On loneliness

One thing I noticed upon returning to Bamenda from India is. . . I am
lonely. I'm pretty sure I was equally lonely before going to India, it's
just that I hadn't particularly noticed. It is just my state of being, so if
there's no change, it seems to fade into the background. It's not like I'm
pining away or anything. I interact with people, I work with people, I am
around people at least as much as I want (if not sometimes more so).

I am not sure why this came to the forefront after being in India. Perhaps
it was because when I was in the yoga teacher's training course, I was with
people who were quite similar to me. Although from all over the world, most
people there were either Westerners or lived in the West, most people were
well-educated and from middle class backgrounds, most people were "global
citizens" and were well-traveled and knowledgeable about other cultures. And
they were not only spiritual, but spiritually open/exploring. There was a
sense of familiarity and ease, and I think I felt I could "be myself" at a
deeper level.

Whereas here in Cameroon, I spend a lot of my time hyper-aware of other
people's (false) perceptions of me based primarily on the color of my skin.
That's not the case with the people I work with (from VSO, NWADO, or Mezam
Stars), but it is the surrounding environment. I am not isolated. I have
quite a few acquaintances and I am friendly with many people and they are
friendly with me. There are other VSO volunteers that I stay in touch with
and see from time to time. Yet, on an emotional level, there is no one with
whom I am close.

I have a sort of default thought which says that I should not need close
relationships (hmm, that seems like a bizarre thing to think when I see it
in black and white like that, but it is the conversation in my head). That I
should be perfectly fine and happy all on my own. Partly this comes from the
idea that I should accept the current reality. Partly it comes from a deeply
ingrained belief in independence/self-sufficiency and the idea that it is
bad to "be needy" and therefore to "need". Oddly, this thought still holds
sway even though I know many other people (most? All?) firmly believe they
want/need to be in at least one, if not many, intimate relationships and
feel no hesitation or shame about feeling lonely or spending time and energy
to find or create those sorts of relationships. And I don't think there is
anything wrong with them for wanting this. In fact, I am sometimes a bit
envious.

It's no wonder, then, that I don't have any intimate relationships. . .

Despite that dominating conversation, the truth is I really miss being in
relationship with someone who cares what I think about stuff, who is
interested in what is going on in my life on a day-to-day basis, who wants
to know how I feel about this or that. If I am honest, I would say that one
or more intimate relationships is something I need. I am a better person
when I care deeply about another person. I find it immensely helpful when I
can talk things through with someone else (rather than just swimming around
and around in my mind). I am braver, stronger, saner, more motivated, more
inspired, more creative, probably nicer, definitely happier and more
grateful when I have someone else with whom I am creating life.

("But you should find or develop those things within yourself. You are just
looking for happiness outside of yourself and you'll never find it there.
What about Mother Teresa and oh so many saints? They didn't need anyone else
but God. Why isn't that enough for you?")

Another less than helpful conversation that is repeated in my head is that
the life I want is so unusual that I will never find anyone else who would
want to share it with me. I envision a future where I move every few years
and spend most of my time in Africa or other parts of the developing world.
Most people my age living that life are married with children. Neither is
not particularly conducive to my developing or maintaining close
relationships.

This seems to me to be a conflict, and an unresolvable one. This adds weight
to the "you should just accept your situation" argument. When I am in touch
with the loneliness, I often just try to hold the conflict in suspension.
Just allow it to be there, allow the loneliness to be there, allow the wish
for closer relationships to be there.

That seems about the best I can do these days. Which of the conflicting
conversations is true only time will tell.

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About Seth Longacre

primal health coach, vision fast guide, itinerant discalced Episcopal Deacon, barefoot runner, photographer, spiritual director, yoga teacher, minimalist, pilgrim
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