“Our language has wisely sensed these two sides of man’s being alone. It has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone,” wrote theologian Paul Tillich.
Today I was swimming – alone – in an outdoor pool filled with beautiful leaves floating around me. I was alone. It felt like a glorious type of alone. I was not lonely.
But that beautiful young woman’s face, the one who is all over the news, the one who when she was stopped by police, took all the blame, the one who was murdered. She was lonely. I know that look. I know that feeling. There is no place lonelier than an abusive relationship.
What makes it so lonely? A lack of safety. Destruction of trust. Lack of love from the partner. Lack of respect. Endless blame and fault-finding. Complete crazy-making.
Being alone is a state of being, while loneliness is a feeling. We can be perfectly happy being by ourselves, but we can also be lonely even if we’re with someone. I can think of many times that I was with someone, and I was lonely. Loneliness stems from feeling like our true self is not seen or understood either by others or from within.
I’m a lawyer, not a psychologist (shout out to my son!) but I’m pretty sure that if you enjoy being alone, that’s a good sign that you have a healthy relationship with yourself and with others. If you find yourself avoiding alone time at all costs, or feeling lonely, then that’s something totally different. Being lonely can be a deep, deep hole. She looked and sounded lonely. My heart breaks for her family.
But my alone time today was a quiet time of inner reflection. It felt like a moment of time that I can now take with me even when I’m not there. I feel lucky to have had that hour today.
We start and we end our lives alone; But hopefully not feeling lonely.