no matter what you give them,
still want the moon.
The bread, the salt,
white meat and dark,
The marriage bed
and the cradle,
still empty arms.
You give them land,
their own earth under their feet,
still they take to the roads.
And water: dig them the deepest well,
still it's not deep enough
to drink the moon from.
- Denise Levertov
For every person stuck at home during the Christmas season, with nothing but a cup of tea and a good book, there is another caught in the grasps of a mismatched family. Surrounded by sentimental ramblings and unnerved children the later would give anything in the world to be alone, with that cup of tea and a good book.
As we move into the Christmas Holiday season many of us experience it as a time of powerful loneliness. Th so called Holiday season becomes an oppressive confusion of idealizations, projections, anxieties, insecurities, expectations: This is what my family should be like; this is what I should feel like; This is what I should give or get or have etc.
These Holidays can have the effect of magnifying any discrepancy there is between what we wish things were like and what they are actually like, what we’re told we should feel like and how we actually feel, what we should enjoy and what is not enjoyable, who we should be and who we are. This discrepancy leads inevitably to anger, to melancholy, and to loneliness.
Why is loneliness at Christmas a subject we should address when the world is faced with war, poverty, hunger, disease, genocide, torture etc. That is desperation, need, real pain and real anguish. Why worry about how the Holiday Season makes us feel?”
Loneliness is not the same thing as being alone, not the same thing as solitude. In the great religions, Moses, Muhammad, Buddha, the proverbial enlightened sage sitting cross-legged on the mountain top: they all spend time in solitude, and yet, we would not call them lonely. Loneliness is not physical. Loneliness, paradoxically, is a thing that is sensed in the presence of others. Loneliness is often felt most acutely in the crowd. Our loneliness is magnified in the presence of others. What is this all about? Rather than a physical isolation it is a kind of non-connection with the many who are actually very much all around us.
It is about what we tell ourselves: I’m not likeable by others; I’m undesirable to others. I haven’t found the right other person. I’m so unique that it is impossible for others to understand me. I’ll just get rejected by others. Loneliness becomes a puzzel which is up to each one of us personally to solve.
That is the great paradox of being around so many, but being so alone. Denise Levertov writes poetically of that person who is never fulfilled, never sated, never comfortable, always longing. Wanting the moon. She describes a type of longing – still hungry, still empty, still not enough – that, ironically, keeps one from moving beyond their own loneliness. Some people, no matter what you give them, still want the moon. Some people, no matter who they are with, are still lonely.
A big part of loneliness is the story we tell about ourselves... . Changing the story that we tell may make us a better at those times when we feel alone. And changing the story may serve to open windows to fresh air, more light, or even another person.
So change the story: you are not the only one; there is somebody else who gets what you are going through. They really do. Change the story: Face a crowd full of faces that struggle with what you struggle with, who feel in the ways that you feel.