“Loneliness is a good thing to share with somebody” Coach Ernie Pantusso
Is it my fault? Did I say the wrong thing? Did I do the wrong thing? Am I just not that interesting? These are the questions that usually go through my head when I feel alone. It’s a sick feeling that can drive you nuts and make you think you’re utterly worthless . We wonder why we develop these social anxieties, or neurotic tendencies towards people. Speaking only for myself I think part of it stems from that fear of being alone, that some day you might lose someone who is close to you without any warning. Maybe it’s someone you shared your secrets with, or someone you felt understood you in a way no one else did, and when they’re gone, it leaves an empty crater that can’t be filled.
Loneliness can be a scary thing, but what helps me through it is that practically everyone in their life at one time or another has felt alone. It’s one of the things that as a human race we have in common. Few people ask to be alone, but more often than not, it can’t be helped. Sometimes it’s nice, I like to revel in the solitude that is given me, I can pop in a movie, or read a book, or do what I’m trying to do now which is write. It gives us time for contemplation or reflection, and we can come out of the other side stronger and maybe wiser.
But often times, the feeling of being alone can overwhelm you to the point of desperation. It’s like a blanket that covers you with doubts, and sadness, binding you to those bad thoughts inside your head you can’t escape until you are rescued by some utterance of human connection. When that relief comes, it’s like a life raft wading in the ocean saving you from drowning. I don’t mean to sound morbid, and I usually try to write pleasantly, but the subject of loneliness tends to carry that sort of weight.
For the sake of some levity, I want to focus on my favorite television show of all time: “Cheers”. “Cheers” is a proven classic with jokes that never seem to get old, yet I’ve always found it poignant because at its heart it’s a very melancholy show about lonely people. “Cheers” ran the gamut of different comedic genres, whether it was the Tracey/Hepburn witty banter of Sam and Diane (or later Sam and Rebecca), or a door swinging farce as in the “Woody’s wedding” episode, it bent the conventions of the traditional sitcom. But what it came back to time and again, and what was reemphasized in the closing moments of the show’s series finale was how Cheers itself became a haven for its lonely band of misfits. The bar, (and the show itself) stood in as a place to be when you really had nowhere else to go. You could come in, drown your sorrows and share your sadness with everyone else, and the worries of the outside world could just melt away until Sam rang for last call. It was no wonder why anyone didn’t want to leave, and no wonder for me why I revisit “Cheers” almost every year since I first saw it as a kid. It’s so I can revisit those characters that I feel a kinship with, I can be a part of their commeraderie and their hyjinks which feels like an escape from the harshness of the real world. Like them, I feel less alone being invited into that bar.
I’m often quite moved just by the depiction of loneliness and I don’t think anyone shows it off more beautifully than my favorite director Yasujiro Ozu. I’ve spoke about Ozu on this blog on numerous occasions, as one might expect from a site called “Pillow Shots” ,but no other filmmaker has had so much effect on my life. At the end of almost every Ozu film, we see the image of someone who is alone, whether its a parent who has just seen their daughter married off such as “Late Spring” or “Late Autumn”, or it’s the elderly grandfather who’s wife has just died in “Tokyo Story”. Ozu’s films always come to the same conclusion in that loneliness is unavoidable, yet it is never something to despair over. Ozu never resigns to a feeling hopelessness or nihilism, rather he is filled with humanity, and warmth. His characters do grapple with loneliness, but it’s a common thread with all of them, in that you could say it’s a shared experience. I think Ozu would say loneliness comes with the passage of time, and it can’t be stopped much like the moving trains in his films. Instead it’s important to cherish the time we have with the people who are important to us, which is something that could so easily be taken for granted.
Without beating around the bush too much, I will say I felt compelled to write about this particular subject tonight because I have felt alone lately. I’ve recently moved to a new city, and while my friends aren’t very far away, it’s difficult to see them as much as I used to. My family is scattered around, though we were never ones to share our feelings very much. It’s difficult to pick up the phone and admit you are feeling alone, and you hope someone might be out there on the other end ready to listen. Sometimes that doesn’t happen, and you have to move on. What I have learned is nothing is hopeless, and sometimes the support you crave can come from unexpected places. It’s also important to try to be open, and knowing some people are hurting just as much as you are, maybe even more so. Reaching out can not only help heal you, but maybe someone else as well. Perhaps that mutual understanding and listening to each other can help bridge some gap to a clearer communication. Or maybe it’s late and I don’t know what I’m saying anymore.
Now to try to end what I’m trying to say, but I’m not sure how. Loneliness is so elusive and it can mean different things to different people. I guess I was just trying to share what it means to me. I wanted to share my thoughts on the subject that’s all, and with that I’ve been able to stave off my own loneliness for a brief period of time. I know I’m not really alone, as in I know there are people out there who care about me, and I care about them. Yet I’m alone, and I know this feeling I have will go away in time and I will be granted a reprieve from my solitude as one often does in time. Its dealing with the here and now that’s the challenge. The struggle is real, let’s be kind.