Loneliness

The Difference Between Being Alone and Lonely

Having someone wonder where you are when you
don't come home at night is a very old human need."

- Margaret Mead

Most of us are filled with a sense of wonderment as to what new opportunities the future holds for us. Of course, it is and will be what we want it to be. I am hoping and working for changes in my life. The one thing that I am hoping for is someone to share my life. Do not get me wrong, I am perfectly happy to live alone and I am not lonely (there is a difference), but there is that never ending need for someone, that special someone to share one's life with. Let me explain...

Have you ever been lonely? Every person at one point in his or her life felt lonely. Loneliness is simply a part of the human condition. However, know this - there is a big difference between being alone and being lonely.

On Being Alone

As I have grown old, I often consider the fact that I am alone in my life. It is not my own choosing. There are those, I suppose that would disagree with me. So many people have entered my life over the years, only to try to change me from who I am, to what they wanted me to be.

I have always been a bit of a rebel - doing things my own way. I do not like being part of an organization, or going along with the status quo or being led. I have enjoyed being able to think for myself and come to what I thought were intelligent decisions about the things that affect me personally. However, I have been a failure in finding someone long-term to wonder where I am, when I do not come home at night.

From my rooftop terrace, I can see the city and beyond. If it were not for the palm trees blocking the view to the rear, I could see the mid-13th century Teopanzolco Pyramid, built by the Tlahuica people, just a block behind my home. Or the snow-capped top of Popocatepetl Volcano, (El Popo as those who live here refer to it) which inspired Malcolm Lowry to write "Under The Volcano" in 1947, which is still considered one of the top five greatest novels of the twentieth century, and has never gone out of print. However, to the front of my home, I can see the city sprawled out before me with the mountains in the distance.

I enjoy sitting on the rooftop terrace and watching the people walking by on the sidewalk below, returning from the tortilleria with fresh tortillas for the evening meal, or a couple walking hand-in-hand on their way to the movies or other evening entertainment. Some drive down the street in their cars, going much too fast for the neighborhood where one is more likely to find a sleeping dog in the street than a tope (speed bump).

At night, I watch the twinkling lights throughout the city. There are lights in the homes where people are enjoying the company of family and friends. There are people sharing a meal, watching television or listening to music. The parents reading to their children or teaching them lessons about life. Others who are not home, are perhaps in the many nightclubs, as I can hear the music and can attest that karaoke is alive and well in the neighborhood.

Yes, I enjoy sitting on the rooftop watching the world below, and as long as there is movement, I do not feel alone. I have never enjoyed having someone demand that I go to bed when they do or at least make me feel guilty for leaving the light on or producing the clatter of the keyboard as I type the words that float from my mind. I like having a peanut butter and Nutella sandwich when I want one, without having someone point out to me that it would be much wiser to have an apple or yogurt instead. I enjoy writing without interruption, or spending an afternoon at the easel painting. I like watching my own version of life unfold before me, rather than a manufactured version intended to force us into a state of lemmings that meet the social criteria of the masses.

You see being alone is not something I crave as some crave alcohol. I rather enjoy being alone and I understand that the feeling is not shared by the masses that are bewildered by that statement. In fact, many of my visitors and even my housekeeper wonder about my being alone. They are continually asking about my mental health and how I can stand being alone. The fact is that I have become quite good at being alone. There is after all a since of power and peace in being alone. I have more time to be productive, especially when I am on a roll with a new idea and want to spend the entire night writing and drinking cup after cup of coffee to move my brain to an ever increasing level of thought.

And, when I want, just past the garden, with it's bougainvilleas and Birds of Paradise, there is a gate that I can walk though at anytime and mix with a great variety of the most interesting people. As there is a need, at times, to enjoy a walk around the town square Zocolo with it's throngs of locals and tourists enjoying the sunshine, songs, children with balloons and a snack from one of the many street vendors selling everything from corn on the cob (sprinkled with chili powder if one desires) to snow cones.

Most people never understand the bliss of being alone, because most believe that eventually you are supposed to stop being by yourself and find someone to be with instead. They incessantly attempt to help me find the perfect mate, but in fact, they are just wanting me to be like them, as it is much easier to invite me to their homes for a dinner or cocktails if I were a couple.

There is the thought, prevalent in society that men who are alone have a problem or a multitude of problems. They are felt to be regretfully inadequate or oversexed and asexual, which someone recently mentioned, stringing all three words together as if it would be possible. Maybe it is possible - I am no expert on any of them.

Women who live alone are often pitied through their seeming vulnerability or sadness or with such a multitude of inadequacies that no man in his right mind would date them, let alone move in with them. Most people think of being alone as sad and that no one in their right mind would enjoy. No, they want to believe that everyone else in the world would want to be just like them, what ever that means.

As for me, I like being alone most of the time. It is something that I choose. However, let me make it clear that even though I like being alone, it is what I choose to do. This is not to say that I am not lonely, because being alone and lonely are not the same thing. And no - one does not lead to the other.

On Being Lonely

While being alone is a choice, loneliness is a human emotion. Being lonely is often more about a feeling of emptiness, a sense of boredom, social alienation and perhaps even apathy. It can also be a part of the natural process of grief as the result of a separation in space or time, and as well, it could be brought on by the death of another.

Loneliness is complex and unique to each individual dependent upon their needs. Moreover, as I choose to be alone, my needs vary, perhaps greatly from another who has chosen to live with another only to have had that individual die. For this person, loneliness can set in, causing a great amount of depression and health consequences. I have been there, as well, many times - but loneliness can either be a fleeting pain or if one chooses a chronic illness.

For those who crave another person in their life, who need human contact, loneliness can create an empty feeling and the person will feel alone even when in the midst of a great number of others. Because you see, loneliness is not necessarily being alone, but having the perception of being isolated. Those with low self-esteem are most likely to have the biggest set of problems with loneliness. My friends, who do not have someone in their life that they can rely on, often express a feeling of isolation from the rest of the world and are saddened by it.

Those who follow my column may know that I have always been a spiritual person. I have studied most of the world's religions and found only spiritualism to my liking. While Christianity views a state of emptiness as a negative and undesirable condition, to a Spiritualist, emptiness is an achieved state of mind - a form of meditation. Emptiness is accepted as a transitory state as a means of liberating oneself for personal growth.

During my productive times - when I am writing for hours on end - I never feel empty or lonely, as it is greatly suppressed by my joy for writing. The same is true when I am painting. I will spend hours in front of the canvas, as it is very much like writing - applying bits of color, blending and shaping the paint or words - until they make sense. During these times, I live in a virtual vacuum where there is no loneliness or emptiness. Both are a joyful experience for me.

Those who choose to live a vague life of nothingness, without an obsession of creativity or another, often suffer from loneliness and find themselves addicted to other attributes, such as fatty foods, illicit substances, poorly contrived relationships, ill-gotten financial gains, and the hoarding of material things. However, understand that these are choices that are made. Perhaps poor choices, but choices nonetheless.

If only the world would understand the consequences of behavior, there would be no addiction. It is far better to live a fulfilled life of one's own creativity than one of isolation, emptiness, pain, fear and a disembodiment from society. And thus I write, paint, think, invent, design, and keep my mind active on creation - not to ward off loneliness or reduce the negative health consequences associated with this state of mind, but rather because I enjoy these things.

I have my confidants - those that I feel close. They are people that I can rely on to help ward off any loneliness that might creep in. I can walk just a half block from my front gate and spend an enjoyable afternoon speaking with a friend and confidant that owns a small tienda there. He was a policeman who was forced into early retirement due to being shot in the line of duty.

We have many things in common; he has children who are the same age as mine, he lives alone as I do, he does not drink, and he has a profound enjoyment for attaining knowledge. Yesterday, on my way to buy bread, I passed by his tienda and noticed that he was reading a newspaper that was browned from obvious age and indeed, on closer inspection; I noted the date of the paper was 1956. I asked him if he had found anything interesting and his reply was, "On every page there is knowledge, if one only searches intently!"

I have my Tuesday Night Boy's Night Out (BNO) Group that I sometimes attend. It is currently a group of perhaps 30 English-speaking expatriates living in Cuernavaca. They are comprised of a great number of nationalities, cultures, and ethnic backgrounds. I know that once a week, if I choose, I can always find a great conversation within the group. No subject is off limits as we enjoy a dinner and drinks at Armando’s' Restaurante, which is owned by a transplanted Canadian. We speak of many things including; race, religion, politics and sex (or the lack of sex as most of the individuals in the group are advancing in age).

My best friend is Enrique Fuentes, a college professor, who while a few years younger than I can hold his own on just about any discussion that I throw out. We have enjoyed many an afternoon at my home or his (along with his beautiful and gracious wife and daughter that I think of an extended family) discussing history, biology, health, global economy (or the lack of), world politics, our children, and a myriad number of other interesting subjects. I know that I can rely on Enrique as a confidant at any time for any reason. It is a wonderful feeling to have someone in your life that will care about you as an individual.

However, of course, all that is not to say that I do not wish that I had someone in my life to share my joy. That someone who would wonder where I was if I did not come home at night - someone who can help me as I change my life and not just my relationship status. I am not willing to settle for a relationship. I have been in love, many times, and never really found that perfect relationship. The perfect relationship seems to escape those who are happy to fall in love, instead of loving themselves primarily.

I do not need someone in my life to increase my social status with those who would invite me to their parties because I fit into their cookie-cutter lifestyle of man and woman paired together. No, I am searching for another who can accept me for who and what I am and be comfortable with that.  That strong someone who makes me feel good about who I am and understanding that I do not need molding any more than they do. Someone who accepts me for the way in which I do look and what I can do for them.

Someone who always tells the truth, uses kind words, keeps their promises, giggles and laughs, stays happy and is positive, accepts love as much as they give, is grateful, understanding that forgiveness is unnecessary, gives thanks to life, is willing to try new things, says please and thank you, and most of all smiles constantly.

Is that person out there? I certainly hope so! If it is meant to be, then it will happen and I can live out the remainder of my life with what my friend, Jim Bearden calls, Happily Ever Afters!

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