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Some Thoughts and Quotes on Loneliness

lonelinessToday I have loneliness on the brain for a few different reasons, but I’m not lonely. Sort of.

I rarely feel lonely unless I am sick. At the time of this writing I am quite ill, and quite annoyed by this. I rarely pay attention to my body when I’m feeling great, but it becomes impossible to ignore the fact that we’re all walking around inside giant sacks of meat, water, and air as soon as they start functioning poorly. Sadly, well-being doesn’t feel urgent until it’s gone for a while. Lonely thoughts.

I recently read a fantastic book called Loneliness: Human Nature and the Need For Social Connection. John Capiocco is the author. Highly recommended for anyone filing their brain under “loneliness thoughts.”

I now realize I was lonely when I wrote Coping Is Not The Answer, still one of the most popular posts on World’s Strongest Librarian.

The older I get, the more I enjoy my own company. I’m not a hermit. I’m not a misanthrope, I hope that’s obvious. I love people, but more and more, I find that I enjoy being able to choose who I see, and when I seem them, at least as much. I rarely feel lonely when I’m alone, unless my family is away.

Thoughts on loneliness.

For me, loneliness is on the edge of isolation and solitude. I like solitude, but I don’t like the feeling of isolation. I used to have romantic ideas about living in the middle of  nowhere in Alaska as some kind of paradise. I don’t have those ideas anymore. A mountaintop cabin outside of Denver, and a helicopter pilot to fly me down into the city on occasion would be perfect, I think.

I do think it is possible to be lonely in a crowd.

I read a book called Blackbox a few years ago. The only scene I remember is that a radio talk show host, or someone on a radio show, told listeners to honk their horns if they had ever felt depressed or suicidal. The city shook with the noise.

I think painful loneliness is worth enduring in the pursuit of identity. My lowest points have been those when I was driving my friends away because of depression. I had no identity beyond what I was worth to another person. Backwards.

In Watership Down one of the rabbits describes a hollow, frightened feeling as feeling like “trees in November.” I love that. I think it’s a perfect description of being alone and wishing it were otherwise.

I don’t envy hermits, even if they’re happy.

So, if you’re in the mood and “I am lonely” is on your mind.

Quotes on Loneliness

  • Lonely people, in talking to each other can make each other lonelier – Lillian Hellman
  • If you are lonely when you are alone, you are in bad company – Sartre
  • No one would choose a friendless existence on condition of having all the other things in the world – Aristotle
  • We’re all lonely for something we don’t know we’re lonely for. How else to explain the curious feeling that goes around feeling like missing somebody we’ve never even met? – David Foster Wallace
  • One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul, and yet no one ever comes to sit by it – Vincent Van Gogh

I’m not lonely today, just sick. Sick, maudlin, and wishing I was eating a box of Peeps. But no matter what I still think these quotes are beautiful, and melancholy is not without its pleasures once in a while.


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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Jesse November 29, 2010, 1:03 pm

    Hi Josh,

    Hope you start feeling better soon.

    Loved this post. Was just thinking about how fortunate I am to have the friends and family that I do, but that once in awhile I’d like to stop the revolving door – just for a day or so – not forever.

    Enjoyed the quotes, and especially the picture.

    All the best…

  • Pauline November 29, 2010, 2:31 pm

    I enjoyed this well-written description and appreciated the quotes. Trees in November is so evocative. I have hermit tendencies, enjoy solitude, but isolation is different, as you say.

    Be well soon.

  • Crestina November 29, 2010, 6:38 pm

    Nice post, Josh. It is possible indeed to be lonely in a crowd. I prefer to be alone most of the time actually. I like the quotes.

    Hope you’ll feel better soon. 🙂

    • Jeanette Swalberg November 29, 2010, 10:13 pm

      Josh, I grew up with eight siblings, and I can tell you it is possible to be lonely in a crowd. Loneliness is being without anyone who understands. That can happen anywhere.
      There were also times growing up when I needed my own space, or solitude. Solitude is something we consciously choose. Isolation, on the other hand, can be inflicted on us by circumstances, or as a consequence of our actions. I like the “trees in November” image as well.
      Feel better soon.

  • Julianne Fuchs-Musgrave November 30, 2010, 6:05 am

    excellent, excellent. this is the place I believe everyone finds themselves in from time to time. I sometimes think of it as the feeling during the third day of rain–knowing tomorrow will be sunny again, but unable not to relinquish myself into the blues.
    I do believe slightly stale Peeps might be an answer.

  • Brent Partner November 30, 2010, 1:37 pm

    I think that loneliness has nothing to do with being alone as you have already alluded to. As I get older and more crotchety I value my alone time more and more and it is not a lonely experience. Usually, my experiences of loneliness comes from a state of disconnection which almost always occurs amongst a group of people. I am rarely disconnected from my environment so alone time is almost never lonely. The only times I usually experience loneliness whilst alone when my isolation is enforced through circumstance.

  • sangeetha December 12, 2010, 8:59 am

    hiiiii…..i am sangeetha..a medical student.my native place is in india .i am studing in china…….now its 3rd yre………….at first time i think this loneliness is due to my home sickness…………..but it now i am feeling alone………………i cried many times…..i try to hide my tears from my friends and my lover……….most of the time i am alone in the room……………………………..my mind is change into stone………..what should ido…? i am getting mad… plzz help me !

    • Josh Hanagarne December 14, 2010, 11:34 am

      Sangeetha, I’m not qualified to tell you what you should do, but I do hope you are able to feel better very soon.

    • ashutosh February 11, 2011, 3:39 pm

      hey sangeeta m a medical student too….m from india
      i often feel this too…make some friends..do some chitchat
      or else be in touch with older friends.
      jus take care and feel good

      • sangeetha February 18, 2011, 6:42 am

        thankyou ……………..ashutosh

    • Rakesh January 1, 2012, 5:58 am

      He sangeeta I m facing the same problem too..I believe there is a place in our heart where no 1 cn exist ..except our parents… so remind the moments u were wth thm..nd compromise with ur loneliness..u will feel gd..nd I from india hopping u the best..

  • Amanuel H. September 21, 2011, 6:22 am

    It interesting book, am just writing on this site because am also on the same circumstance may be even much worse than you were.
    But could be better if you did include the book, or refer to a link where every one can get it. For example, i am sure i can’t get it in hard copy at book store and soft copy as there is no means to buy it.

  • rohit October 22, 2011, 8:28 am

    this was good bro………

  • nishant August 17, 2012, 11:53 am

    love it……………….just love it