Guys like us are the loneliest guys in the world.
-John Steinbeck, Of Mice and Men
Loneliness is one of the most profound and shared of human experiences. We can feel lonely when we are physically alone, but we can feel an even deeper sense of isolation in a crowd of people or despite having hundreds of Facebook “friends” or Instagram followers.
Why? Because I think what we are seeking is real connection. We want to see and be seen. We want to love and be loved.
But finding real connection isn’t easy. And finding that right balance of real connection and healthy alone time is also a challenge! What is important is to know what your needs are—that you spend time alone when you need to and that you find people who nurture you, rather than sap your energy.
Next week will usher in the Jewish Holiday Season, beginning with Rosh Hashanah and ending with Sukkot, about three weeks later. And like Thanksgiving, New Years and Christmas, these holidays can be wonderful times of togetherness and also overwhelming times of togetherness.
And this is where I think loneliness can actually serve a very important purpose. That first little sensation of loneliness can serve as a wake-up call, reminding us that we need some self-care, telling us that maybe we need more time with others, or maybe we need time alone. Whatever it is, listen to it, affirm it and—to the best of your ability—care for yourself, without guilt or shame.
Whatever holidays you celebrate, loneliness is a real issue, and something we face throughout our lives. But I think we can turn the awareness of loneliness into a dynamic and loving inner-dialogue, directing us toward deeper and more fulfilling interaction.