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Love & Loneliness: Loneliness and love

Love & Loneliness 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

Dear Katrin

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 garden?

I send you love and blessings

Ann xxxxx

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 chocolate. 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 still chocolate. 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 around us.
Vera Wanderi, Kenya

Last update: 2000-02-06 16:12:27 (EEST).
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