Loneliness: my Dark Lady

Do you feel lonely? Of course you do. We all do. Loneliness isn’t just a feeling like love, hate, envy or happiness. Nothing that brief. Loneliness is an inescapable state of the existence. You can run from it, it will always find you back. You can fight against it, you’ll find yourself fighting against mirror-like still water. It’s like a dormant virus ready to spread its infection as soon as your defensive system weakens. Always present: an enemy, a friend, something to treasure, something to fear. Loneliness is my dark lady.  

Not an easy lady to deal with. Dangerous one. Real bitch actually. She can cause so much pain. I had a long run trying to understand and manage her. There were times when I believed finding love, and companionship, would be the way to put her to sleep. And so I’d love. Some other times I thought to be in the wrong place, with the wrong people, job, or life. And so I’d move, and find new people, and work on something new.
For a while I would keep her at bay.

But none of that worked for long. The infection would start spreading again no matter where I was, what I did, or who I was surrounded by. And what a mistake to think any of it could replace her, and fill the void inside she’d sit on. Quite the contrary, that would just weaken the defences, and let the virus run wild. Pain, sorrow, restlessness: the agony of the lone. The more I tried to get rid of her, the more she came back knocking at my door, angrier than ever. What lady wouldn’t be?

The more I tried to get rid of her, the more I found myself looking for her, and relieved in her company, and in pain right after. I couldn’t understand. Was it masochistic? “L’enfer, c’est les autres”, said existentialist philosopher Jean-Paul Sartre – Hell, is the others! Is it possible that I was caught in the vicious circle of that hell. Desiring company, and then rejecting it. Looking for closeness, and then pushing it away. Feeling alone with people, and pain on my own. One thing for sure, I was confused, my lady made me suffer, and yet I desired her.

Escaping from pain was the only way I knew to deal with this reality. So I ran,  without looking back. I ran for a long time, until one day I realized there was nowhere to run any more. So I turned around and faced it, the pain. I stood up to it, let it reach me, let it sink in. Bring it on, you son of a bitch! Hard times! It was like diving into a pitch-dark bottomless well. Down there, in that dark place, I remained, writhing. Quite some time went by before I opened my eyes, and when I did, I saw mirror-like still water floating in the dark.

Some kind of fuzzy shape stood in the middle, right in front of me. I reached for it, only to find it was unreachable. So, I just stared, as much and as intensively as I could, until the shape became and image, and the image sharpened, and my eyes matched with my eyes. In that bottomless well, floating in the dark, I saw myself. I was always there, all I needed to do was open my eyes.

That’s when I realized I didn’t have to feel alone, I was alone! Loneliness wasn’t my enemy, the fear of it was. Loneliness was just there. And that changed everything!

To fear, I couldn’t give in. It wasn’t the lack of companionship, or love, or whatever was around me that was wrong. It was me: I didn’t love my own company, I didn’t feel my own love, and I didn’t know how to do it. My dark lady was just there to remind me of all this, and to guide me through a path of change, and re-discovery of myself. I didn’t have to fear her, I had to embrace her, and fight the fear instead. Fear that drives so many human actions, and influences the course of entire lives. I couldn’t be afraid of loneliness, as the price to pay was to never see myself again!

I love my dark lady, and I hate her. We have a long standing relationship ongoing. There’s some bickering now and then, but it’s a fairly friendly one. Sometimes I win an argument, sometimes I give in to some nostalgic sorrowful moments, but never again I’ll fear her. The virus can’t spread any more. The agony of the lone is gone. I and my lady are free, together.  We can hang out whenever we want, and that makes the whole hell of others much better too, as long as they accept this strong presence in my life.  

Do you feel lonely? Of course you do. We all do. Everyone has its own dark lady somewhere, perhaps hidden, perhaps pushed back in a corner. But no one can silence her forever. She’ll be coming to knock at your door, sooner or later. When she does, open the door, and welcome her as a friend. You are alone, and you are not. That’s why she is there. Her eyes are your mirror. Getting to know her is your inner revolution. Not the overnight kind, like an epiphany, not at all. This one is a slow, constant dive into your darkest places.

 “Loneliness is not living alone, loneliness is the inability to keep company to someone or something within us. Loneliness is not a tree that stands alone in the middle of a plain, but the distance between the deep sap and the bark, between the leaves and the roots.”

José Saramago

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