Alone Is Not Lonely

When does alone cross the line into lonely?

The definition of alone is “having no one else present” or to be “on one’s own.” The definition of lonely is “sad because one has no friends or company” or “without companions.”

So when do you know that you go from having no one else present to being without a companion or without company?

They say that you can feel lonely in a room full of people, which is true. Introverts like myself, know this to be true. You can fill a room with people that know our name but unless I feel drawn to you, friend or companion, I will always feel “alone.” I will always feel like I am own my own, there to help myself survive the night while everyone else is carefree and oblivious. Extroverts would feed off of the excitement while I find myself withdrawing until I feel safe and hopefully finding someone that I trust. You could put me in a room with family and friends and I would still be lonely because I would be searching for that one person I knew understood me to the depths of no end.

I do well on my own, as many of us probably do. Alone time is glorious. It means not having to share popcorn with anyone when we take ourselves to the movie theater. It means being able to go to a restaurant or a local watering hole and being comfortable. We can people watch. We can appreciate the music or the drama unfolding at the end of the bar without idle chit chat that might as well be nails on a chalkboard. It gives us those moments where we escape from self-doubt, stress, or things out of our control.

Yet, if you give someone enough alone time, it is only a matter of time until they become lonely.

Lonely will hit you like an epiphany the size of a state and usually out of nowhere. It isn’t the kind that makes the room brighter, it is the kind that takes your breath away and makes your chest tight. It is that moment when you know you have those few close to the heart that are there for you, but at the end of the night when you go to bed, you know there is something missing. Something that shouldn’t be.

What is lonely? Lonely is knowing, if life was up to you at all, that you wouldn’t have to be alone. You know what happiness feels like, if only briefly but then it is ripped from you as you are forced back to reality. A reality you don’t want. Lonely is having your heart no longer belong to you and it is there, just waiting…waiting for “soon.”

When does lonely hit you? Lonely hits you when you are filling out paperwork and your beneficiary reads “non-applicable.” Lonely is when your living will is blank.

Lonely is when your car skids on wet pavement a week ago just as the car behind you does at the same time. You see a guard rail as you round the corner at 65 mph but you can’t break, you just have to ride it out. You see headlights so fast in your rear view mirror. You imagine the force of the impact as you and the car behind collide, driving you into the semi-truck in front of you. You hold your breath and you fishtail out of it, just hanging on to the side of the road by an inch. After it is all said and done, your heart in your throat and your stomach in your chest, that you wonder what would have happened if things had gone worse. Ambulance? Hospital? Maybe the EMT would have found the contact in your phone labeled ‘Mom’ and of course, your best friend would have eventually found out and been there at your side. Anyone else? Of course not. Not even plausible. The contact doesn’t exist in your phone.

We often confuse alone for lonely. I used to. Over the course of time I’ve grown thankful for my alone time. I’ve learned to pamper myself. I’ve learned to take myself on dates and to appreciate the time that I have to think, write, to love myself. No one can love you if you do not first love yourself.

But how do we define lonely? What makes us lonely? Being without a significant other does not make one lonely. Yet, if we have someone in our lives whether it is a best friend, family member, or lover that we find ourselves wanting to text, to share our lives with, and something holds us back from that, that is what lonely is. At least to me.

Lonely is knowing what is there but none of it being tangible.

“Time is the one commodity that I cannot buy more of or negotiate more of. It is the only thing on earth that is irreplaceable. Well, except for a person. But time can never be replaced.”
– Anonymous

Lonely is knowing that you’ll never get back the time with someone that you should have had and wondering how much more you’ll lose. Life is so short. We are never promised tomorrow. We only have todays.

Tammy Lee
January 20, 2019


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