Whether or not you like it, we live in a world requiring interaction.
And yet, there are many days I don’t want to be a part of anyone else’s drama, so I look for ways to remove myself from unnecessary personal contact intending to enjoy the peace found in solitude.
Personally, I don’t think being alone and being lonely are synonymous.
And yes, there are days I am not just alone, but lonely.
In fact, some days I am very lonely and not by choice but I don’t know why. It’s the loneliness felt while standing in a crowded room. Perhaps you’ve experienced this same phenomena.
If you keep reading, I’ll share with you a secret that might help overcome those unwelcome lonely days.
I like to look for similarities in nature that might provide some curious insight to these human problems, and use my camera to grab stories that strike an emotional chord.
One instance presented itself while walking along the beach; I spotted a flock of sand pipers at the waterline.
These little birds don’t communicate like you and I. In fact, while watching them wander along the shoreline I never heard them make a single noise. And yet, as the waves brushed up onto the beach the entire group would move as if connected. Mesmerized, I followed their dance up and down the sandy promenade that mirrored the ebb and flow of the gentle water waltz.
Occasionally, the group would stop and some members would plop down to rest, the others going on about their business with little regard for the setting few. Then, as quickly as they stopped, they jumped up again and meandered their way along the shoreline in search of the next best thing to find, whatever it might be they were looking for.
Although they moved as a group, they had no obvious specific pattern of interaction. Each little avian hunter appeared expertly focused on whatever tasty morsel it might find in the fringes of the watery diner and seemed oblivious to what the active peeper next to it might be doing.
As an observer, it was fascinating to see this flock move as a unit, yet work as individuals.
There was not an obvious collective goal, but it felt like they had a strong desire to remain together.
I know that many times in the past I also wandered through the day in crowds of people and focused on my own tasks at hand, unaware or maybe unfocused on the people surrounding me. It is so easy to get lost in myself.
I believe this is typical for many of us, and truthfully it helps to consider this feeling is never unique to just me.
But how you and I deal with self-centered interaction is so much more important.
As so well put by John Donne:
“All mankind is of one author, and is one volume; when one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language; and every chapter must be so translated…As therefore the bell that rings to a sermon, calls not upon the preacher only, but upon the congregation to come: so this bell calls us all: but how much more me, who am brought so near the door by this sickness….No man is an island, entire of itself…any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind; and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
…No man is an island, entire of itself…
A smile to a stranger can adjust their outlook and they may pass that improved spirit on to someone else.
We rarely understand how much or how significant our movement through the day impacts others; because we are always so focused on ourselves.
I don’t think there is anything wrong with self-awareness, focus on improving our position in life, or enjoying alone time.
I think the danger comes when we do these things with no outward reflection or empathy provided to our fellow earth-mates.
And this idea is one of the secrets I’ve found to help me get through the unwanted lonely days; understand how important our actions are on those around us, without focusing on how others have influenced us.
Perspective is the key.
Perspective is the one word that can transform gut-wrenching loneliness into peaceful alone time (when it isn’t caused by internal chemical imbalance issues).
When I walk with blinders on toward those around me and wallow in my alone-time, or focus on what others do to me; their actions or lack of actions for my benefit, I perceive the world as a lonely place — out to make my life miserable.
I am lonely.
But when I remove the blinders and consider the synergistic quality of all human lives, my perspective changes.
And then my mood changes.
I reflect on how my actions are creating waves and ripples — positive or negative — toward the lives around me. I realize my existence impact others.
I have more of a sensation that my life matters.
I still must decide if I want it to be relevant to my fellow travelers in a good or bad way, but I matter regardless, just by being present.
Perhaps you can use this idea to adjust your perception. Consider how you impact the people around you who you don’t even know; or more importantly, those you spend time with regularly.
Are we obligated to consider others, just because we exist together? What is the danger when we don’t?