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September 5, 2016

Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.

~Henry Rollins

I recorded this quote years ago because it resonated so strongly with me. It captures the way I feel when I hike up to the top of a hill on my own, or when I bike or drive across the countryside with only God as my companion. Traveling alone has opened me to opportunities and conversations I never would have had traveling with a partner, and living on my own grants me the peace and quiet I need to reflect on life.

But loneliness also has its drawbacks. I read a post today on a friend’s Facebook page entitled “Being single is hard.” The article linked to the post discussed the usual pros and cons of singledom but zeroed in on the author’s perspective of the worst aspect of being alone: never getting touched. She went on to write,

Did you chuckle to yourself when you read that because it sounded like I was talking about masturbation? That’s not a coincidence. That is part of the problem.

We don’t even value platonic touch enough for it to exist in our lexicon without a sexual overtone. Most people in relationships have their need for touch met incidentally, but when you are single, it is very hard to get this need met. And, I have it better than most. I am female, I do massage trades sometimes. I have the type of liberal friends I can talk to about this openly with, or liberal friends I’m even a little cuddly with sometimes. I have a cat. But like, my god, years of not being touched is fucking hard and no one admits this.

After reflecting on the article for awhile, I realized that this is not the hardest aspect of being single for me, although it is certainly challenging: the hardest thing for me is not having someone to talk to about the ups and downs of my days. Yes, I can talk to friends. And yes, I can always talk to my mom. But there is no single person in my life who is primarily concerned with me. I don’t mean that in a selfish way, as if I want someone’s life to be devoted to me. What I mean is that I am not the person anyone else is calling or texting just to say “hi” in the middle of the day; I am not the person anyone else is checking in with about dinner or weekend plans; I am not the person someone else is rooting for when I leave for work in the morning and checking in with when I return home at night.

I realize that my circumstance is partly a predicament of my personality. As an INTJ/INFJ (sometimes I test as one, sometimes as the other), I hover somewhere between a loner and a socialite, not really quite one or the other. Indeed,

INFJs are deeply concerned about their relations with individuals as well as the state of humanity at large. They are, in fact, sometimes mistaken for extroverts because they appear so outgoing and are so genuinely interested in people — a product of the Feeling function they most readily show to the world. On the contrary, INFJs are true introverts, who can only be emotionally intimate and fulfilled with a chosen few from among their long-term friends, family, or obvious “soul mates.”

To complicate matters more,

Beneath the quiet exterior, INFJs hold deep convictions about the weightier matters of life.

…meaning I am never thinking about the sorts of things that are conducive to finding a best female friend that could preclude the need for a male partner. I don’t think about clothes or makeup or hair–not that that’s all other women think about, but it’s certainly an “in” of sorts to get a conversation and a relationship going. Few people–except for other INFJs or INTJs (and we are apparently in the extreme minority) want to launch right into a discussion on the meaning of life or on what it will take to save the world the very first time they meet someone.

So, I’ve never really had a best friend. I’ve had good friends, but they’ve all had someone else who is their best friend. They have someone else they call or text first to vent about their fight with their boyfriend or husband, or to tell about their latest parenting victory or job promotion.

I’m not complaining, and I’m certainly not criticizing anyone in my life for my circumstance. I am who I am and most of the time I’m happy to simply sit by myself and listen to my little girls breathe quietly in their sleep as I read into the evening. But on some nights–like tonight, when I’m without my girls–the loneliness gets to me just a little, and so I do what most INFJs do best: I write.



One Comment
  1. Kristen SB permalink

    I’ve thought of this post many times (and of you!) since first reading it. It occurred to me in light of the self evaluation and the tension within the INFJ/INTJ that you may really enjoy delving into the enneagram – if you haven’t already done so. Through the enneagram, there are so, so many facets and realms with which to enter into self evaluation – and the tendencies that we have by virtue of our personalities, at a depth and level that have been incredibly insightful for me – both as I ponder upon my response(s) to the world and its response to me.

    On loneliness, I have so many responding thoughts – and your writing is always an invocation to respond- whether we do so aloud – or simply through continued growth in self- and other- awareness. There was a time in my life – post entering into partnership with Joel, and post birth of the boys – where I came to a startling realization that there is a universal truth in loneliness – regardless of our circumstances in partnership with a beloved partner, child, parent, friend…. that we are simultaneously all in communion with one another AND utterly alone. How is this possible? Like all of life everywhere and within the organized chaos of individual- and community ecosystems….

    In no way do I discount the beauty, opportunity and immense challenge of single parenting, but I am an ENFP – and while, perhaps, willing to live at the surface in the moment moreso than a depth thinker 🙂 – I have experienced all that you describe here, the sense of friendship, “best friend”, and all. All. Continuing to appreciate you deeply, Cori.

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