Loneliness & Rex...
Ok, hard topic for a Saturday. And I am not feeling especially lonely right now. By that what I mean, is that feeling lonely isn’t acute right now. I am ok. But I have to give voice to the long standing feelings of loneliness that have plagued me the whole of my life...and the attendant shitstorm that feeling, left unproductively addressed has caused in the way my life has played out...
I do not want to write about this today...
But I will because I have been avoiding this topic for sometime now.
First of all, where did this pervasive feeling of loneliness come from?
I am not sure. But I can remember feeling it as far back as I can remember. As an only child, I remember feeling left out solely because I didn’t have a partner. I mean at three I wasn’t supposed to have a partner, but I had my parents and that was it. And we moved around a lot. Now none of that caused this feeling, but I guess we can call them contributing factors.
At three, I created an imaginary husband for myself. His name was Rex (I have no idea why he had this name, he just did. Wait, I was really into dinosaurs so maybe T-Rex? I don't know, but his name was Rex and every man I have ever met in my life has gotten a raised eyebrow from me, just because of his name). And he worked at the movie theater sweeping out popcorn. That was what he did for a living. And we used to talk on the phone. Long conversations that were really one sided. I mean, Rex was imaginary after all. I didn’t think that he really answered me, but I pretended.
Now a lot of only children have imaginary friends. But I have yet to hear about one who had an imaginary husband at the age of three...again I fully own that I was a weird child.
But looking back now, I can see that I found the fact that I was single, unpartnered at the ripe old age of three to be problematic for me. So I created a new reality, one where I didn’t have to go to bed alone. With someone I was attached to, always. Just like my parents.
I am not sure what created this need in me, but it was there and I can see it now as this pervasive feeling of loneliness. For whatever reason, I felt like I should have someone, a partner, someone who went to bed with me at the same time every night, someone to talk to while laying in bed. Someone who loved me and was loyal to me.
Now let me be clear, I had parents who were loving and took care of me. I am sure that time was spent on why their child had created an imaginary husband. I know they thought it was cute. And that somewhere they probably thought it was weird. But then it was the 1970s and everything was weird.
I also want to be clear that there was nothing I can remember that my parents did wrong. They were kind, they were loving. And they set appropriate boundaries like bedtimes and stuff like that. But for reasons I will never know, that hurt me in some way. And created or just moved along this pervasive feeling of loneliness that either was already there and was made worse or kicked it off.
We will never know why I felt that I should have a partner at three. I can’t tell you and neither can they! But I can trace the loneliness back to then. Lying in my bed, listening to them still up and talking. Or having people over for dinner and drinking late into the night. I can remember laying there for hours, feeling shitty about myself and like there was something missing. Now I didn’t have those words back then but today I can only guess that I felt like because I was alone, it was because I wasn’t good enough or loved enough. Or something like that. Somehow, even at three, I was capable of spinning a story about myself based extremely loosely on facts and create a narrative that has fucked up my life more than I have wanted to admit.
Children are supposed to go to bed before their parents...well, until they are teens anyway and then they really object to going to be at 8 pm when I want to.
But there was something fundamental going on with me back then, that I can see now has haunted me until right now. I took this physical thing, this time spent alone, and twisted it into a story that made it pathological.
Now I have chased a lot of things to not feel lonely. Like a lot. Mostly men, but also friendships and jobs and family and lots of other things. Sex. Can’t forget that one. But none of them ever addressed, really, that fundamental and pervasive feeling of feeling adrift in life. Solitary and alone. And this feeling never went away not even when I was in a loving relationship, not even when I had tons of friends, most especially not with sex. Even when I found myself married and ostensibly partnered for life, I still felt alone.
And I can see now, that just like the creation of Rex, the imaginary husband, this has always been an inside job. Always. I have felt alone even when I wasn’t. I have taken a lot of action that has resulted in more aloneness, not less. And then twisted that to fit a story where I am not worthy of love, or commitment or whatever, and made it so.
What I know now that I didn’t know when I was three, is that sometimes you are just alone. And it is ok. There is nothing wrong. Like back then, I was three and an only child! There was no alternative to me going to bed alone. I mean my parents could have given up their relationship and time and made sure that I always fell asleep with someone. But I am so glad that they didn’t! I know they needed the down time away from me, just like I needed it from my own children when they were young. And even now. They needed time to be a couple and individuals, adults and not create a situation where I believed that someone was going to accommodate me every day of my life.
I can see now that this one is totally on me. And it isn’t really my fault either. It is just how I felt. And what was pathological about how I felt, is my reaction to a feeling. It was just feeling, never fact. But I created a narrative, a story, that I have been telling myself for years.
Fuck. Shit. Damn.
I see it now. I see that the ideas and feelings and thoughts got all tangled up in my three year old brain and then reinforced year after year that I did what every other child did, went to bed alone. A simple fact of childhood that I weaponized against myself.
And I will be honest. I am not sure how to undo the damage. I am not sure how to disconnect the feelings that have been supported by thoughts which then become my evidence of my lack of worth. But I can start.
And I have made progress. The times that I feel most lonely are not at bedtime. And that is progress. I do not climb into bed every night or wake every morning feeling lonely. No it comes to me more during the day when I find myself adrift and without a partner to discuss things with, to make plans with, to eat with. Those are the times I feel lonely.
And I have to say that I don’t really feel that all that often. Most of the time, I am not lonely but when I do, the feeling is deep, pervasive and smarts. When the loneliness comes on, it is acute and I am transported back in time to those desperate calls to a husband named Rex who I created to fill the void. And I can see that I just continued that idea, that methodology right up until about six months ago.
Something in me changed six months ago...I began to see the alone time as not something to be endured. But something to be prized. Now this isn’t to say that I am totally fine being alone but I have begun to make peace with this long standing idea that a partner doesn’t make it inherently better, it just makes it different. And today, I care more about the quality of that partnership, than I do the fact that there is someone there to partner with.
And I guess, if I get desperate enough, I can just reincarnate Rex. He was a loyal and loving partner. He was always there for me and our conversations were epic. I mean what I can remember of them, three was a fucking long time ago.
But instead of bringing back my dead imaginary first husband, I will instead just do what I have learned to do with pretty much all my feelings: sit with them. Not try to wish them away, instead see that they are here to teach me things about myself and others that I did not know. That I am not aware. Feelings are not here to kill me like I seem to believe by default.
And I can afford to hold out the hope that someday, I meet someone as awesome as Rex and we can have epic convos until we are dead.
But until then I can be willing to look at my root causes and how they have warped my perception of reality. And I can see that loneliness is just a feeling that I get to feel today, and like all the other feelings, it comes, settles in, feels like it will never leave, and just like that it is gone and I am presented with another feeling. And all is well even if I don't completely agree.
The mind growth is that today I can see feelings not as facts but opportunities to come to know myself better, so that perhaps one day when a man as amazing as Rex shows up, I might just be able to offer him a better version of me.
Don’t hold your breath...but maybe instead just hold a little hope. I am going to.