Q: I think loneliness is such a universal yet under-discussed subject--maybe because it's sort of taboo. No one wants to admit to being lonely for fear of sounding pathetic, yet so many people actually are, even if they're surrounded by friends, family and love. What do you think?
A: I think you hit the nail with your head.
There is a big, huge, chasm-sized difference between being physically alone and feeling lonely, and the taboo comes from people automatically connecting the two. Tell someone you feel lonely and they give you the "you'll find someone" pep talk. You were merely expressing a feeling, like happiness or nausea. But in many people's eyes, loneliness is synonymous with "aloneness" and therefore elicits an almost audible "aww." You suddenly feel like you have a big L on your forehead that might as well stand for Loser.
Loneliness is mysterious because it can crop up at strange times - which makes it difficult to explain and can make you feel like you must "justify" it. For example, whether you're attached or single you might love solitary lunches or mid-morning coffee runs, but even in those lovely moments you can feel... something. What is that gnawing feeling? It's not hunger. It's not tiredness. Ah yes, it's loneliness. Once you identify it, you know it can be nothing else.
Loneliness usually ebbs and flows, but if the feeling persists and you just can't shake it? Eventually you should share it - with a professional, that is. Don't flinch at that suggestion because if you reach a point where a profound sense of loneliness permeates every activity, from the mundane (tying your shoes) to the incredible (winning the Powerball), it will inhibit your ability to fully live and enjoy your life. Talking with friends can be an enormous help but even best friends with the best intentions can't always fix what ails ya.
The upside (yep, there is one): Loneliness is a universal emotion. Everyone knows what it feels like, so whether or not people launch into pep talk mode, they can empathize (though they won't admit it because that's, like, sooo pathetic). You want what everyone else wants: Someone who 'gets' you. Someone you don't have to explain everything to. Someone who gives you butterflies. Someone who knows you'll ask for the salad without raisins because their texture clashes with the endive and they don't play nice with the cucumbers. Haven't found that person yet? Or you already have but still feel lonely sometimes? That's totally ok. And totally normal! Absolutely everyone on the planet feels lonely sometimes (not even love can claim that status). And in that way, it binds us to others in the very moments we feel most removed. The taboo should be lifted right there.