I’ve had cause to think about loneliness again lately. A journalist acquaintance brought it up over breakfast – she was surprised to read in first, we make the beast beautiful that loneliness is such a theme in my life. “But you come across as someone who doesn’t need other people.” Which is a lonely person’s worst fear, manifest (that others don’t think you’re lonely, so leave you alone).
I also miscarried last week. Which is a lonely experience, especially when you’re single. My friend Kate confided that even in a relationship it’s lonely. For the loneliness of being lonely around others is indeed very lonely. (I don’t mean to mention my miscarriage lightly. But I am aware that it would be remiss to be aware of how unhelpful it is that women don’t talk about miscarriage, and then not be open and comfortable about talking about my own).
As I said to Kate, in some ways miscarrying on your own might be less lonely, because you are forced to go down into the pain of the loneliness. You can’t run. You can’t blame. You can’t scatter your attention to dealing with others’ responses to it. You can’t fix it with a hug and some pity. You have to sit in it. Because there it is: raw pain.
Which saw me return to possibly my favourite “confiding book” ever: Pema Chodron’s When Things Fall Apart. I’ve bought a copy for eight friends recently who are facing tough times. It’s a true salve.
In it, Chodron talks about “cool loneliness”.
“Cool loneliness” is being expansive and trusting and non-gripping with the is-ness of our aloneness.
For we are often – and ultimately – alone. Whether single or otherwise.
Cool loneliness is sitting with it, in it. It’s the practicing of “less desire” and avoiding “unnecessary activity”. And “not seeking security from one’s discursive thoughts”. You know, that inane Brigid Jones-style self-berating. It’s spacious, it’s not desperate, it’s totally cool.
“Hot loneliness”, by contrast, is the frenzied looking for a way out or a fix; it’s blaming and using old patterns to distance ourselves from our loneliness. But distancing only makes our loneliness hotter.
The thing about cool loneliness is it’s…mature.
It takes admirable discipline. And you become a purposeful warrior when you practice it. Maturity is a theme I’m also exploring right now – the spiritual and helpful kind that sees us able to be the adult in the room.
I struggle immaturely with my loneliness very, very often. I want to blame my married friends for not appreciating my needs. I expect them to appreciate that they are my family, so where’s my invite to Sunday dinner? I rail against men that they can’t see my worth. I hate myself for being the person that appears too busy, and not needing of other humans, and too…”intense”. And then I cringe that these are my ugly reactions. And I descend into a clustefuck of childish confusion.
But it’s at this point, as Chodron says in her book, that we get totally fed up with such ugly immaturity. This is where I’m at. I’m wholly bored of being hot lonely. It’s tedious seeking stable ground under my feet, over and over, for decades… while knowing it doesn’t exist. And then getting angry at such a “deception”.
Grow up, Sarah. Find your courage. Fire up. Be disciplined with sitting in the truth. Be cool.
Does this resonate?