The Ache of Loneliness and its Effects on Motivation
Tonight, I felt the pang of loneliness deeply for perhaps the first time in Buenos Aires (3 weeks in). I’m sitting in a cafe in Palermo eating a salad at about 8:30 Sunday night and I found out that the friend I was supposed to be meeting up for ice cream with wasn’t getting back in time to go. A deep weight of loneliness overcame me for a moment and I lost motivation to pursue my work and passion, though I’d been intentionally alone for the last seven hours, shopping, thinking, reading and hadn’t felt lonely yet.
I pondered this pang of loneliness and how to get myself out of it on the twenty minute walk back to my house. I noticed a young, pretty girl rummaging through garbage for plastics to recycle by herself and felt empathy for her and momentarily considered helping her, but reconsidered as a I don’t really speak Spanish well and I might not communicate my intentions clearly. But I sense that she was feeling lonely at that moment too and she could have used the help.
While walking the twenty blocks back home, I remembered an encounter with some businessmen from D.C. I had in a relatively high end location, Bar Millione, on Friday night. They were there with their wives and had just had a nice dinner and tango show. Apparently, one of the wives had just complained about her drink, and the husband exclaims to me, “Don’t ever get married! It’s the worst!” His buddy exuberantly concurred. Moments later, I narrowly escaped the clutches of more oppressive negativity to meet my friends from Switzerland and proceeded to have great conversations with quality people the rest of the night.
Based on some of their other chauvinistic comments, I sensed these guys realized ‘success’ in the worldly business sense, but had failed to navigate success in cultivating healthy relationships with their spouses.
I considered their remarks at the time and while they emotionally felt those statements were true at the time, those statements weren’t true, even for them. Why? Because the pang of loneliness would rock their world. Unconsciously, they’re not motivated enough to end what may be a bad relationship. Probably because the fear of the pain of loneliness exceeds the pain of a bad marriage.
We all experience loneliness. Married, single, young, or old. I have an amazing community of friends, family, and colleagues in Nashville. It’s hard for me not to have several good social activities nearly every night of the week and during the day. Yet I still experience loneliness at times, no matter if I’m romantically involved with a girl or not.
What does that loneliness point me towards?
Connecting to others and to my Creator. We were created with a deep innate need for relationships. A desire to relate, a longing to love, a yearning to share our one and only life with others.
“It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a companion who will help him.” –Genesis 2:18.
So much of our energy and life is spent trying to connect, trying to fill the ache. Think about it. Why do you get excited when you get a Facebook message from a friend, a text from a romantic interest? What about the joy and intensity you feel when you share a breathtaking moment with a loved one? A stimulating and deep conversation with your best friend? Or a passionate kiss and long, warm embrace with your lover?
Yet, it also points me to the reality that I’ll have loneliness throughout my life at times. No matter if I have a thriving business, tremendous friendships, and a wonderful marriage and family.
If you have a passionate embrace with your romance, part of the joy and satisfaction you receive is from the feeling of being connected to another person. Insatiably you and I long for connection with another person, all of our days. This desire doesn’t fade or disappear, though it could be numbed because of painful experiences in being vulnerable or in trying to connect.
On the way home, I ponder what satisfies the feeling of loneliness in a healthy way? How can I most effectively help others experience healthy and meaningful connections as a pattern of their lives?