In the quiet hours of the morning, the many voices in my head — both the voices that remind me of my worth and the voices that pilfer substantial portions of my peace — coagulate into a cacophonous symphony. These discordant notes coalesce into one question: what is one supposed to do with all this loneliness?
It sounds abstract, but it is possible to interrogate the problem until it assumes some semblance of concreteness.
What are you going to do with all this loneliness?
I have walked away from every marker of an ordinary life. I don’t want a partner or romantic liaisons; I’m not interested in having more friends or acquaintances than I can count on one hand; I’m not emotionally invested in family units or the relentless pursuit of social status or careerist cachet.
On paper, this sounds like a disintegration of the self; a petering out of drive and ambition, but it’s not. It’s simply a recalibration of one’s priorities. It’s a life lived entirely on one’s own terms, but that recognition doesn’t counteract the marrow-deep loneliness that occasionally comes with it.
Like a story with a thousand beginnings and no endings, you wade through the many false starts by clinging to your optimism. You take it beat by beat.
The secret to contentment is to always have something to look forward to, no matter how minute or colossal. So I make a schedule each day that is threaded with small pleasures; drinking copious cups of ginger tea; spritzing myself with male and female perfumes by Spanish, Nigerian and Lebanese designers; wearing an assortment of outsized Bedouin jewellery on my morning walks; treating myself to Caribbean rum cakes sticky with sweetness and liquorish; exercising on my neon-pink mat until I’m heaving like a Berkshire pig about to give birth; binging on a diet of ludicrous California-set comedies in the evening; doodling the darkness out on my sketchbook until my interior landscape is aglow with pleasure.
But the question still niggles; what is one supposed to do with all this loneliness?
What if we were to reposition the question as a self-affirming statement? What if we realized that there’s no such thing as a life without pangs of melancholy or occasional lonesomeness? What if we accepted that to be human is to be a morass of contradictions and wonky perceptions? What if, in our moments of concentrated sorrow and loss and loneliness, we extended a little grace to ourselves and to our loved ones?
What if we always remembered that everything but death is ephemeral, and that loneliness, like all emotional states, eventually dissipates, making space for the possibility of jubilance and silly jokes and banter and better days and release and release and release?
Our divine selves always sing when we are most uncertain.
Image by DIRIYE OSMAN and TOM HENSHER