Loneliness... For some people this word means nothing. They are used to
it and are not afraid of it. But for me, a person used to communicating
with many people, used to company and lots of activities, loneliness is
something that I can only imagine as a nightmare.|
I grew up in a family with lots of relatives. So from my early
childhood I have been used to large gatherings for holiday celebrations
or birthday parties. At school, and now as a college student, I always
take part in different activities that involve a lot of people and a lot
of work. So I cannot imagine not hearing the door bell ringing, with
news of someone who has come to visit. If that were so, silence would
hang on me as a dark cloud. And then I would no longer care whether my
room was clean or whether I had something delicious in my fridge. I'm
afraid of that happening and would do anything to prevent it.
What I can say to those who share my fears is that love can save us from
any disease, even from loneliness. But that is another story...
Ann Pavlova, Ukraine
Having been an only child I remember feelings of loneliness right back
to when I was a wee little girl. There've been times I've felt so much
loneliness it's been like an overdose - sending me into deep
depressions, where negative untruths are aroused.
For me loneliness has often meant fear, fear of being alone forever.
Loneliness does not always mean being on your own; it can mean not being
understood; being alone in your thinking perhaps - misunderstood and
alienated from those you love. At one point I felt such a surge of
loneliness, I described myself as a breeze. No-one could see me or hear
me. I was a mere presence that momentarily touched them, making very
little impact, if any.
Such feelings can lead to terrible lows. At my lowest I became
disillusioned and lost touch with reality. The 'always never' syndrome;
'I'm always going to be alone' or 'I'll never find anyone who
understands me and loves me for who I am'. Dangerous thinking. I had
hidden myself away and was convinced life would never change. What I
should have said (and can say) is 'OK, today I'm feeling alone, but
tomorrow is a new day. Who knows what might happen?' Simply saying
this begins to lift that great mound of solitary foreverness.
My fear is of loneliness being everlasting. I need to acknowledge that
fear, work with it and understand it. I know my loneliness won't last
forever but when it's there it feels never-ending. It's painful,
isolating... hard to express in words, it's so desolate. It's deep in a
place I don't even want to go sometimes.
However loneliness, as I've discovered in recent years, isn't all doom
and gloom. Being alone is a chance to focus on who you are and what
makes you tick. Needing people around us all the time can be a
diversion from being alone and confronting who we are. Lonely times can
be used constructively. I started writing a journal last year about
what I feel. I chose lonely moments in which to write it. It's been
such an insight into my thinking and growth -an invaluable a
sset to the telling of me. With the right perspective, loneliness need
not be so desolate. There's always a person with you that you may not
notice or listen to very often... it's you!
Natalie Porter, UK
Melbourne, September '99
As promised, here's the story of the life-changing experience I had
while overseas. It happened during the conference I attended in Europe
- 150 people of different nationalities and ages. An extremely caring
atmosphere greeted me the moment I arrived. Every morning I was part of
a community group. Meeting under the leadership of a skilled
facilitator allowed friendships to grow. And yet... much of the time I
was very lonely.
Can I hear you saying 'Lonely, amongst all that caring and sharing ?!'
Or perhaps 'At your age!' Or even 'But Ann. What about the heaps of
experience you've had facilitating groups yourself, supposedly to
help people overcome their anxieties and fears?'. On the other hand,
perhaps you can understand from your own life that loneliness is not
confined to any age group or amount of experience.
The odd thing about loneliness is that it comes and goes in waves.
Also, I was surprised by my inability to share this loneliness with
anyone, as if it were somehow unacceptable. When loneliness was present
it didn't do anything for my self-esteem. 'I don\'t have anything
worthwhile to contribute' and 'I only speak one language and everyone
else speaks at least two' come to mind. You know, the 'Poor Me'
syndrome? (Later, I put it down to allowing the fear of 'will people
like me?' to control my actions.) You will be glad to hear, however,
that I got into action and did something about this state of affairs.
This is what happened...
The Great Spirit nudged me into enrolling in a workshop called 'Painting
from within', conducted by an inspiring Swedish artist, Gerd Ekdahl. She
had talked about the poet Rainer Maria Rilke's idea of 'embracing
emptiness'. My thought was 'perhaps loneliness could be embraced too'
Gerd emphasised painting from our gut and getting in touch with our
spontaneity. Even when writing this I experience again the excitement
of using the paints - the rich colours, the thick satisfying texture. I
will attempt to convey, in black and white, the process I went through
to express, in colour, my feelings about loneliness.
First I was drawn to red and splashed it onto the bottom of my canvas.
Red represented 'anger' and I had a great time, with lightning-like
splashes erupting upwards and sideways. I continued in this way - each
emotion leading to a related colour - and was astonished to find that
with every brush stroke my attitude was changing. As I painted past
'anger' and 'anxiety' I remembered the understanding, the kindness,
shown to me by my community group and others at the conference. So
yellow for 'joy', green for 'caring', pink for 'love', blue for
'confidence', with purple splashes as God's blessings bringing it all
together, was the deeply satisfying result.
But, amidst the exhilarating spontaneity, I'd overlooked the colour of
'loneliness'. I knew immediately that an unobtrusive, paler colour was
needed. In the middle of my picture can be seen (if you look very hard)
a small swirl of grey, unimportant but necessary.
After sharing this picture of my loneliness, I was touched as others
told me their similar stories. We agreed that loneliness is ever
present AND there are ways of embracing it. Finally, I learned through
my painting that 'lonely' is a state of mind and so I have the choice of
doing something about it. I chose to take a risk and share how I was
feeling. I'm also seriously considering telling people whenever I'm
lonely. I'll keep you posted on this one.
Katrin, I'd really love to hear how you embrace/manage your loneliness.
Perhaps it's through caring for others? Or the time you spend in the
I send you love and blessings
I have often been asked, 'You are unmarried and live on your own.
Aren't you lonely?' My answer is, 'No, I enjoy having my own home and
being alone.' Some of you reading this may well have travelled the
world on your own. I wonder if you discovered, what has been my
experience, that when you are alone you make more new friends than when
you are with one or more companions. I can decide to feel lonely or to
be at peace with myself and enjoy a creative aloneness.
The bigger of the two bedrooms in my home has two beds and I love people
to come and stay. My neighbours have got used to seeing people from
many lands, including young relations, coming and going. One year, I
had about nine months when I was physically unable to go much beyond my
walls. I've never had so many visits from my neighbours and other
friends! Once I started to become busy again a couple of them
complained that they preferred it when I was in when they knocked!
Love is what makes the difference. When I open my heart to love, either
giving it or receiving it, I don't feel lonely. I have often heard, 'God
is love'. If I believe that with all my heart then I can believe I am
loved even when there is no one here to tell me so!
Joy Weeks, UK
I got married when I was 29 and my wife, Neeru, 26 - late by Indian
standards. The delay was largely on account of my search for the
partner whom God cleared in my heart. It had to be someone who had the
capacity to care for more than just me and our own family. It was my
dream that our home would be a place where everyone who came would
experience welcome and love. There is so much hunger in the world.
Ours is an arranged marriage. The first time I saw Neeru I felt in my
heart that we were meant to be life partners. But that was not the way
she felt. She found me too thin and too rigid in my ideas. She turned
down the proposal. However, others in her family liked me and prevailed
upon her to accept me.
Soon after we were married we ran into rough weather. I had a large
circle of friends with whom I was involved in the work of Moral Re-
Armament. I was often busy with them after my time at the office. Many
would accompany me home in the evening. Neeru wanted privacy or to go
to the movies with me, but I was unavailable for her. She started
getting withdrawn and trapped in moods. She developed guilt about not
being a good wife. I did not know how to deal with the situation and
felt angry and disillusioned. Life became hell for us both.
Then God intervened through a good friend. He made us sit together and
talk. We realised how both of us were responsible for the breakdown in
our relationship. I apologised for my insensitivity and she for her
inflexibility. It was a beautiful moment. Our real partnership in
caring for people together began from that day.
As our three daughters started growing up, our lives became very full.
We also have my parents to give some of our time to. Very often we have
frictions. But we have also learnt to lighten the atmosphere by poking
fun at each other. Apologies are not always in words; quite often they
are conveyed through conciliatory gestures. Notes and letters are
written when it is difficult to express ourselves orally.
As a family, we have found it important to have fun and to care for
others who are lonely or in need. We make it a point to have dinner
together, with the TV off. It is the one time when we share the day's
happenings with each other.
As our daughters have become young adults, we as Indian parents have to
specially learn to trust them for their choice and not bind them with
our ideas and fears. We try to make them aware of the possible
consequences of their decisions and then leave them free. This is a big
challenge. Prayer and faith are valuable in meeting it. By no means
are we perfect. We are learning all the time. What helps us stay
together is our commitment to each other.
Kiran Gandhi, India
Relationships - the most beautiful memory of life but sometimes also
the most painful. So hard to build and at times so easily broken,
relationships seem to be losing their significance.
As humans we've been made for relationships. Many identify with the
idea of finding a soulmate, to the extent that it is almost a crime in
today's teenculture not to have a boyfriend/girlfriend. If we are
impatient we may get involved with someone whom we don't necessarily
love from within. Such a solution may avoid peer pressure, may even
satisfy our physical needs, but is it good in the long run? When we
flirt with someone, we forget that we are also playing with our
own emotions, hurting ourselves. We may become de-sensitized and lose
respect for love, changing partners like clothes. But if we are wise
and patient we will find the right person and be enriched for life.
Deepak Ajwani, India
If you find yourself in love with someone who does not love you, be
gentle with yourself. There is nothing wrong with you. Love just
didn't choose to rest in the other person's heart.
If you find someone else in love with you and you don't love them, feel
honoured that love came and called at your door, but gently refuse the
gift you cannot return. Do not take advantage, do not cause pain. How
you deal with love is how you deal with you, and all our hearts feel the
same pains and joys, even if our lives and ways are different.
If you fall in love with another, and they fall in love with you, and
then love chooses to leave, do not try to reclaim it or to assess blame.
Let it go. There is a reason and there is a meaning. You will know in
time. Remember that you don't choose love. Love chooses you. All you
can do is accept it for all its mystery when it comes into your life.
Feel the way it fills you to overflowing, then reach out and give it
away. Give it back to the person who brought it alive in you. Give it
to the world around you in any way you can. There is where many lovers
go wrong. Having been so long without love, they understand love only
as a need. They see their hearts as empty places that will be filled by
love, and they begin to look at love as something that flows to them
rather than from them.
The secret of love is that it is a gift; it can be made to grow only by
giving it away. Remember this, and keep it to your heart. Love has its
own time, its own seasons, and its own reason for coming and going. You
cannot bribe it or coerce it, or reason it into staying. You can only
embrace it when it arrives and give some of it away. But if it chooses
to leave from your heart or from the heart of your lover, there is
nothing you can do and there is nothing you should do. Love always has
been and always will be a mystery. Be glad that it came to live for a
moment in your life. If you keep your heart open, it will come again.
I asked a group of people what love is. They came up with all sorts of
definitions and most of them were right. I learned that the best way to
express yourself is to use the most simple language. So this is my
definition of love...
When chocolate is put in a freezer, it freezes but does not stop being
When it is exposed to heat, it melts but does not stop being chocolate.
When it is at room temperature it stays in its original shape and is
Like chocolate, love can take different forms depending on the
circumstances. But at the end of the day, it is still love. Let us
have the kind of love that, when exposed to any conditions, does not
fail. Then we will create a better future for ourselves and all those
Vera Wanderi, Kenya