Aloneness vs. Loneliness

by sugarmagnoliawilson


For as long as I can remember, I have periodically experienced a night-time kind of aloneness. It doesn’t happen often, maybe three or four times a year, and these feelings of aloneness vary in intensity. It’s hard to describe them, but I’m sure I’m not the only person who’s had them. When I’ve tried to explain them to people who say they haven’t experienced them, I’ve used terms like breath-taking aloneness and crushing self-awareness. Hyperbolic language, sure, but it seems to fit the bill. It’s a hyperbolic state.

This is what happens: I am sleeping, in what I can only guess has been a sound manner, when suddenly I wake up (feels more like being woken.) It is usually somewhere between 1-3am. Once awake I am gripped by a debilitating sense that I am alone in the universe, alone in this existence, and that I always have been and always will be, and that there is no ‘out’ to the situation. Sounds hippy dippy. Yes, I know. But, this is exactly how it happens for me. It kind of feels like I’ve been left behind on the moon by a spaceship, or at the bottom of an ocean abyss by a submarine, without any chance of being retrieved. Ever.

I use the word crushingly not to connote ideas of painful loneliness, (because I think loneliness and aloneness are very different) but to indicate the physical sense I get of being crushed by the pressure of this realization, the breath pushed from my lungs, the weight of my inescapable aloneness bearing down onto my body in a way that is almost too much to take. It physically hurts and I feel as if I cannot bear it. The thing is, it’s not an emotional feeling of needing someone. It’s more like a bare-bones ‘state’, a state that feels very much like a truth while it is happening, rather than a figment of my imagination or a result of anxiety. Which of course it could be, anxiety that is. I mean, I think it probably is a form of anxiety, of the existential order. But reading up on existential angst, it doesn’t quite fit the bill. This is not so much about the quandary of free will and its results.

The thoughts I have when I wake up at night are along the lines of:

And if it doesn’t have any purpose, then why why why do I get to love people if I only end up losing them, and it’s all for what…? Nothing? If so, then what is the point of this? The love? The beauty? The pain? The sadness? What does all this strangeness mean??? How can I cope with this totally bizarre situation? Which creates a cat chasing its own tail situation as; if there isn’t any purpose then you can’t really ask ‘why?’ at all, can you? Well you can, but don’t expect an answer.

These are not original thoughts, I know. There have no doubt been squillions of books, theses, philosophical, medical, humanities papers written on the topic of existential angst. Fundamentally, the sciences and arts revolve around these big questions. Almost everything we do is either an attempt to forget or understand what is going on. I’m not trying to say anything new or make an argument for or against anything (despite the title.) It’s just that the feeling is all consuming, and paralysing and very scary. And, I find it hard to take sometimes.

I think the thing that gets me is, no matter who I love in this life, no matter how much I hold on to them, how much I allow myself to love, I know that at some point in the future I will have to let them go. And the big hitter is, I don’t know what happens to them once they’re gone. Or ….. what will happen to me, either. Do I ever get to see the people I love again? Feel them again? Know them again? And if not, then honestly ….. WTF? And I want my money back, because this is the wrong movie. I paid for the one where things actually matter.

So yeah. That’s all really.