No matter how spiritually aware any of us are, sometimes we are going to feel lonely. Loneliness feels like it should be a Lower Self emotion, but it isn’t necessarily. Loneliness is a complicated feeling, but it is a feeling, just like disappointment or joy, and can be a path to learning or not.
In Dare to Connect, Susan described it like this, “Whether loneliness is enriching or destructive in our lives depends on our willingness to pick up the mirror and look it squarely in the eye. Sometimes this is difficult, because loneliness is too often an emotion we mask from ourselves. There are an amazing number of escape routes which we take to avoid or deny feeling lonely… This is understandable; loneliness can be very painful. But when it is hidden, it becomes our master and we are but robots trading our aliveness for imagined safety. When it is out in the open, on the other hand, we become its master and use it as a stepping stone towards greater fulfilment.”
Susan believed that sometimes loneliness comes from feeling as if we have no roots or community. When we don’t feel like part of a “tribe” we find ourselves feeling untethered and disconnected. Many people feel this way because they feel that no one reaches out to them. But if we are really taking responsibility for our feelings, we don’t need to wait for someone else to make the first move.
If you feel like this speaks to you, then it is time to take responsibility for your loneliness and reach out to people you know, and people you don’t know, to create a community of your own. If we wait for the world to invite us in, we are creating a situation where we are always on the outside looking in.
Susan said, “See yourself at the center of your own universe into which you want to invite others. Always take the responsibility for taking the first move—and the second and third and fourth, if necessary… This doesn’t mean that you won’t ever be invited to share activities with others; of course you will. Nor does it mean that you can’t sometimes just sit there and be the recipient of someone else’s warmth; of course you can. The point is always to be responsible for your own good time.”
There were two adages that Susan liked to refer to when loneliness crept up on her:
Be the host in life, not the guest.
Don’t warm yourself by the fire; be the one to light it!
Be the host in life, not the guest means taking responsibility in any situation whether at home, at a restaurant, or even someone else’s party. Being a good host means being welcoming, friendly, and accommodating. If you cultivate this side of yourself, you will have no trouble inviting people or being invited. This is not to say that you change your personality, to not be your authentic self. It means that you look within to find the parts of you that allows you to make authentic connections, then take action create those relationships.
Don’t warm yourself by the fire; be the one to light it! Don’t expect others to make plans or wait to be invited to do a thing. If you want to try that new restaurant or see that movie, you don’t have to wait for someone else. Do it yourself. Whether you are lighting the fire for just yourself or for others too, be the warm welcoming person that creates their own good time. Just as people are attracted to a warm fire on a cold evening, people who are comfortable in their own skin radiate their own kind of warmth.
Being responsible for your own good time, can also mean that your “good time” might not be what everyone else wants to do. For example, a group of friends are meeting at a restaurant for a birthday celebration, but you had a long workday and need some quiet time. Being alone is what a “good time” means for you right now, and you need to honor that need. It’s hard to make authentic connections when you can’t honor that same connection with your own needs.
“Given all that we can do to fill the empty space created by our loneliness, I believe that even those who have learned to be comfortable within themselves and comfortable reaching out to others still experience a degree of loneliness in the depth of their being,” Susan wrote. “Loneliness can be beautiful when it keeps us moving upwards to greater heights of awareness: when it pulls us forward to learn, to seek, to grow. As long as we use it as a tool for self-discovery, loneliness has magical results.”
We need to understand that feeling loneliness is a call to ask ourselves how we can move forward into wholeness and love. It is a call to be responsible for how we connect with our friends and family, to not wait for others to reach out to make us feel whole. Susan said, “There is nothing wrong with us when we feel our loneliness. We are not misfits or losers. We are incurably and wonderfully human.”