Open your heart.

I’ve always preferred being alone.  Like a textbook, Jungian introvert, I am drained by social encounters and energized by solitary and creative pursuits.  I’m not weird or shy – which are often attributed to introversion.  In fact, I was a very social and precocious child.  I’m not antisocial or awkward – which are often used to describe introverts. I am friendly and social and can even be the life of the party.  But in recent years, I’ve started to recognize the beauty and joy of withdrawing.  Be warned: There is a nasty Catch-22.  If you withdrawal from social interaction, then you usually find yourself alone.  It’s not so much the being alone that gets to me, it’s the loneliness.  And that can happen in even the most crowded of social situations.

“You get so alone at times that it just feels right.” ~Charles Bukowski

Without a strong model of familial connection, I’ve always been sort of flying blind as I try to build the friendships and relationships to combat loneliness.  All I ever really wanted was to be seen and to know that I matter to someone.  As I mentioned in Invite the Light, I wasn’t getting validation or confidence-inducing attention at home.  So, my bids for love and connection were usually lopsided and unsuccessful.  Often they were reflections of roles I had adopted in dealing with my mother: caretaker, scapegoat.  Sometimes they were reflections of messages internalized by my father’s absence: unwanted, unlovable.  But most often, I was just desperate for another person to talk and to listen to me.  And folks, desperation never begets companionship.

The term “daddy issues” gets overused and often satirized in media today. Dayna Evans touches on this cloudy and damning topic HERE.  It’s hard to find a solid definition but, ultimately, "daddy issues" almost alway ends with a fatal relationship prognosis.  Truth be told, our first model of what any human interaction is supposed to look like comes from within our family: partner-partner, parent-child, sibling-friend.  So I can’t dismiss the idea that my own choices have been influenced by my parents’ examples – or lack there-of.

But you know what?  I’m not lonely because my dad wasn’t around.  I’m not lonely because my mom was sick.  I’m not lonely because of some external situation of which I am a victim.  I am lonely because I don’t let people in and I often prefer my own company to that of others. While this is not a statement that makes me proud, a life alone in the woods, off-the-grid, and completely isolated from society is appealing to me.  No, I don’t harbor hatred or ill will towards technology à la Ted Kaczynski.  (Hell, I’m writing on a blog and posting on Instagram and twitter, aren’t I?)  But I do desire the deeper association of the mind and spirit that solitude can bring.  And from this deeper association, arises the recognition that connection is more than just the presence of another.

It is physical touch.
It is inside jokes.
It is eye contact.
It is intimacy.
It is laughter.
It is passion.

One of my best friends in college, Joseph*, and I met freshmen year when we were placed down the hall from each other in the same dorm.  We were in some of the same classes and realized quickly that we both liked to laugh and to party.  So we did, together and often.  Over the next few years, I met his family and friends.  He met mine.  I believe that he truly knew me and cared for me.  So imagine my surprise when we were having a conversation one night about the upcoming difficulties of adulthood and he served me a harsh truth.  I was lamenting the disconnect with my friends.  About how I felt unsettled and was ready for a change.  About how I saw my life out there in the real world as the place where I would finally fit.  He paused, looked me in the eyes and said,

“I worry about you.  You’re unhappy with your friends at college.  You’re unhappy with your life at home.  You don’t feel like you fit in anywhere.  Where are you happy?”

His question was honest and so true that I couldn’t respond.  Maybe I was the reason I was unhappy.  If I couldn’t find anywhere to fit in or if I couldn’t find anyone with whom I felt connected, then maybe I was the problem.  Was I lonely because I withdraw from social interaction in order to be by myself and, by so doing, close myself off to intimacy?  The truth hurts.

Sydney J. Harris wrote, “It's surprising how many persons go through life without ever recognizing that their feelings toward other people are largely determined by their feelings toward themselves, and if you're not comfortable within yourself, you can't be comfortable with others.”

It’s like we hit our heads against a wall over and over again about something until we realize that maybe we’re not handling it well.  Maybe we’re not approaching it well.  Maybe we’re the problem.  And if we never examine it, then we never get to understand it.  And without solving our issues and resolving the problems arising from them, we stay beating our heads against the same walls in perpetuity.

So now, when I find myself lonely – even in the midst of friendships and activities – I am forced to own the choices and behaviors that got me there.  If I’m not happy, it’s not my circumstances or my friends or my age or my bank account or my {insert excuse here} that is keeping me from it.  It’s silly to attribute blame for my lack of connection onto anything other than my lack of connecting.

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it.” ~Rumi

You find your happiness by choosing to be happy.
By loving who and where you are, happiness finds you.
You find your connection and fend off loneliness by choosing to be connected.
By opening your heart, love comes to you.

And you learn, each time you open your heart, that even when you are entirely alone, you don’t have to be lonely.





✏️ Writer • 🎤 Speaker • 🙋🏻 Teacher • RESILIENT OPTIMIST • Sharing words of love and compassion.