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Wellness

How To Make Changes To Your Heart And Mind

Want to know how to make the most of your life? I guarantee you have one of three things going for you: a sense of purpose, a sense of purpose built from good food, and a sense of purpose built from good friends.

For a long time, I struggled with loneliness. And, then, something changed. While working on the fourth and final book about an existential journey I’d been taking since the late 1990s, I started noticing an odd pattern in my life. Instead of the normal daily routine of waking up and going to work, I’d wake up in the morning and spend all day watching TV — then get up, go to work, eat dinner, return to the TV set — and end the day with some variation of the same routine. The routine, by the way, almost always included a mix of entertainment, books on tape, a “break” when I would go for a walk, and an episode of “Gossip Girl” after “Mad Men” had come to an end.

Eventually I came to understand, though, what the problem was.

Loneliness wasn’t some mysterious, abstract problem I was struggling with. And it wasn’t because I was a “lonely soul.” For that matter, I was married and had a family, so I knew what was going on. My problem was that I was surrounded by people who were surrounded by people.

In my experience, people who know the meaning of loneliness most intimately are those who have been in relationship with each other their entire lives — and who also happen to be in a good relationship with another person. These women live in the world of loneliness. They have built walls of walls around them. There has been, in other words, a long history of solitude in this country, and we don’t even know about it.

This is what it is like in loneliness: you want to be part of the world. Or you want to build a life with another person — but you are just too bored. I mean, what’s the point of living if you have no passion for something anymore?

Loneliness is an awful feeling. You feel it in your gut. It creeps in on your back porch after a long day of work. You can’t get out of bed. It’s the one thing in the world that is hard to describe, except that loneliness is the most unpleasant feeling in the world on a daily basis. 

But what does it even mean to be lonely? Are we all alone, or do we find people to share our feelings with?

The first major issue with the word “loneliness” is that it describes people in a specific kind of relationship. The problem is that most relationships don’t work that way: we have a partner who has chosen you as his or her personal friend, or you’re a single person who wants to know what it’s like to love. Being a friend with benefits is fine when you have a lot of friends in common with people you already know. It’s not good when your friends find each other boring.

You could define the word “loneliness” as that feeling you have when your best friend isn’t your closest friend — and that’s how I’d typically describe it. But then you’ve got this whole other thing which happens a lot more than you’d think: the feeling you have when your best friend isn’t your best friend. If you spend the entire life being friends with your best friend, and that person is the friendliest of all possible personas, where does your loneliness come from?

The truth is that it comes from somewhere you are not looking for. As many of us know, loneliness runs deep in the human soul. I remember as a little kid, trying to figure out why I hated my parents. It was one of those feelings that could only exist in a situation where you felt so unloved that your heart was already broken. That’s because loneliness has a way of twisting itself into a vicious cycle. You get a taste of the life you want to lead. Then you have to keep doing it. Because the moment that you stop, you realize you weren’t really doing it. You’ve been doing the same old thing.