Being Alone Ain’t So Lonely
By: Jessica Proulx
Loneliness, like any form of pain can be unwelcome and uncomfortable. It is easy to sink into despair when there is a sense of emptiness. But, what if that emptiness was merely space to add something new? What if emptiness became a tool of exploration rather than a precursor to malaise? In these times of discomfort we can, if willing, open up to what we are really longing for; to what we really need. In that void, there is endless possibility. Perhaps, the feelings of loneliness are your nudge to discovering what is really there.
There have been times in my adult life that I have felt so lonely or so afraid to be lonely, that I would make decisions that weren’t right for me, but to my heart seemed like the right thing to do. At the end of a 10 or 12 hour work day, I would force myself to venture out to dinner with friends, attend a meeting, or help with a charity or fundraiser. I would consistently and constantly forsake my body and my mind because: what if they didn’t ask me again? What if everyone has fun without me? I spent the whole day in my office, shouldn’t I go out in public?
One evening a few years ago, exhausted, I slapped on some mascara and my fancy jeans and headed to dinner with my oldest girlfriends. They are the fun sort of people who make you forget that you wanted to stay at home at all. We would tell stories of our crazy youth and all the trouble that we got into, sip on wine, eat sushi, and laugh until our faces hurt. But this particular night, it all changed for me.
You see, my friends and I lead very different lives. Neither one better nor worse, just different. They are married with kids, have full time 9-5 jobs or are stay at home moms and their lives revolve around their beautiful homes, families and these amazing lives that they created. I, the misfit of the crew, am unmarried to my very long term boyfriend of 17 years, have no children and never plan to, own my own business (so pretty much have about 10 days off a year), and spend a lot of time traveling for work and being away.
Our conversations went from “that time we got kick out of that little bar” to: my baby threw up, and soccer practice, and way to much conversation about nipples and vaginas.
It was then that I realized, I was afraid of being lonely just to go out and feel lonely. While these are people I love and adore, I felt separate. Not by their doing, they always seemed to want me there. They were thrilled when I walked through the door. They always asked how things were going with me and admired my hard work. But, by the end of the night, they all could understand what each other was going through and I, just couldn’t.
I sat in that loneliness for a long time, and being in it made me realize all the other places and things in my life that evoked a similar feeling. In my work, I am the boss [separate], at home and with extended family I don’t really share my true thoughts and feelings because they are so different than theirs [separate], when on outings with my community I often hold back and go inside because of my role in it all [separate]. Through this examination I realized what I really needed to understand was that my loneliness had nothing to do with being alone at all. I didn’t have to put myself in situations where I was so tired the next day I needed extra coffee or say yes to plan proposals just because I didn’t want people to forget about me. None of that mattered. What was really at stake was my need to feel understood, my need to feel like I belonged, and above everything, my need to love myself enough to know that I am ok just as I am and the latter are just perks.
There was a very poignant decision that I would only ever do, from that point forward, what my heart, body and mind decided was right for me. If I had the stamina, I would go out. If not, I would stay home. And that was ok. I started to spend a lot more time with the people in my life who were in similar positions to my own. Ones that, at times of gathering, could speak to me with just their eyes and say, “I get you. I am you”.
That is not to say I shut other people out. Through my study I learned that I could listen to stories that I have no understanding of, and enjoy just listening and holding space. But it took time to get to a place that I could do that, and not feel like an outsider.
I have realized that Dave Matthews- he gets me. And so does Thich Nhat Hanh and Wally Lamb, and Steven Speilberg. I take my alone time to get lost in music, books, and movies. I paint and draw and create pretty things. I research things that I want to learn about. I write and journal, meditate and daydream. How could I ever be lonely when my heart and my brain are so full of all the wonders I have been lucky enough to take in in my lifetime. Those feelings of loneliness were just space. Pockets of ether longing to take in more. More companionship with people who got me, more time to take care of myself, and move love for me; the unconditional kind that could get past the thick layers of judgment and just be kind.
By starting to fill the emptiness with things that were hearty and tangible, I began to fill myself up again. Steering clear of mindless time spent on social media distracted by other peoples’ stories, or getting lost in repetitive, unhealthy thoughts and building richness in my down time. Learning it was ok to be alone and that being along ain’t so lonely after all.
From one simple dinner I found that I can be who I am, and the people I love, who they are. That I need to find things in my life that make my heart skip a beat and spend lots of time doing those. That I never need to fear missing out on anything, because there will always be so much to explore. The people I love don’t forget about me if I decline parties or dinner dates and that no matter what, they have always been there for me when I needed them.
This life is too short to do anything other than what makes me happy. And I implore you to do the same. Find things that drive you, spend time reflecting on the great things in your life, find a community of like-minded people to share the truest part of yourself, and never be afraid to say no. Above all learn to be ok sitting with the “empty”. There is a lot happening there if you can just relax into it and give it a chance.
About the Author:
Jessica Proulx, ERYT 200, RYT 500
Owner, Yoga Teacher, Massage Therapist, Teacher at Om Yoga Teacher Training School
Jessica Proulx BA, LMT, RYT and Reiki Practitioner graduated from the University Of Connecticut in 2005 and from The Connecticut Center for Massage Therapy in 2009. She has been studying yoga since the age of 16 and has been teaching yoga since the age of 18. While in college, Jessica completed a study abroad program in Bangkok and Chiang Mai Thailand where she furthered her education in Buddhism and Thai culture. Jessica is a Justice of the Peace in Connecticut and available to perform wedding ceremonies for those looking for a spiritual ceremony outside of a specific religious sect.
Jess believes that yoga and wellness should and could be affordable and attainable for anyone and that is why in 2011 she got some of the most talented people she knew in the field to come to Om- and from there this space was created. She teaches both in Connecticut and Om Center Retreats both in the US and abroad. She is the owner and lead teacher of The Om Center Yoga Teacher School which offers 200 hour yoga teacher training programs at Om and abroad.
She has earned her 500 Hour Yoga Teacher Training Certification from The Kripalu School of Yoga with an emphasis on Vinyasa and Ayurveda. Jess has been lucky enough over the years to study with some amazing and incredible teachers like Yoganand Michael Carol , Larissa Hall-Carlson, Coby Kozlowski, Sudhir Jonathan Foust, Crystal Sullivan and Shelley Nyren, all of whom she highly recommends to those who are looking to further their studies in Yoga, Ayurveda, Meditation and/or Pranayama.