Linking up with Lisa-Jo for the five minutes today. No overthinking. No planning. Just five minutes, the tap of the keys, the words pouring out, hoping to write something that speaks.
Today’s prompt word is lonely.
When I think of being lonely, the times that spring up are not just times when I’ve been physically alone. Sure, there have been times like that where geography, work schedules, busy-ness have kept me on my own a lot, but being alone is very, very different to being lonely. Lonely is hard and sad and frustrating…being alone is a game of two halves. Being alone has its strengths, its joys, its learning moments. Being lonely is hard, draining, unkind.
The loneliest times of my life have often been when it hasn’t been physical apartness that’s been the problem. It’s more when you feel rejected by those around you, left out, misunderstood. Or when you’re dealing with something that others can’t understand, when you have to take a path unknown, alone. I think of nights at boarding school, my first year when I was eleven, and hearing Erica and Hanna, the resident mean girls, whispering horrible things about me after lights out. I’d lay there in my little bed in the dark, head under the duvet, clutching onto Jockey Bear with his smell of home, and listen as they listed my many flaws. They wanted me to hear. Now in hindsight, I see that they were the problem (they were mean about everyone!), but when you’re eleven and a little shy and a lot nervous and your mum’s in another country, you can’t see that. Good heavens, but I felt lonely. It got better as I made friends and Erica and Hanna moved on to fresher targets (they actually both left the school a year later for bullying and other mishaps – Erica was expelled, Hanna ‘invited to leave’). But eleven year old me didn’t know that. She just felt lonely.
It’s the loneliness of loss. When I was seventeen one of my best friends from boarding school, A, died. She lived down in the south of England at that point, while I had moved to Scotland after my parents had returned there. I was happy, settled. I remember walking down the path and opening the door and my mum’s face as she had to tell me the news. Realising I’d never talk to A again. The deep, dark, huge chasm of sad that opened up inside me and swallowed my heart whole. Losing A was lonely, lonely, hard. Losing her and being surrounded by people who liked me and wanted to help me, but who hadn’t lost someone and had never met A, didn’t know how wonderful she was, had never seen her swim or play and tell a joke? Was incredibly lonely. I was so grateful for their attempts to help, to listen, to support me…but the road was long, and lonely. She was pretty much my last link to that school. I went back once since to visit, but it just felt like a different space. Without my friend all I felt was lonely.
There have been other lonely times – bad friendships, toxic people, hard moments, but one of the things I love about my life today is how rarely I feel really, properly lonely. Sure, there are times and seasons where I feel alone or deprived of company or a little left out, but my time on the planet has taught me that this too shall pass. And compared to how lonely I felt lying awake in that dark dormitory, or as I worked through the grief of a friend gone far, far too soon, the little lonelies are so much easier to ride out. And the easier to survive with friends, family and fiancé as great as mine. So grateful for that.
Names of bullies changed. Because that felt right.