It was a harmless question that left me teary eyed — “How does someone like you ever feel lonely?” This question that my best friend asked, tapped into one of my deepest insecurities.
Olivia Laing writes in her book, Lonely City,
…loneliness doesn’t necessarily require physical solitude, but rather an absence of connection, closeness, kinship; an inability, for one reason or another, to find as much intimacy as is desired. Unhappy, as the dictionary has it, as a result of being without the companionship of others. Hardly any wonder, then, that it can reach its apotheosis in a crowd.
The time that we live in — we may not be alone, but we are lonely AF. We are connected but we aren’t talking much. We party, we drink, we ‘catch up’ but it’s all covered in a veil of superficiality. We go back home, switch on our laptops and engage virtually. We, consciously or unconsciously, avoid being by ourselves for we are, simply put, not good enough for us.
According to a study, lonely ants die young and hungry. The primary reason is because they don’t know how to behave when they are alone. We are somewhat like those ants. Loneliness is a very strong feeling, though. It holds the power to both, destroy us or empower us. But how can we feel powerful when we are absolutely frail and weak in our knees?
There is a simple trick to this and it relies on the power of reflection and perception.
Turn back to the time when you were a curious, little child who sought adventures. How many friends did you have then? What did you do with your time? You probably drew, made music out of plastic bottles or copied the artists on television and danced to their rhythms. Or were you the one taking photographs from your dad’s old film camera, inventing things out of nothing or writing a letter to your grandma about her delicious pulao?
You had, very slowly, turned survival into life. You taught yourself to survive by gathering probably the right kind of support from different resources. You looked inside, and at your immediate world, and thought:
What can I make out of these broken pieces scattered around me?
You were building a nest for yourself — unconsciously determining who you were and what you liked because there were no constraints and the Internet didn’t keep you consumed. You were building a place for yourself in the universe.
You are still the same person, only distracted.
I have always been more of an extrovert than an introvert. I have a life and on most days, I absolutely love it. It is filled with some of the most wonderful people. But the fact is that the concepts of loneliness and extroversion are two inherently different things.
I had to fight my own battles too, and I did end up learning a few important lessons along the way.
Getting up and doing something.
It could be anything from going for a run to reading a book, sketching, writing, gardening or a craft project. Just make sure that it is an active pursuit and shouldn’t involve another person.
“Being around others does not always lead to emotional or physical fulfillment.” I told my best friend while explaining to her how fast I run after company when I feel lonely.
I have realised, over time, that I always find a lot to do in times of loneliness, particularly when I am not consumed in a romantic relationship.
I introspect. I find new ways to put my life in order and I try to understand why I do the things I do. I have tried making self portraits, but they never seem to come out right, yet.
I create, take a picture of it and let the world take a peek into what I am up to. I find it fulfilling.
I consume. Reading, watching movies and simply browsing through the internet keeps me busy and expands my horizon.
Loneliness is also a weapon that you can use to grow and become whatever you always wanted to be. Often, the things that we need to survive are right in front of us. We merely have to learn to watch out for them, see their worth and the hidden possibilities. We need to observe.
You know about the butterfly effect, right? Everything holds the power to change everything.
That’s the power of loneliness – if you’re determined to survive. When everything is broken, you can sit yourself down and build something new.
“Because sometimes, being lonely can inspire you to create something beautiful,” I told my best friend and she looked way more puzzled than the time she had asked me that dreadful question.