A complex and usually unpleasant emotional response to isolation or lack of companionship
How do you handle your feelings of loneliness?
I was reminded of the power of loneliness when I once picked up a hitchhiker in northern Saskatchewan.
After weeks of solo travel, I was driving on a snowy highway through the bleak birch trees of northern Saskatchewan. I had spent a couple hours on a particularly desolate highway and was feeling lonely. That’s when I saw a young Cree man on the side of the road with his thumb out. He had baggy, ripped jeans, a worn winter jacket and a flat brimmed baseball cap. I picked him up.
“Where you headed?” I asked.
“Air Ronge,” he said.
“Where you coming from?” I asked.
“Mon-trow lake” he drawled. “I’d been walking for the last 2 hours. I once walked for 5 hours before someone picked me up.”
The youth was from the Montreal Lake Indian Reserve. We spoke about a giant timber wolf he saw recently, the hunting traps his uncle maintains, and the drunk drivers that normally stop to give him a lift. Eventually he explained that he was on his way to the village of Air Ronge to visit his girlfriend. It was a surprise visit and she would be excited to see him. She is pregnant with his baby.
“That’s a big responsibility” I said. “Are you getting good tips from friends and family?”
“Yeah.” he said “Everybody’s got advice for me. Especially the women. I gotta finish my grade 10 school and get a job.”
“Yes.” I agreed. “Make money and provide for your family. That’s what a dad has to do.”
“My girlfriend says I have a big heart,” he said. “Thats why she stays with me.”
He did have a big heart.
I dropped him off at his destination, a small, pre-fab apartment building and I gave him a pair of red mittens. He thanked me and walked inside.
Periods of solitude can be healthy. However, extended loneliness can be poison if it causes us to alienate ourselves from others. Instead, we must acknowledge our feeling of loneliness. We can then channel our emotion and use it mindfully. Lonliness is an opportunity to connect meaningfully with others. Like most emotions we experience in life, loneliness itself is neither positive or negative, but merely an indicator to take action to maintain our equilibrium.
The Final Questions
Could you use your feelings of loneliness more effectively?
Do you allow feelings of loneliness to motivate connection with others?
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