Earlier this week, I was having a conversation with an old musician buddy about loneliness. Just what you wanted to be reading about over your morning coffee, I know. For those of us in the arts - in order to get the thing right - we necessarily have to spend a ton of time on our own, and that can get the ol’ brain box working overtime in not-so-awesome ways. I've spent years lost down this particular rabbit hole, so I figured I’d share a few thoughts.
Several years ago, a friend sent me this quote by theologian Paul Tillich:
“Language has created the word ‘loneliness’ to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word ‘solitude’ to express the glory of being alone.”
These words came at a critical point in my life, and they planted a seed. I began exploring the meaning of “being alone,” and I discovered that, in and of itself, being alone’s neither negative or positive, just a fact that describes a good portion of a creative’s life. If Tillich was right, then, it could be experienced as painful loneliness or glorious solitude.
So, I asked myself “what do I enjoy about being alone?” The list was long haha, so I’ll share just a handful:
-being alone quiets my mind and heightens my appreciation of the world around me. I notice little things I’d otherwise ignore - the interplay of shadows on the wall, or even just my breathing.
-I’m more productive when I’m alone because I can follow my train of thought more easily, especially when I’m writing music.
-being alone means I can listen to my body and allow it to dictate the rhythm of the day - when to sleep, eat, write, or take a walk.
-I spend a lot of time on my own, and being alone so much makes trips out into the mean ol’ world special, like I’m seeing everything with fresh eyes. My curiosity’s piqued, and I tend to be more embracing of interesting people and places.
I’m proudly not an android, at least not yet (c’mon, Elon!), so whenever the pain of being alone overtakes me I don’t fight it. Instead, I direct a little compassion at myself by acknowledging that where I’m at right now’s a bummer. “It’s tough feeling like you’re missing out when all your pals are on tour,” or “yeah, it just plain sucks not being around people right now” are phrases I’ll literally say out loud until I feel like I’m listening. I remind myself that the pain of loneliness, like all mental states, comes and goes. It’s brutal now, but if I’m patient the sweetness of solitude will take it’s place.
Anyway, I hope this offers a little perspective. We’re all in this together.