My friend Charles has been drafted to deliver a speech at a Quaker wedding. As a result, he has been searching for appropriate quotes and inspiration.
He sent me this today:
“There is a part of us which from childhood is absolutely alone. When we fall in love we imagine we have found an ultimate assuagement of loneliness. This is not so. In a true marriage or a near friendship what in fact is found is a companion in loneliness.”
Damaris Parker-Rhodes, 1977
I am fairly certain this will not be part of his nuptial homily.
So many humans live in fear of loneliness. It’s a terrible thing! We should all couple off as soon as possible. Try not to develop stringent standards, lest you find yourself alone with a loudly ticking biological clock. If you aren’t attractive enough to snare a mate, then you should build yourself a large circle of similarly unappealing friends. Or live with your parents forever. If these options are not available (perhaps due to geography or the general unsavoriness of your disposition), it might be time to consider joining a convent/monastery.
Of course I disagree with this. Loneliness can be a blessing. Standing alone forces one to develop interests. Pursue projects. Formulate a game plan. The hard-won prize of self-sufficiency can never be won without a solid spell of loneliness
I spent most of my childhood years alone. We lived in the middle of nowhere, with no kids my age anywhere nearby. This worked out well, because my mom wanted me at home washing dishes and keeping an eye on my brother. All of my free time was spent locked up in my room, writing plays and making Barbie clothes. And I loved it. Forget about negotiating and/or trying to control others. I was the master of my own domain.
Now I find comfort in solitude. Sometimes my social skills leave a lot to be desired, since I never learned how to play with other kids. And I’ve never developed a competitive instinct (this becomes problematic at work). Crowds and parties fill me with anxiety. I feel alone even in the midst of the largest social events.
I spend my days at work wearing huge headphones, hoping to create the illusion of solitude by drowning out the conversations of others with dorky Ipod playlists. Loneliness brings me focus.
I have never been part of a circle of friends. My participation in any “scene” has been a walk-on part at best. “The drunk girl with the monkey-ish face will be played by Amanda M. She will stand by herself at the show, sipping whiskey sours until it is time to go home alone.” I have always envied those with huge families of inseparable eternal best friends. But I have never pursued that idea.
Yes, I have friends. Maybe not a ton here in Philadelphia, but I have so many good friends in Portland. When I moved, I thought all of them would hang out together without me, never missing me for a moment. I’m not kidding…I actually cried about this notion a few times during my first agonizing months in the alleged City of Brotherly Love. But subsequent vacations in Portland proved otherwise. None of my friends really knew one another very well. They were all parts of different, non-intersecting groups and scenes. My family of friends consists of stragglers and shut-ins. Outcasts and loners.
An ex-boyfriend of mine once asked, “What’s happened to you? You were such a socialite in Portland.” This might be true. But ugh. Sometimes I just wanted to stop the constant rotation of dj nights and birthday parties and spend my night reading in my bed instead. I ran out of interesting conversation long before I moved to Philadelphia. Everyone had heard everything I had to say.
I’ve dated a lot. Seriously. I have made out with entire circles of friends And I have had like, six boyfriends or so. But in the midst of all of that kissing and misplaced undergarments, I have never found someone else that appreciated loneliness as much as I do. I cannot and will not hang out every single day. I guess if I live with a boyfriend, I will have to see them on a daily basis (right?), but if we’re truly right for one another…if this person is truly the proverbial “one,” then he won’t need to hold my hand while I’m furiously pounding away on my computer. He will know that I’m silently loving him while I’m sitting alone in a room.
So that’s my diatribe on the virtues of loneliness. I swear it’s not a disease or a curse. If you find yourself single or new-in-town and friendless, enjoy it. The best friend you will ever have is you. Conversely, your worst enemy also lives under your skin (if you don’t know this firsthand, re-read all of my posts of the last six months). What’s that wise saying? Keep your friends close, keep your enemies closer. Stop denying yourself the pleasure of your own company.
P.S. I totally love sleeping alone.