Confession: I actually do not know if I am any closer in my attempting to uncover, master, learn the art of happiness for myself.
I think I have been relying on the external to provide that sense of happiness for me. While I do not regret or find any faults with my actions, I am not sure on their effects. Late nights, dancing, drinking, intimacy, affection, exercising, work…all things I engage in and feel “happy” or whatever the situation-equivalent is. I wonder if there is a way to achieve that feeling internally, if there even is a parallel.
This aptly-named post speaks to my main difficulty. I do not like being alone. Correction: I do not like feeling lonely. As social beings, I don’t think any of us do. Are we not happier during moments when we are engaging in social interactions? I think my conflict, which some of you may or may not experience, is that I am content being alone. I first noticed this when I lived in Austin. Even when I wasn’t single, I enjoyed my time alone. doing my own thing. not neglecting. but not smothering. I could walk to school/work/meetings alone. I could eat alone. I could study alone. I enjoyed nights out with friends and significant others, but I also enjoyed the solitude that came with the aforementioned. In Chicago, much of the same.
My biggest realization came on a recent Friday night. Were I not in an amazing place concerning my social/intellectual/spiritual abilities, the following scene would have seemed pathetic..and might still to some of you:
I sat outdoors, at a local Starbucks. at 9pm. with my recently-picked-up-Styrofoam-held chinese dinner. and my laptop. doing work. and enjoying the summer-like breeze. again, alone. Productivity and peace at my table. Conversation and laughter at others. ’til around 11p.m. on a Friday night. Mind you, I was okay. I was alone. but I was okay.
It’s the lonely part that got to me, gets to me. It’s the not having someone there to support me, encourage me, be proud of me. or someone there to ramble about my difficulties, without a sense of burden, without the required social niceties or having to worry about inquiring about their troubles at that exact moment. The latter I do. always. The lonely seems to take over with lack of the former. When we miss out on those things from someone who truly understands, there is a sense of loss experienced. It’s what is done with that feeling that seems to matter most.
So my parting question is this: how are feelings of loneliness versus being alone associated with happiness? and what is the role of those external forces, those actions or reactions in this all? Can we engage in activities such as those mentioned above without becoming too reliant on their resulting effects? …obviously, I’m still seeking answers, which is beyond okay.
Perhaps this, while highlighting the beauty of language, answers it to some extent:
“Language… has created the word “loneliness” to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word “solitude” to express the glory of being alone.” -P. Tillich