A friend reminded me of a valuable lesson today; we all need to take 100% responsibility for our own actions. Even in partnership, we are ultimately alone. No one else will ever know your entire history. No one else will ever know the secret tears that you cry. No one else will always catch you when you fall.
I thought a lot about this as I ran this morning (yes, I was alone). The human species craves partnership, and we live our lives in relation to others. But other people can’t ultimately make us happy; only we can do that for ourselves.
Happiness occurs when people check in with themselves and have a full, honest, heart-open conversation, and then take action based on the results of that inner work. I’ve noticed in our society that this happens less and less frequently. Folks seem to like to be completely entertained. They don’t appreciate the necessity of alone time, or being lost in thought. The number of activities on the calendar has become the barometer of success, even though many over-scheduled people have little to no idea what they really think or feel on a deep, personal level.
I realize this is an overarching statement, painted with a broad brushstroke. But the point of learning to find comfort in being alone is a valid one. When we are alone we see our feelings, unmasked, and we get to know the one person with whom we will spend the rest of our lives. That person is imperfect and flawed, but ultimately loveable.
When we go out into the world as adults to find a partner, we often look to someone else to compensate for our flaws. When that person can’t live up to our expectations or we find out that they have their own set of flaws, conflict arises.
There are times in a partnership when a person is so complacent that they have tunnel vision. They aren’t checking in with themselves, they aren’t having the honest conversations about how they are changing as the years go by, and they literally get stuck in time. They aren’t keeping up with the relationship. In some cases, a person can literally have a wake-up call and realize that they’ve become one of the Walking Dead; a person that doesn’t operate from a place of deep personal truth but goes about their business on a very superficial level.
In this sort of situation, that person can be completely and utterly alone, and maybe they know it on a deep level, but they don’t acknowledge it and so look to others, either within their partnership or without, to fill the gaping hole.
Maybe the hole gets filled for a while, but because it’s not a permanent fix that has come from within, it will eventually crumble and the hole remains. That person is still ultimately, truly alone, and incredibly lonely, because they haven’t come to terms with their own heart.
As I ran this morning, I thought about the nature of being alone, and loneliness. I’m a person that enjoys my alone time. I don’t like to be surrounded by people 24/7. I run alone more times than not. I’m alone when I write. Good chunks of my day are spent alone, now that the kids are in school. But I’m not lonely during these times.
The times that I feel lonely are when I have expectations from a relationship, and those expectations aren’t met. I’m not lonely when I walk down a street or brush my teeth; I have no expectations of being in relationship with the street or my toothbrush. It seems to me that we each can (and do!) create our own treasure map for getting to that lonely place. We each have so many people in our lives, and every relationship is a place where we work to get our needs met, and meet the needs of the other person.
Alone time is a good thing, something I preach to the masses. Loneliness though… loneliness is a sad and scared place we retreat into when we build up expectations of a person or relationship, and the other person fails to live up to our needs. The only cure for loneliness is to build a new relationship with our own heart, and learn to trust and love the one that lives within.