I didn’t think I’d ever talk about my experience with loneliness here. I knew it would probably be something I would feel as Mason packed most of his belongings into a plastic bin I hadn’t seen since our college days. Yet, loneliness was something I always felt I didn’t have a right to. It was something I pushed away for other people. It was as though if I ever let myself feel it, it meant that I wasn’t appreciating all the love I’ve been given. The love of a supportive, wonderful family and husband.
Loneliness was not allowed. I was to sit here and tell you how wonderful this independence has been. How I’ve finally gotten around to all sorts of projects and hobbies without my handsome fella to distract me.
There are lovely bits about it like the freedom to eat all the goat cheese and crackers I want for dinner, being able to read and write for hours without interruption, as well as countless other things an introvert holds dear. There are plenty of happily completed projects to list, too.
However, last week as I tried to take a hot shower and I realized there was no hot water to be had, I broke down. The loneliness came pouring in and it was just as shocking as the cold water hitting my skin. As Mason worried over an important check ride in his training, I felt like I had to hold down the fort. I couldn’t tell him that I thought our hot water heater was broken or that I had been sick. I didn’t want him to worry about me, because if he didn’t pass this test with flying colors, it would mean more time apart. A longer wait until his homecoming. I couldn’t burden him with my troubles.
Inevitably, my strength buckled. I was forced to stop and sit with myself. I was alone. Instead of having someone else there for me, I had to hold myself the way Mason would have in that moment.
And it’s the hardest thing I’ve ever had to learn to do. I’ve been blessed to receive unconditional love from others, but never learned how to really turn it inward. It’s a strange feeling, this tending to oneself. I’m pretty awful at it, but I’m trying. I’m starting to see myself as I imagine my loved ones do. I’ve even begun to unearth scars I had covered in layers of shame and started holding them in a much softer, kinder light.
It means showing myself the same kindness I show others. Instead of berating myself for having a bad day or saying the wrong thing or even feeling the wrong thing, I listen. I’ve started to give myself the same attention and advice I’d give a close friend.
“To be strong does not mean to sprout muscles and flex. It means meeting one’s own numinosity without fleeing, actively living with the wild nature in one’s own way. It means to be able to learn, to be able to stand what we know. It means to stand and live.”
― Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Women Who Run With the Wolves: Myths and Stories of the Wild Woman Archetype
And if you’re having to learn this too – I promise you are not alone in your journey. I feel that we’ve been robbed of the basics of caring for our inner selves. I was taught how to be kind to others, but to myself, I grew cruel and unforgiving – striving for things I’d never expect in others.
What I once thought was weakness – this feeling of loneliness – has become more than just valid, but also an opportunity for love. For rest. A moment to pause and acknowledge my human-ness, my own inherent value as a living thing.
It’s a caring look of understanding reflected back at me in the mirror. A moment to feel what needs to be felt and then letting it go.
It’s a moment in thousands I’m fortunate to have. And when I tilt my head and squint a little, I’ve even begun to wager it’s just as beautiful of a moment as any.