Are you ever lonely? As in, no matter how many people you’re with, how many parties you’re at, there’s a sense that you’re in this experience alone.
I look around sometimes. And not always, but often, I see dozens of others, attending the same class or the same Kiddush, sitting near each other, chatting and smiling but still essentially alone. Do you know what I mean?
“How’s it going?”
I’m taking a risk here. Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe it’s just me who gets lonely. But just in case you understand, I wanted to share with you some of my thoughts about loneliness and what I do with it. Here’s what I’ve been thinking.
Remember how G-d made the flood in the days of Noah? The people weren’t getting along and the world wasn’t sustainable under those conditions. After the flood, the world was rebuilt on the premise of kindness (Noah taking care of the animals).
A few generations passed and a new problem came up.
This time, the people got along so well. Too well! They worked together like a well-oiled machine in their efforts to build a tower to fight G-d. They used their combined talents to rebel against Him. They felt so understood, so unified that they didn’t need G-d anymore.
What was their consequence? G-d made them each speak a different language. They were no longer understood! They dropped bricks on each other, got mad at each other and eventually moved away from each other.
So here we are now, thousands of years later and we still speak different languages. So it seems that our separateness, our disparity is the undoing of the mistake of the Tower of Babel.
In our loneliness, if we’re not too scared to acknowledge it, lies the place that’s just between us and G-d, where no one speaks our language. And that’s okay. Because G-d is our Mother, our Father, Our Sister, Our Friend, or Lover and Our King. He’s all these things, and only by connecting with Him can we soothe our ache.
So what does it mean to connect with G-d? It means two things. Sometimes it means talking to Him, praying to Him, crying to Him and praising Him. Letting yourself be comforted by his love.
When I’m feeling really low; maybe someone brought up a sensitive topic or I just feel like I’m never gonna make it, I feel two choices staring me down. I can either shut down, lock myself in and tell myself over and over again how lousy I feel. The times when I do that I find I need distractions; a book or computer to help me numb the pain. The next day is usually not much better.
Or I can say “Hashem please help me, I feel so sad.” If I’m willing to be with the sadness/loneliness and express it to Hashem it loosens its grip.
Then I light some scented candles and get an early night. This is a nurturing ritual that calms me and reminds me that though I’m lonely, I’m lovable and tomorrow will be another day. And I generally waked up energized.
Believe it or not, it’s not easy. I’d rather numb out and sometimes I do. But when I don’t, I’m rewarded by the ultimate Comfort.
Another way we bond is by being an extension of Him. This is magic particularly if you have a lot of actual, physical alone-ness in your life. Doing kindness for another person connects you to Hashem because you’re following His ways, being a messenger for His mercy.
I know many people who live alone who astound me with their drive to do good. They know this formula and their lives are filled to bursting with acts of kindness. Instead of having pain lock them in, they use it as a launching pad for goodness. Even on a minute to minute level, sadness can be alleviated through reaching out. Making a phone call or even writing a letter can move you into a space where you are able to feel Hashem’s love again.
Of course, we don’t want to use doing for others as an escape. I’m sure you’ve had the experience where getting involved in a million things is simply avoiding your own issues. Please don’t do that. Your feelings are much too important to be stuffed away like that. It’s good to talk them out and to be tender with yourself.
R Shimshon Pincus wrote “the natural state of women is suffering.” He writes that this is to encourage us to cry out to Hashem, because you don’t cry out unless you’re in pain.So allow yourself that reality. Let go of the notion that you’re lonely, alone.
We may just all be alone. But it doesn’t have to be depressing. Because the alone-ness is there to nurture us. It reminds us that we can’t do it on our own. It reminds us that we do have a language barrier with people and that we’ll find comfort in overcoming it. It reminds us that we need G-d and we need each other.