Hearing Loss, loss, my book

Investigating Loneliness.

September 16, 2012

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and my teacher, Annie Carpenter, kept using the word investigate to cue us in the poses.

Investigate the backbend.

I liked the idea of being a detective when it came to my backbend, to the way my foot felt on the mat. I liked the way this verb felt in me, the way it rolled around and ended up in so many different landscapes. I planted the seed of investigation and what came up out of the earth of me was:

Investigating loneliness.

The old couple that lived next door to us for years in New Jersey, Kay and Jerry and how she got hit by a car in front of the church across the street and never came back from the hospital, staying there for months before she finally died of some complication. How he died of loneliness. How I think it must not be that hard. I’m investigating that.

Sometimes I sit in my apartment and get stuck there. Literally stuck. The quicksand of my desk chair. The sinking mud of my bathroom mirror.

The phone rings and the texts come in, the emails. All of it with its own little rythym of relevance: Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that! I stare at it them like little soldiers, these little missives and misfits and messages and patiently wait for it all to stop. Mesmerized by my ability to want to turn it all off, to make my nearly deaf ears a little more hushed. Noiseless as shock, I sit at my desk or in my bed and wrap myself in a feeling close to nothing.

What is this feeling? I have so many things to be done, so many people to call back, so many things I have let slip between the cracks of my mind and yet I can’t move.

Everyone is laughing and I might join is so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs frogs in throats. I might as well be floating on a piece of bark at sea with nothing but the clothes on my back and my thoughts to keep me from drowning. I have no idea what you are laughing at! I scream in my head as I laugh along, my hearing loss incapable of disguise. That feeling of laughing when you have no idea why everyone is laughing, that’s a kind of loneliness I want to tell you about also.

How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people? I imagine on my computer screen after this blog post, being sent in an email from someone feeling sympathetic somewhere. On the bottom, in the comment section below, platitudes like: You are never truly alone!  You may feel lonely but you are never alone! You are so loved.

I was in Santa Fe a couple weeks ago eating at Pasquals with my friends, the writers Emily Rapp and Chris Abani. We were chatting about the difference between sympathy and empathy. Emily’s baby is dying so these types of conversations are normal over Huevos motuleños. (This dish includes banana on top of eggs and while at first I thought the idea horrifying, I came around once I tasted Emily’s.)

Chris and Emily were saying that with sympathy people make it about themselves. Whereas empathy is truly about you, whoever you are. Makes sense. I agreed. That’s why sympathy doesn’t feel authentic, why it’s rejected like a banana on an egg. I don’t want sympathy.

I want a: Yea! Hey, I know what you mean. I have felt that as well. I get it. I understand.

That’s it. Enough said.

You can’t fix it. There is no fixing. I am investigating all the ways I feel lonely in a crowd,  what it feels like to be amongst the world and also completely not in it at all.

The thing is, I like being alone. I prefer it. I struggle to leave my apartment. I would rather read a book or write than go out and I have been this way since childhood. But much as I am investigating my backbend, I am looking into the intricacies of my aloneness and how it keeps me in my head and what a bloody bad neighborhood that really is.

I just read something by Iyanla Vanzant where she said “Who are you? Is not meant to be a question. It is meant to give pause for reflection. Who are you without whatever you hold on to?”

It is not meant to be a question but rather to give pause.

That’s what I am doing with this particular case, in my detective work, in my investigations. I am giving pause. I am not looking to solve the mystery, per se, but to look without judgement at the areas of my life I have hidden or buried.

I feel lonely often because I can’t hear. It’s a lonely world when you can hear sounds but have no idea what they mean.

So I understand how Jerry died shortly after Kay was hit by the car in front of the church because surely she was the only one who understood his sounds and what they meant.

What I have found in my investigation thus far is this: loneliness is the place we meet our hearts. And we hear our hearts for the first time. The beat slows down, the accelerated beat ceases and there is no panic or sadness or isolation only connection and  a deep knowing that you have waited your whole life for this.

In that moment, The Lonely Ones send their hearts out into the world to love and be loved, and maybe they will get broken, maybe not. But for a few minutes in the life of that heart there is nothing else but other hearts and their is a linking up which if you listen closely to it says the word Finally.

You Might Also Like

No Comments

  • Reply adventures2213 September 16, 2012 at 7:56 pm

    So beautifully said.

  • Reply Jo Ellen Corcoran September 16, 2012 at 8:01 pm

    this is strikenly beautiful… Go deep Loved One…

    oooowweee… Come on Ojai… As we all prepare for the Boundless Love to be offered… Practicing on Receiving… Love You..

  • Reply Norman Cooper September 16, 2012 at 8:13 pm

    Beautifully written. This post resonates with me. Loneliness, amid company, has always been theme for me in life. Introverted by choice? Maybe, but like you, I like my “aloneness”…this calls for some investigation of my own.


  • Reply AP September 16, 2012 at 8:25 pm

    “How can you feel lonely when you have so many friends, when you are always around people?”

    Yep. I know this one. I know it well. Loneliness is sneaky, intrepid, kind of violent. Hard to fix. Impossible to fix?

  • Reply sarah September 16, 2012 at 10:20 pm

    “Your greatest challenges are your greatest gifts.” I’ve been told that often, and it hasn’t always resonated with me (though I certainly want it to). It has felt hard, personally at least, to really believe it; still too caught up in the pain of the challenge, I think, to see the gift.

    Reading your post however, that was exactly my response. I was the community post-it last night, and if ever there were a place to manifest community I think that was it – because of you. From all that I’ve seen and read (especially the way people respond to you) your gift is in making others feel less alone, to help them realize that whatever one is experiencing, others have been there too. It’s so damn important to know this – and of course it’s only possible if we are open enough, and vulnerable enough, to honestly share those experiences. You do this, and I think you help others do the same.

    I wonder if it is by knowing so clearly how it feels to feel lonely in a crowd that you have been able to take a room full of strangers and make them feel connected in that crowd – help them feel anything *but* lonely. You think?

  • Reply Deb Deets September 17, 2012 at 2:22 am

    “Investigating loneliness” is profound.
    I believe it is recognition of separation from our source, which is eternal, and which we are still a part of in this life — that creates a deep sense of being alone. I do not listen when I am told I am not alone. I am…and for this brief portion of eternity I have this gift….It can be lonely at times, but we are also “wonderfully alone” to see the many faces of our creator.

  • Reply Rose C September 17, 2012 at 10:13 am

    Thank you for sharing Jennifer. Loneliness is such a difficult thing for me to admit and embrace. I struggle constantly with my comfort of being alone vs the loneliness I walk in my daily life.

    I struggle with a physical issue that makes me feel different, and unworthy in a vain and emotionally selfish way. Sharing my feelings and having someone say, oh but you are so beautiful the way you are doesn’t fill the void, or my religious friends advice to find Jesus, for that is surely what I am missing.
    I am a spiritual person and I do believe we are all brought to our knees for reasons that we may never know. I feel our purpose in this life and journey is about forgiveness, and for me I really really struggle with this, especially forgiving myself.

    Sympathy or empathy, such a insightful comparison.

  • Leave a Reply

    This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.