Married to Myself
When I was single, I was not alone. Certainly, there were moments wherein I felt lonely but I did not feel alone. Neither did I when I got married and moved out to a barren West TX desert border town. Plopped in an adobe home away from heat but also anyone I could remotely befriend, I lived without any friends for a year. My husband and I used to joke that the UPS delivery man was my best friend. I made him cookies for the Holidays . . .
The isolation served its purpose in creating a haven for writing my upcoming book (Prestel/Random House Spring 2018); I had not a distraction! What it could have also handed or dealt me with is loneliness. In a state of remoteness, our immediate emotional response is loneliness. And that's what it is: loneliness is an emotional response to the state of being alone. It stems not only from our innate desire to connect with another but also of stability or familiarity. Think about the times during your daily life where you're alone but not lonely, even such as going to the bathroom. Despite its simplicity and routine aspect, this act illustrates the effect of emotional attachment. We don't place emotional relations to going to the bathroom; there is no time planning to charge our here and now.
The sense of familiarity is a trusting relationship with the unknown. What often squeezes our perspective of being alone into a diminutive one of loneliness is how we relate to ourselves. Many of us have a tendency to place ourselves within a time capsule where we travel back to the future. We relate to our current context and self by mirroring our past into a victimised future. Here, future events are extrapolated based solely on what happened to us in the past. We find a paradoxical comfort in the familiarity of assuming what the future holds based upon past experiences.
“Many of us have a tendency to place ourselves within a time capsule where we travel back to the future”
An admitted semi-comical "Jesus, take the wheel" approach, we cease to take a hold of the future in a view of the world coming at us. This presents a focused highlight reel of past unfortunate events, allowing or pushing us into an assumption of a future where we remain helpless victims of our external happenings. Our present becomes an onslaught of oncoming traffic, the past from the left and future from the right. We consequently date ourselves—the here and now becomes timestamped by what has happened with what might.
This is the integral point which can allow us to shift our understanding of alone versus lonely. When we see the world coming from rather than at us, we anchor the future in the stability of the self rather than outside events or people. In the other sense of the word, dating or taking ourselves out on a date is one approach in establishing this kinship with the self. Be aware of how our quick tendencies to eat while scrolling through Instagram or pushing ourselves to go out when we are drained might just be a way to distract ourselves from loneliness. Although the microcosm of Instagram or physically being surrounded by people may quell this feeling, it's an unsustainable Band-Aid fix. Ultimately, we have distracted ourselves from the true matter at hand making us emotionally respond to being alone.
Instead, let's rekindle our awareness with ourselves. Don't have someone to eat a meal with? Take yourself out to lunch or dinner. Grab a cup of tea by a windowsill in the afternoon, breaking your gaze away from your screen and onto the street. To sit still with yourself and by yourself in time will mend not only your inner relationship but that which you have woven of the past & future; those you interact with; and your current and possibly future lover, but that's for another date . . .
About the Author
Almila Kakinc-Dodd is the Founder, Editor-in-Chief of The Thirlby. She is also the author of the book The Thirlby: A Field Guide to a Vibrant Mind, Body, & Soul. She is currently pursuing her Master’s in Nursing as a Dean’s Scholar at Johns Hopkins University. Her background is in Anthropology & Literature, which she has further enriched through her Integrative Health Practitioner training at Duke University. She lives in the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, where she regularly contributes to various publications. She is a member of Democratic Socialists of America and urges others to join the movement.