional bond with another person, but if you are truly happy with being alone, with being yourself, that sad pulling of your heartstrings will pass. I have found peace in being alone, it’s quite liberating to not feel the need to constantly have someone with me. By accepting that I am truly alone, I can figure out who I am, who I want to be, what I like and don’t like without judgment and consideration.
There will be days when you are alone that you see a couple sitting at a table at a restaurant holding hands and smiling wildly like they are the only people on earth and you will wish that you were experiencing that moment as well. You will feel an ever so brief moment of loneliness. What pulls me from the fog of the loneliness at times like that, is knowing that one day I will have that moment again. And it will be more meaningful than ever because I will be a much better me, with a person who has the genuine qualities I deserve. And I will know this because I spent time alone, discovering exactly what I wanted those qualities to be.
Loneliness stems from blaming oneself; being alone comes from loving oneself.
Loneliness is the feeling of being disconnected: being alone is connecting with oneself.
Loneliness is depending on someone else for happiness; being alone is finding your own happiness.
Loneliness is rooted in fear; being alone is rooted in peace.
The most important thing to know about being lonely and being alone, is learning how to identify the difference.