My loneliness pops up when least expected as if I’ve just ran into an ex at the movie theatre. An ex I hoped to never see again. Yet, an ex who, indeed, hoped to see me. Much like the ex who asks what you’ve been up to, only to learn you’ve thrived without them, loneliness is contemptuous. It smiles its Joker smile which stretches its skin taught. The smile wishes me well, while loneliness’ eyes secretly hope I’ll lose my balance and fall into the hole it creates in my chest every time it visits. And I do; I have many times become Alice’s less alluring cousin. Here, though, there’s no Cheshire Cat. No Mad Hatter. No Queen of Hearts. Just war. War between my ego and my heart.
It started when I was younger, when loneliness fronted as an ally rather than an adversary. For we played this game my loneliness and I. I saw how long I could go without feeling it, pretending it didn’t exist; loneliness saw how long it would take to drag me down to my personal hell. Then, its disguise as an old friend was there to comfort me as I slid the razors across my thighs. There to validate me when I overate. And there to rationalize when I vomited to purge myself of the very feeling of being lonely.
It offered companionship, loneliness did. For it didn’t matter how many times I cut, overate, or vomited. It was still there. And it never mattered how many people surrounded me, for those people could never understand the pain I was in. Not like loneliness. Yet, loneliness told me I was alone much like the abusive ex who always finds the right card to play. Loneliness kept me alone. Kept me cutting, binging, and purging. And my ego allowed the war to wage on as if my heart’s pleas for peace, its white flags, were taunts. For not only is loneliness contemptuous, but it is also relentless, malicious, and dangerous.
I’d like to say, here, that there was a turning point. That I reached adulthood and slayed loneliness as if it were the Jabberwocky. And, perhaps, there was a moment when I stood up, told my ego to just STFU, embraced my own company, and pierced loneliness’ scales; perhaps, even drew blood, letting it know its opponent just leveled up. But loneliness cannot be killed because, you see, it is a part of life. It’s relentless, malicious, dangerous, contempt is natural. And being human, and in living life, I feel it. We all do.
But behind its Joker smile and its Jabberwocky demeanor, loneliness does have a weakness. Its whispers, its taunts, and its abuse cannot penetrate the understanding that being lonely does not mean being alone. That being lonely isn’t a permanent state of being. Rather, it is the heart’s cry for help, which, if left unanswered, or ignored, ignites the ego. That’s when loneliness sits back and watches the chaos unfold with a bag of buttered popcorn and a soda pop. The only difference in the game now, is that I can either choose to give it a show, as so many rounds ago, or I can choose to listen, not to loneliness, but to my heart.
So, as I greet loneliness as the ex at the movie theatre, and as I suit up to face feeling lonely, my heart ignores the contempt on loneliness’ face as it realizes I’ve been thriving. My heart ignores the Joker grin and the precarious well wishes as it anticipates the game. My heart also ignores the memories as loneliness starts in with, “Do you remember when…” Instead, my heart opens to feel it, allowing it to flow through me as an electrical current flows through water. It may shock; it may sting; hell it may even surprise or strike me down. There will be days, I will not want to acknowledge it, and I will be tempted to play. But in the moment, I smile at loneliness, kill it with kindness, give it a hug and wish it well. And all it can do is watch me walk away, much like the ex, until the next time our paths cross again.