In one of my first posts on @weareallmessy on Instagram I asked, ‘what does loneliness mean to you?’
I received several touching and interesting thoughts around this, from how loneliness is a lack of connection, not company, and how we can portray one thing on the outside, but feel very differently on the inside.
In a subsequent Instagram video I reflected on how this disparity can contribute to a lack of connection and that unless we truly show how and who we are to those around us, they will never know what we truly need in order to connect. But what is the quality of this connection we may long for? And who do we want to connect with?
My thoughts went to one of my favourite Norwegian poems ‘Ord over Grind’, meaning ‘Words over Fence’ by Halldis Moren Vesaas. In the first verse she writes:
“You walk up to my inner fence
And I walk up to yours
Inside this we are each lonely
And we shall forever be”
This may sound hopeless, but the rest of the poem portrays two people who meet within their own boundaries yet can still see each other and feel comforted by the other’s presence. They do not need to travel entirely into the others world to feel connected.
We are rarely in exactly in the same place as each other, even at the same time. We may have felt similar things, but each individual’s internal world is entirely unique to themselves. Acknowledging this can help us manage our expectations, both of ourselves and of others, and stop us searching for ‘complete empathy’ to feel heard and seen. Simply walking up to the fence and seeing and accepting each other’s inner landscape can be validating enough, even if we do not entirely understand what that landscape feels like to live in.
The truth is, we may be alone within ourselves, but we need not be lonely.
This brings me to the first post on my Facebook page: ‘When we are no longer able to change a situation, we are challenged to change ourselves.’ I ask underneath this Viktor Frankl quote ‘how this changed world has changed you’, but I also want to reflect on it through the lens of loneliness (and I see now that these are not mutually exclusive).
Loneliness is not just a lack of connection with others, it is also a lack of connection with our own self, especially our self-worth. If we struggle to validate our right to feel the way we do, if we struggle to feel valuable enough to be heard, then chances are we will turn up by the fence and someone will turn their back on us. A fragile sense of self-worth can leave you believing you are not worthy of kindness and compassion, ‘invisibly’ prompting you to seek those who are not able to meet you at their own inner fence, but would rather jump over yours and take you over.
I invite you to reflect on how you move up to your inner fence, and who you seek out to meet there. Do they fill you with a sense of calm and trust, or do they make you feel unimportant and worthless? What can you, compassionately, challenge within yourself to help protect your inner fence?
I’d love to hear your thoughts, around this or inspired by this. You can send a message to @weareallmessy on Instagram or Facebook and I will repost it anonymously if you wish.
See our resources section for mental health charities and counselling directories.