Thursday, November 27, 2008

Being Lonely versus Being Alone

I sit here typing in the middle of a deserted campground - deserted save for me, my wife, and my son - the three of us in our tent trailer, the only inhabitants of this state park campground. As I sit and type, I realize I am lonely.

I was often lonely when I was single, so I always equated the feeling of loneliness with being alone. Yet I am not alone here. Still, I feel lonely. A sense of melancholy hangs over me as I realize how little I fit in with those around me even when there is no one around me. This feeling was eased a little when a couple other campers set up in this campground, but it did not go away entirely.

For instance, what does it say about me when the person I see as my best friend, the person with whom I feel the greatest sense of connection in the outside world is someone who lives more than 300 miles away in another state and is someone I may never actually see again? Whatever it says, I can't imagine it is all that good.

When I was single, I always had the excuse of being alone to explain my loneliness. There was some comfort in that because it created the sense that I could end my loneliness simply by being around other people.

That is how I have always dealt with that loneliness - by putting myself in a setting where I could surround myself with others. Yet I never really made a connection with any of them or them with me. I was still lonely, and I still felt alone.

I managed to escape that feeling or at least delude myself that I had escaped it after my marriage. I was busy enough trying to be a decent husband and later a decent father that I rarely had time to feel lonely or alone.

Lately, though, that has changed. I changed jobs and have yet to make any friends in my new position aside from the aforementioned friend in another state. Part of that is the new workplace itself. Everyone is usually very busy, and that makes it hard to make a connection. The other part of it is somewhat geographical. I sit all but alone in my area of the department. The nearest people to me are almost all managers.

The third part of it is something lacking in me. I am not by nature an extremely warm or outgoing person. As a result, people do not tend to gravitate to me. At times, I suspect I come off as cold or aloof.

At other times, I may come across as too needy because I do recognize this giant hole in my life. For whatever reason, there are times when my wife and son are unable to fill this gap. Because of that, I think I end up distancing myself from them and making my problem worse.

Some might label this depression, and perhaps they are right. Perhaps it is the feeling of growing old and not having accomplished anything I thought I would. Or perhaps it is simply the onset of the holiday season and realizing that again this year we will not see friends or family over Thanksgiving or Christmas. Perhaps it is all of the above.

After all of that, perhaps there is no real difference between feeling lonely and feeling alone, merely scale. (The physicality of being alone is another matter.) And right now, the scale tips way out of balance.

No comments: