Linda Wolfe and I are in the same boat. We feel lonely.
You can get married, once or lots of times (23 in Linda’s case), and still feel lonely. Sure you might have a built-in partner who is around a lot, but never cures the echoes inside of each of us.
I don’t feel “bad” when I am lonely– I know what that is all about. We come into the world alone and we go out alone, so it only makes sense to live in the waves of that true aloneness from day to day. It’s the one truth of our life that we can never cure, no matter how much shopping we do, or how much time we spend cruising Facebook.
Libraries are good for loneliness. I’ll tell you why. You go there and you are supposed to be quiet. Yet there is absolutely nothing quiet about a library–it is absolutely full of voices, crammed inside bindings, waiting for you to listen to them. Every book I take from the shelf, then too, reminds me of how lonely that voice must have been, waiting for me to come and to choose it and to listen.
You’d think bookstores would be like this, but it isn’t the same. The consumeristic desperation in any store transforms loneliness– makes it something else. No matter what you buy, you won’t be any less alone.
Lately, I’ve found that–sometimes– a podcast can be a good companion in loneliness. Ira Glass, Terry Gross, or Garrison Keillor, or the writers on The Moth mainstage. But I think of them less as companions in loneliness as funk-removers. Good stories– like any good distraction– are great displacing me from my tower of isolation. But it doesn’t always work. Just a distraction. Sometimes I want the loneliness, and I want a lonesome feeling there to keep me company.
Music coddles loneliness, depending on its language. Who is living in those lyrics? Is it the old boyfriend I can’t forget, the one who loved me like shards of glass in sunlight? Or maybe it’s the way the music and lyrics are moving together–just the way that old friends move together on a lazy afternoon in the park. She knows the stories we don’t say. Music huddles with darknesses.
I don’t want to move. If I move, I might break the spell of loneliness.
Poem: “The Rider” by Naomi Shihab Nye from Fuel: Poems by Naomi Shihab Nye. © Boa Editions. Reprinted with permission.
A boy told me
if he roller-skated fast enough
his loneliness couldn’t catch up to him,
the best reason I ever heard
for trying to be a champion.
What I wonder tonight
pedaling hard down King William Street
is if it translates to bicycles.
A victory! To leave your loneliness
panting behind you on some street corner
while you float free into a cloud of sudden azaleas,
pink petals that have never felt loneliness,
no matter how slowly they fell.