Cold, Lonely Nights

It’s not actually cold in my apartment, but “cold, lonely nights” sounds better than “lonely nights.” Might as well be dramatic about it. The “lonely nights” part is certainly true. Weekends are difficult for me because it’s me spending time with me. To mix it up a little bit, sometimes I hang out with me. I don’t say this because I don’t have friends. I have plenty of friends and acquaintances who would likely spend some time with me if I asked. I had an offer to hang out with a couple friends tonight and turned it down in leu of spending a quiet evening at home. I am not referring to the loneliness associated with being the only person in a room or house. I am talking about the loneliness associated with feeling alone when in a room full of people. I’m talking about the loneliness that comes from not having a person…my person.

If you are having your own cold, lonely night, you have some time to spend with me. Come on a word adventure with me — see if you can follow my train of thought by reading these definitions. On their own, they are just words. Once the concepts are put together, they tell a story.


Lonely: “Producing a feeling of bleakness or desolation” (n.d.).

Desolate:Joyless, disconsolate, and sorrowful through or as if through separation from a loved one” (n.d.).

Joyless: “Not experiencing or inspiring joy” (n.d.).

Inspiring: “Having an animating or exalting effect” (n.d.).

Animate: “To give life to; make alive” (n.d.).


The story is this: When I am without my person, I am missing the piece that enables me to really experience life. Again, this sounds a little dramatic. Okay…it sounds a lot dramatic. But it begs the question: can we as human beings be truly happy alone? Can I be happy as a single person? “There seems to be a strong stigma about loneliness,” says Dr. Karyn Hall. “Not feeling free to talk about loneliness adds to the problem and to the judgments of the experience” (2013). Hmmmmmm. This sounds strangely familiar. Stigma…shame…not being able to tell our story. Sounds a little bit like our societal struggle with mental illness, right? In an effort to bash one more stigma to pieces, I want to tell you a little bit about my loneliness.

I like how Karyn Hall (2013) describes loneliness as an experience. Yes, I experience the emotion of loneliness…I feel lonely…but I also am in the midst of an experience or journey. It is so much more than just a feeling. It is a living, breathing companion who at times seems to physically smother me like a heavy, wet blanket. When it comes down to it, though, loneliness is a pretty crappy companion.

I have a tendency to jump into relationships with users. Because of my empathetic nature, I give and give, which attracts people who take and take. I have very low self-esteem or appreciation for my own worth, which subsequently leads to relationships in which I give much and receive little. I tolerate them for way too long because of my perception that I don’t deserve any better. If I see a need, I try to meet the need, regardless of the toll it takes on me physically, mentally, and emotionally. The vicious cycle inevitably leaves me burnt out and alone, while my so-called partner is off looking for their next giver.

Once again, I bought myself a one way ticket to Loneliville. My goal with this post is not to have a big, elaborate pity party. However, I do feel a need to acknowledge my loneliness. It’s awful. When I hit rock bottom several weeks ago, it was largely due to the fact that I know how much love I have to give, yet so far no one wants me enough to honor the commitment they have made to me. It is devastating to realize that I have so much to give, but no one to give it to. I feel like the opposite of a panhandler – instead of standing on a street corner begging for money, I am standing there trying to shove $100 bills into passing hands.

Part of me wants to scream, “LET ME LOVE YOU!!!!” I shouldn’t have to do that, right? All this love should attract other people who have equal amounts of love to give and equal amounts of respect for other human beings. In a perfect world, maybe. Unfortunately, that’s not how this world works. Goodness attracts exploitation. Generosity attracts profiteers. Empathy attracts emotional/physical/financial capitalists who only want to know what’s in it for them.

A friend of mine recently helped me see my pattern in a different light. Instead of seeing only good in my endeavors to make another person’s life better by showering them with love, kindness, and generosity, I am actually in the throes of an addiction that could very well cost me my life if I’m not careful. To be an addict means “to devote or surrender (oneself) to something habitually or obsessively” (Addict, n.d.). To be addicted to something means to have “repeated involvement with a substance or activity, despite the substantial harm it now causes, because that involvement was (and may continue to be) pleasurable and/or valuable” (MentalHelp.net, 2019). I am addicted to the false sense of identity that is achieved by being the person who would do anything and everything for someone else. I have convinced myself over the years that if I can give of myself to another, even to the point of being completely used up, then I have worth. I am never just Amber…I am so-and-so’s wife/cook/cleaner/landscaper/[insert whatever else fits]. I put a positive spin on it and say that I am doing so much for someone! Yet, I don’t see the “substantial harm” it is doing to me, myself, and I. I am willing to sacrifice my very sanity and emotional health so that another might be happy.

So here I sit on this not-so-cold cold, lonely night, pondering ways in which I can break this cycle without being consumed by the loneliness necessary to break the cycle. Unfortunately, I only know how to attract people who do not have the ability to give back to me all that I am willing to give to them. In order to learn how to attract a better sort of person, I have to develop an understanding of my own worth. I know that. I see that. I understand where I need to be…I just don’t know exactly how to get there. The rational part of me knows I have worth and that I don’t deserve to be used or treated like my own needs are not important. The emotional (the slightly irrational) part of me aches to feel wanted and needed again. I was made to love others. How do I turn that part of me off while I learn to love myself?

You might think it would be easy to just replace “my person” with a whole bunch of friends who also need love and kindness. But there is something to be said for having someone to come home to after work and vent to about the day’s silly issues. There is something to be said for having someone to sit with while you each read a book or watch TV. There is something to be said for having a person to snuggle up to when it legitimately is cold in the apartment and your freezing feet need a warm place to rest. I miss those parts of a relationship. It’s hard to deny myself those wonderful things in an effort to save myself from the other stuff…the damaging stuff.

My good friend, Amy, wrote some wonderful thoughts about dating and relationships. She suggests that “we need to let go of our expectations and hold on to the reality of what our lives have become… I’m not going to say smile about it, because really, it’s not always easy to be alone” (Thompson, 2015). It’s not easy. But not all things are meant to be easy. I strongly believe that I deserve happiness. My goal now is to believe that personal happiness is not a byproduct of sacrificing all for the sake of another’s happiness. There’s no such thing as second-hand happiness.

Every time I hear the door of my apartment building open, I hope for just a second that it’s my person coming to save me from the demons of loneliness. I envy my neighbors who have more than just their own self to keep them company in the evening or on the weekend. Maybe someday I will have that. Maybe someday I will love myself enough to realize I deserve someone who wants my happiness as deeply as they want their own. Maybe someday.

 

References

Addict. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/addict

Animate. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.dictionary.com/browse/animate

Desolate. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/desolate

Hall, Karyn. (2013). Accepting Loneliness. Psychology Today. Retrieved from https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/pieces-mind/201301/accepting-loneliness

Inspiring. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/inspiring

Joyless. (n.d.). Retrieved from https://www.vocabulary.com/dictionary/joyless

Lonely. (n.d.). In online Merriam-Webster Dictionary. Retrieved from https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/lonely

MentalHelp.net. (2019). Definition of Addiction. Retrieved from https://www.mentalhelp.net/articles/definition-of-addiction/

Thompson, Amy. (2015). Retrieved from https://www.facebook.com/Goombasmom/posts/10157179571807845?comment_id=10157180441362845&notif_id=1546607601861178&notif_t=feedback_reaction_generic

7 thoughts on “Cold, Lonely Nights

  1. This is an excellent, sadly relatable post. I have felt many of these emotions as I’ve lately been trying to work through my own similar issues. I want to think about and digest more of this and perhaps share my own feelings later if it’s not an intrusion.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. It’s really quite remarkable how many people identify as being lonely when there are so many people in the world. But this time is about texting and social media and other ways of connecting without actually having to make a connection. Someone may have 100 or 1,000 Facebook “friends” but have no friends they can count on in real life. Their “person.”

    I miss having my own person. I have discussed this a bit with a friend who has written about these subjects on here. She has been helpful in my dealings with this stuff but I don’t like to bother her with it. I’m not her person to have to be burdened with stuff, but she likes to point out that everyone in her world is her person, not just her boyfriend. But still …

    I just started noticing my loneliness about 15 months ago. It fuels my depression. I’ve been divorced about 3 1/2 years. I miss having someone to talk to, to hold, to make a deep connection with mentally, emotionally, even physically. But it’s the emotional connection we crave and many of us don’t have. I want to feel like someone cares but I really don’t feel that. That’s what loneliness does. There have been times I’ve tried to talk to someone about my feelings and things, but oftentimes it turns into me being the listener. I’m OK with doing that if it helps someone. I guess that’s the empath in me.

    The longer I go without a connection, the more I tend to believe it’s because I don’t deserve it. Yes, rationally that’s not true, but the lonely mind tells you to believe it, especially after so many rejections over the past couple of years. I, too, have so much love to give but no one wants it. And it really makes me question what’s wrong with me. There’s nothing wrong with me. I think people are just afraid to get close to someone because of the pain they’ve experienced in the past. I also know this has broken me. I don’t know how to fix it, at least not without someone willing to help and no one seems willing or able to do so. And maybe the fact I don’t love myself is a contributing factor. After all, if you can’t get love from the most important person in your life, how can you expect it from anyone else?

    I don’t have an answer. I think age seems to exasperate it. I’m mid-50s now. I no longer believe there’s going to be anyone in my life again. I think love hates old people. Also people who haven’t experienced loneliness and depression can’t understand these feelings. Before it ensnared me I probably wasn’t aware of how crushing it could be.

    Sorry to have hijacked your post. I hope your journey finds smoother roads.

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  3. How true that at times we just want to know that someone cares. It hit me hard right before Thanksgiving. I ended up changing my plans and leaving for home a day later than expected. I realized that my change in plans affected no one besides my family out in Colorado. Although I tried to view it as more of a positive thing – freedom, flexibility, etc. – it was hard to not view it as “my life literally has no impact on those around me.”

    I want to not need a person. It would make life so much simpler. I am just not convinced we as humans are wired to be alone.

    Don’t give up hope yet! Don’t let your age fool you. Life is a crazy ride and you never know just who might walk into your life at the most unexpected time. That doesn’t help with the gnawing pain of loneliness in this moment, but try to keep sight of hope. I think life just waits for us to fall in love with ourselves so we know how to let others love us the way we deserve to be loved.

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  4. I wrote on a post somewhere a couple years ago people aren’t meant to be alone unless they choose to. But it chose me instead. I also feel like my life has no impact on anyone too. I got fed up with my depression and other things about two months ago and quit all of my medications. If it killed me or something, so be it. It wouldn’t be noticed anyway. I’ve even failed at that it appears. I feel as good or better than when I was taking stuff. I told a couple people about it. They would just scold me, but didn’t seem to care or be interested in what caused it.

    It was around Thanksgiving a year ago when I started falling into this depression. After a couple years without having even a date, I met a local woman through one of the online sites. We spent 2+ hours on the phone one night discovering a lot of common ground. We agreed to meet about three days later. She never showed. I never heard from her again and was never able to contact her. So I’d ask myself what’s wrong with me. Over the next six months or so, two other women did the same, standing me up for a date. So I’m again left questioning myself. And then as the holidays came around, a time I’ve never had any care about, I slipped into a deeper state. And the fact I only heard from two people on Thanksgiving and Christmas (just a best wishes text) confirmed in my mind no one cared.

    People take these things in different ways. I got the second Christmas text about 9:30 am. The rest of the day was spent watching dumb Christmas movies because I had nowhere to go or no one to see. At night I drove through the Christmas light trail, but noted it would’ve been better with someone. A person who is in a toxic relationship said it sounded like a perfect day because I didn’t have to drag someone kicking and screaming to it. She would’ve loved doing that alone. But I’m alone every day and hate it. I want to enjoy things with someone else. And if we want to change course, let’s see where it takes us. The important thing is the company along the journey.

    I don’t take much stock in age except when I do. Emotionally I don’t feel my age. I tend to talk to mostly younger women, co-workers, servers at my favorite watering hole, mostly because I don’t meet women in my age group. But they aren’t interested in someone who would be old enough to call dad. So they aren’t dating material. Or really even hang out material (or likely it’s me not being hang out material for them). Thus I have little hope of things changing.

    I wasn’t always like this. It has devolved into something I had and don’t know how to fix. Thus I tend to hate myself. Not a good look.

    Thanks for your time. I’ll not take any more of it. Best wishes on your search.

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  5. I think the important thing is to remember that even if you feel like your life doesn’t touch others, it actually does. We can feel a lot of things, but that doesn’t make it true. We can also tell ourselves that it’s all our own fault, but that doesn’t make it true either. Instead of viewing it as a reflection on you, take it as a lesson regarding what you do and don’t want in a relationship. If those women are that flaky and undependable, is that really who you want by your side? I have enough failed marriages now that it’s finally starting to sink in what I do and don’t want in a relationship. Don’t settle just for the sake of companionship.

    Find something to bring you hope. Hope and faith are two difficult concepts for me because they are based solely on the intangible. What keeps me going is that I never know what’s going to happen around the next corner: If it’s good things, great! If it’s more bad, I’ve been preparing my whole life up to this point to face whatever waits for me.

    For me, it has been helpful finding a way to take my struggles and try to reach other people who might be going through the same thing. The more relationships we build and connections we make, the more successful we will be in living with our demons. After all these years of struggle, I am finally realizing that I can’t be a passive participant in my own life. I need to chase after what I want. I may not get what I want in the end, but at least I am giving it a fighting chance! I may not get what I want, but I’ll learn a heck of a lot about myself along the way.

    That may not be at all helpful for you, but I hope you know that you aren’t alone. I’d argue that it’s better to be alone than in a miserable relationship. It’s all about perspective. And I also don’t say these things to be preachy – I understand how discouraging it is to be alone in all aspects. It sucks. All we can do is take it one day at a time. Sometimes all I can do is take is one hour or minute at a time!

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  6. I had a reply to this that was describing how I’ve gotten to this point but realized it made me sound like an even worse loser than I may be in real life. So I’ll just leave it be. Thank you for your replies. They were helpful.

    Like

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