4.6 What Is Loneliness? What Is Life About?
Loneliness ceased to exist for me because it merely measured me against other people not against what I could be. I could be with people, or not, that did not matter, what mattered was what I was to myself.
At this point in my life I faced up to being on my own and I started to discover what that meant. Loneliness was what I first experienced when I was young. I was amongst other people but felt isolated and lonely. I moved on and expanded into the world and let go of loneliness, as I realised and understood the contribution I was making to the world. Now that was moving behind me and I entered a world that was just about me. I lived on my own and worked on my own. Was this loneliness?
Is loneliness about being on your own or is it about not having connection with others?
The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart, and all they can do is stare blankly.
F Scott Fitzgerald
There was a point when I felt this. There was a point when the first company failed where everything seemed to disappear. I had stepped up at a board meeting to tell the other directors the truth. I had looked at the figures and seen that it was hopeless. The most upsetting part was that the financial problems went back to before I had become a director and I only now noticed them. Having highlighted the issues I was duty-bound, as a director, to talk to the bank about them. That action brought everything tumbling down.
I was effectively ostracised by other directors who pre-dated me on the board. I was told I was foolish for being honest and people who I had been friends with for many years, effectively, cut me off. Whether I was right or they were right is not the issue here, it is simply about where I ended up emotionally. At that moment everything was collapsing around me and I felt isolated from everyone. I had never felt more lonely—ever.
This did pass as I came to realise I had done the right thing and that that was what mattered. People choose whether to connect with you, or not, but you need to live your life in a way that is right for you. I chose to be open and honest with people and not change things just to suit other people. This was a hard road to take but it was one I could take because loneliness ceased to be an issue for me. If I was on my own that was OK because I had made a choice how to live my life.
Going back to this point where my working life with others was in the past and my personal life had moved on, I was faced with the concept of loneliness. I was alone but I no longer felt lonely. I had not yet come across the idea of aloneness which, later on, became the mantra I was to live by. But more of that later.
I was at a point where I could no longer let life wash me along in its flow. I was no longer willing let it decide when I was in the calm shallows or when it was my time to be thrown on the rocks as it flowed through rapids. It was my time to take control—this time of myself, not of others. I started to look at my internal growth and the extent to which I needed others in my life. I was not at the end of my life, just at the end of a very public period. The future was destined to be more internal and more personal as I struggled with the issues that affected me, as I worked out how to live going forward.
If one’s different, one’s bound to be lonely.
Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
…and that is OK, I discovered.
The greatest discovery I made in these later years was how different I was. I had spent the earlier years either trying to become like others or trying to make others become like me. I wanted to hide away in the crowd. This is how I used to get rid of loneliness, I became part of a world of people. That world had spat me out and told me to think again.
I went inside and finally faced myself and found that all was alright there. I needed to grow internally, to find my maturity and authenticity, but there was nothing inherently wrong. I had just spent too many years ignoring who I was and what I wanted. I had focused on others and how I could look good in their eyes. I had forgotten about looking good in my eyes.
I realised that I enjoyed my own company and that I could now do whatever I wanted in the world. My wife was gone, my sons grown up, my businesses had gone; I had little to hold me back. There still plenty areas that I was involved with but my approach to them shifted, I loosened the ties and allowed myself to view them in a more detached way. I no longer felt the need to prove anything.
The details of where I went and what I did will come in the next chapter. I did not sit still and stew in my own juice. I re-invigorated my search for truth and internal strength—with a vengeance. I circled back to to the curiosity and overwhelming desire to know, that I had had when I was young—before the world took over. There was little time to feel sorry for myself, only time to move on and create the life I really wanted to live.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
This is where life was going, for me. The past was rapidly disappearing into that the void that is the only place where the past should be. It was ceasing to occupy my mind, and it was ceasing to be important to me. What I wanted, for the future, was to live. Existing and worrying was pointless, this was my time.
Loneliness ceased to exist for me because it merely measured me against other people not against what I could be. I could be with people, or not, that did not matter, what mattered was what I was to myself. There was a point at which I stopped measuring myself against anything. I stopped being accountable. I stopped having goals.
I started living and relished very moment of it.