I enjoy being alone. There are plenty of times when silence is my friend and other humans around me feel like an intrusion.
But there are times — such as right now for me — when I feel lonely enough that the silence is deafening and the empty space around me feels like a dark and dangerous pit into which I could fall.
There are people I could be with tonight. I could join groups in public. I could spend time with other people in private. But there’s nothing available to me that can put a dent into this terrible emptiness. And that’s hard to explain to others.
There are at least three kinds of loneliness — and I’m not certain which one applies to me tonight. I don’t know whether I can be honest with myself. Or with you.
One is the loneliness of a person who simply craves the companionship of other human beings. I’ve felt that way before, but it’s the easiest to solve. When I feel that way, I can solve it in a dozen different ways. I can see a friend. I can even drop by a restaurant where I know people.
The second is the loneliness for a specific person who isn’t there. I dealt with that in agonizing ways for much of the last six years. I’ve talked about it before, so there’s nothing new to say here.
The third kind of loneliness is for an unknown person — or even multiple people — to fill a specific role. For me, that’s the kind that comes when the gap between the life I imagine — in the emotional sense — is the greatest from the life of love and warmth I imagine for myself.
When something hurts, it’s hard to put labels on it. It’s hard to talk to other people about it. It’s hard to find rational words to define feelings that make my heart feel pain. I can tell you it hurts. I can tell you where my thoughts turn. But I can’t say — not for sure — where it started.
I know it’s not the first kind of lonely. The idea of spending time around most people is far worse than the notion of being alone. I don’t need random human interaction, either from friends or from strangers. I wouldn’t be good company for such routine and shallow interaction tonight.
I know what I want my life to look like. I can picture who I would like to be there. For a long time, I had a specific woman who was part of that picture. I wanted a life with her. I wanted a family with her. I just wanted a normal and loving and emotionally healthy life centered around her.
But then I lost faith in her. I stopped trusting her. I gave up on the words she had said that I had clung to like a drowning man clings to a life raft. She wasn’t going to be there. She wasn’t going to be good for me. I finally accepted that.
So I’m back to that gaping difference between what my life is and what I need it to be. Although I wouldn’t mind being wealthy or famous or successful in a dozen different ways, none of those are related to what I’m talking about.
I imagine someone who loves me. Who wants me. Who believes in me. Who has chosen to build her life with me. I imagine someone who I love and need and trust enough to build my life around her. Someone who I can serve. Someone I can devote myself to — in an effort to make her feel loved and appreciated and valued.
The idea of having that sort of mutual relationship with someone makes me feel right. It instinctively feels like the truth of the life I still want to live. The life that would be worth living.
I’m not a good match for most women — and most women aren’t a good match for me. If I just wanted anybody, that would be easy to change quickly. But the only thing that sounds worse to me than whatever it is I’m feeling tonight is the idea of being stuck with the wrong partner.
I can’t say exactly which kind of loneliness this is tonight. Even though I can try to make it rational — so I can attempt to explain it to you — I don’t have the words for what my heart feels.
But I know I’m lonely. And I know it hurts.