Loneliness is not being ‘Alone’ (a well known fact), although that can certainly be a contributory factor to it. It is perfectly possible to be dreadfully lonely while being surrounded by crowds of people. So if it is not the ‘outside of us’ that ‘makes’ us lonely, are we to assume it is all from within us, and hardly influenced by our surroundings in any way? Perhaps, is the answer, and certainly a strong sense of self-respect, and self-love, can help combat the feelings of loneliness, no matter where we find ourselves, and in what circumstances. But planning, preparation and training are also key in the fight against feeling lonely. Then we can proceed with confidence and self-assurance.
Take the example of the picture – the rower is Svein Ove Ask who had only a few weeks earlier rowed, single-handed for 10 days, from Norway to Shetland (a distance of 180 miles). He spent a few weeks in Shetland overhauling his boat and then headed all the way back again (September 1996) – the picture is taken, by helicopter, when he was on his third day of the return journey home to Norway. Did he ever feel lonely? I asked him that question, and he said, ‘No, he was happy and content and he had faith in the boat, which he had built himself. This had been a proving run for him and all had gone well, and he was always too busy to be lonely.’ His confidence and self-assurance were infectious, and he was an inspiration to simply trust oneself, and one’s training, prepare for every possible eventuality and then get on with the journey planned. He was certainly very alone setting across the North Sea with only the strength of his own muscles to take him there – he had no stand-by outboard or engine of any sort. Yet, he was not lonely, not in any way burdened by the lack of ‘fitting in’ and not in any way apprehensive of the trip ahead of him. He did get back to Norway, safely, it should be noted.
So, our individual journey may not be over the North Sea in a rowing boat, but sometimes our individual journey through ‘life’ can seem just as daunting, just as fraught with danger and equally as uncertain on timescale, supplies needed, the ‘weather’ we may encounter, and the reception waiting for us at the other end. Such anxieties can build stress within us, and wear down our inner confidence, cause us to doubt our abilities and resolve, and feel ‘lonely’ particularly when we are at our furthest from ‘land’ (or our ‘safe haven’ in life).
Journeys in life are not always planned, and those un-planned ones can often be the hardest, when we are taken out of our routine and thrown into an unknown situation (things like health issues, family circumstances and career changes, might all happen in seconds with no warning), but the principles still remain and we have to try and remain ready, watchful and prepared for anything we can reasonably anticipate. Being prepared need not be a sign of irrational anxiety and, in fact, can help us avoid being lonely when we find ourselves suddenly facing a wide ocean without the backup we hoped we would have. Loneliness grows from inside us, and can be kept at bay by (as best we can) Planning, Preparing and then Proceeding with confidence. It is not always easy, but the rewards are in direct proportion to the effort we put in, and will serve us well for future ‘journeys’. Stay safe, stay happy, and know that it is no shame to feel lonely, at times – human beings all do at some point in their lives.
‘Decide the path in life you wish to follow (Plan)
Gather your equipment and food for the journey (Prepare)
Continue until you reach your destination (Proceed)’
~ Gaius Quinterus