Investigating Loneliness

By: Jennifer Pastiloff

I was in a yoga class a couple weeks ago, and the teacher 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 in so as not to look stupid but I have no idea what they are laughing about, their muted laughs like 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 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 motuleńos. (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? It’s 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 there is a linking up which, if you listen closely to it, says the word Finally.

What have you found in your investigations thus far? Love to hear.

Keep manifesting your life my beloveds, xo



Sarah M.
Sarah M5 years ago

Thank you.

Marieanne Phillips

A Brilliant investigation.

Paula G.
Paula G5 years ago

It seems that I get one commment deleted if I write 2 so I will put them all together. I was thinking of the old commercial where a man was trying to communicate in a room; lonely when he is in a hearing social network. At the end it is acknowledged that he is deaf and is therefore feeling isolated and lonely. Coincidently, or not, the writer is also deaf.

I have another form of deafness that comes and goes. It is called emotional deafness. When I go out into society on days when I am foggy I cannot grasp what people are saying which results in my being a little slow in processing, if I do at all. Making a negative impression on others I cut out early although I long to be part of this gathering rather than the token wallflowe.

Many others are like me at times. The installations of emails and texting in our lives has cut way down on normal everyday conversation. While the texting keeps flowing my phoe seldom rings. People prefer to text as it is quicker.

People who are lonely need the help of their community. However, it can be a 2 way streert. I have become involved in a variety of volunteer duties. While I am not close to a lot of the people who I volunteer with it is an afternoon out and I have made connections. Does it stop the loneliness? No but it pushes it aside for a while.

Paula G.
Paula G5 years ago

PS. It is good to see this touched upon. With emails and texting I believe that more and more people are feeling alone and isolated as "conversations" of this type leave us even more isolated.

Paula G.
Paula G5 years ago

One can be lonely without being alone. " loneliness is the place we meet our hearts". It is interesting that I thought of a commercial on television that talked about the deaf community. A man stood in a crowd and people talked to him. He was unable to respond because he could not heaR. Just after that I came to your own acknowledgement of deafness. Yet you have a community of people who speak your language.

When I am having a rough time I have a form of deafness. It is called emotional deafness. Not the same but much the same. It affedts my ability to communicate and interact and on those days I often opt out of a social life. When I was younger I would try alcohol. It would make me silloy but not clear out the cotton in my ears.

Lenee K.
Lenee K5 years ago

I've found lonely and alone sometimes comes hand in hand, sometimes its not..... Hard to define. but I understand even though not entirely.. 'fix'? Well I supposed it's a personal choice and where in life. I'm in a state where there are things I cannot fit; wish I can - reality is I cannot.. So, that isn't a choice I have a say.... Puzzling huh? lol - yeah, I find it overwhelming and frustrating to say the least, at this point.

Helen K.
Helen K5 years ago

I used to feel lonely until I became a mother. I then went through the "Pick me up! Answer me! Call me back! Go here! You should do that!" phase that the writer refers to. This went on for about 21 years. Now I am on my own again and I now call that state of loneliness Peace and Quiet - and it is wonderful and I wouldn't swap it for the world. Funny how the same state that was unpleasant can turn into one that it enjoyable.

Lauren Weinstock
Lauren Weinstock5 years ago

The really interesting aspect of loneliness- is that when I feel is and am alone, I am faced with me; a woman I like, love, respect, admire. And then I turn again to look loneliness in the eye, and it is gone. Huh. How did that happen? For me that pause, that internal introspection and the approval that follows banishes some of the darkness of loneliness.
So, YES, I agree with you- to inspect, inspect, inspect, introspect too. Live on.

Ben Oscarsito
Ben O5 years ago

"I said to Hank Williams: -How lonely does it get?
...Hank Williams hasn't answered yet..."
(Leonard Cohen)

Bonnie M.
Bonnie M5 years ago

Loneliness borders on the spiritual. Even when one is in a crowd, loneliness can step in,unwanted, unwelcome and unexpected. Loneliness can open the door to finding that inner strength. It canhelp one find some meaning or coherence in the general scheme of things.

Loneliness can intrude in the inner sanctum of everyone.