Empathy with Feeling Alone about Feeling Alone

Tonight I saw a social media post by a popular artist — a picture of herself next to her boyfriend at the time, some years back. I suddenly realized how lonely and isolated this artist might feel. Yes, “might.”  I have never met her and I don’t know what she’s feeling. I can at best guess — but what I’m guessing makes for an interesting-to-me analysis.

This article will have accomplished its intended purpose if my analysis is correct and if the artist reads this and feels understood — for what it’s worth, and yet perhaps it’s worth more than the casual observer might think.

Oftentimes, once the other person feels understood, she feels better. One of my favorite hearsay stories is of a little family at a railway station. Evidently the dad was leaving on a trip, and the mom and little three-year old girl were seeing him off. The little girl was crying pitifully. The mom tried to reassure her that the dad wasn’t going to be gone for long, yet nothing could placate the little girl. Finally, a wise lady knelt down until her face was level with that of the little girl and said: ” … but it IS sad that he’s leaving, isn’t it?”  The little girl looked at the lady, nodded — and stopped crying.

Let’s imagine the artist has a deep natural shyness that delayed her dating-of-boys dynamic for some years. Then, she meets someone who is also shy and at the same approximate stage of emotional readiness for a relationship dynamic.

The love we crave is the love we feel we deserve. Even if by then another gentleman might also have been wooing her, his chances would have been slim to none, if she judged him as a mismatch relative to her. That’s where so many guys miss the boat: they try to impress the girl with superlatives when really she wants someone with whom she can resonate at whatever emotional-maturity plane she considers herself to be.

Even if thousands or millions of guys could assure her that she’s brilliant, lovely and desirable, that’s just their opinion. While it’s no doubt nice to hear in a bland sense, it probably doesn’t affect how the girl feels about herself — who she really is, deep down — and the sort of love she deserves. So the best suitor isn’t the one with the highest score on merit … it’s the one with the best-matching score.

When we find someone like that, there’s a sort of feeling of “we have our own little sub-culture, just the two of us.” It’s intense and intimate — and in a sense wonderful, including the sexuality.  It also explains why someone stays in a relationship even if it’s not a healthy one. There’s a feeling of an alliance we’ll cherish in spite of much adversity, even if that adversity is clearly the result of the other person behaving badly.

Until fairly recently I was in a six-year relationship with a lovely girl (yes, I like girls) who has a Bachelor’s in Psychology, a Master’s in Counseling plus she’s a formally licensed Counselor. That doesn’t make ME a  Counselor but when we watched movies it was more often about Carl Jung or Kinsey than the average couple might experience.  Anyway, she said wise things and I paid attention.

From what I learned informally, I got to re-evaluate a previous relationship in which I had been  … in retrospect, it deserved a gold medal as to being dysfunctional. After that dysfunctional relationship finally broke up, my software company staff told me how much they liked working with me but even so, if that girl ever came back into my life they would presume I’d yet again be so intolerably distracted that they’d all save themselves the agony and suspense, and quit en masse that very first day.

Even though she and I were each a mess, we were the same kind of mess.  We were bad for each other but in a way that made each of us feel like that’s where we belonged in the world — together. Bad times were intensely bad, yet were a sort of weird bond too. Good times were wonderful — not on merit but due to the bliss of being with someone who felt about as close to a soul-mate as I could imagine myself having.

And no, that bad relationship wasn’t an anomaly. The romantic relationship before that one had a very similar set of mutual emotional dynamics — and was yet again very, very dysfunctional, intense and delicious.

Anyway, back to this artist. I don’t know how her relationship with the ex-boyfriend was. However, I have long since concluded that she hides much of her own life’s story in plain sight, in the lyrics of the songs she sings. On that basis, I’m guessing that the dynamic with that ex-boyfriend was a very emotionally-intense dynamic that, after they broke up, she did not recreate with anyone else. She might have had offers by someone who’s on merit better, or not — I don’t know.

It doesn’t really matter — because the only type of love that would give her that intensity again is the sort of love that she feels she deserves.

Often the most viable way seems to be: go rekindle that old flame.  So, the person often remains focused on the person who left, perhaps for years — or decades. That intensity, once experienced, isn’t something for which one easily accepts a substitute, and often one pines very deeply (believe me, I know).

If she’s deeply shy, there really isn’t much viability of a substitute anyway (by her way of thinking) so the girl’s self-image decreases and she feels ever more shy and lonely and undesirable, and any male adulation to the contrary is simply background noise. Being in that line of work might well mean staying in the area (e.g., the music business and LA), so all the old places and people the couple saw together are painful reminders for the now-alone girl — and yet she can’t viably leave.

Assuming that the lyrics of her songs continue to tell the story, she finally gets coaxed into meeting someone and she prepares for, and goes on, the blind date … albeit with a negative mindset. There she finds someone who is NOT the type of person she craves in the former-relationship sense yet he’s a good, kind, stable, healthy-choice person with whom she can share many values, and who provides a path back to the mainstream cultural path (marriage and children) from which she had been veering away.

So, she dates and eventually marries this person and he adds much value to her life. For lack of information to the contrary, I’m going with what little insight I have and thus I’m presuming he’s a good guy, then and now. They remain married, have a fairy-tale life and all is well, nominally — including the girl having a resurrected successful career in the music business … where her fans have a very particular image they expect of her.

If she’s giddily happy and that’s all there is to it, I’m truly happy for her, and this article has been a total waste of time.

However, what if her life after the-ex-boyfriend never had the sort of dynamic that the girl craved?  Perhaps her husband was nicer to her than she thought she deserved.  And no, being treated better than one thinks one deserves is really NOT a good place to be. I’ve actually inadvertently killed some relationships by being overly good to the other girl. I’ve also been in the opposite role where someone was nicer to me than I felt I deserved. I felt — ironically —  isolated and miserably awkward plus guilty and ungrateful. In a messed-up way I also felt lonely even while in a romantic relationship with the girl who was being extra nice to me.

Perhaps that’s the case with this artist? If so, she’s feeling lonely too. So now, can she come out and say so? Let’s think it through. By now, the ex-boyfriend is off the market for the time being, so coming out would probably alienate:

  1. The ex-boyfriend
  2. Her husband
  3. Her friends and family who might consider her unreasonable
  4. Her bandmates and fans who expect her to maintain a certain image

Within a normal context, this is not going to happen. So, she’s essentially condemned to keeping even her loneliness and sense of isolation to herself.  In other words, she isn’t just feeling lonely but she can’t talk about it so she even feels lonely about feeling lonely.

That sounds miserable for anyone, but as I read this girl’s lyrics (and I ignore her early, few bubblegum pop songs) she’s a profound and intense person who takes life very, very seriously. As to girls like that, when we (yes, “we”) hurt … we hurt with a soul-bleeding depth of anguish. In the past, when that sort of situation happened to me, I’d find someone who cared enough to listen, and I’d talk about the issue for hours and hours, for weeks on end.

I hope this girl has, at least, one good friend in whom she can confide everything. If she can’t do that, she’s isolated as such. To me, that sounds like a horrible emotional solitary-confinement sentence. She might well not viably be able to open up to anyone close to her for the reasons explained above, nor anyone else for fear that the person might be (or become) a scandal-rag stooge and perhaps she gets to read her life story, the subsequent week, at grocery store check-out stands.

Assuming my guesses are correct, I can barely imagine how horribly miserable and alone she must be feeling.

So, what’s my wish for her?  Reading between the lines as to this girl, I’m guessing she might well be a little volcano about to erupt. This is someone who was inspired to start her rock band career after watching the Sex Pistols in concert. If you haven’t read their lyrics, you really should. Candor and rebellion are high on their list, and if this girl liked them so much that she felt their sense of life resonating within her, then candor and rebellion are part of her core value system too — even if deeply buried. She’s a good person but she’s no goody-two-shoes. In other words, she’s ethical, not lame.

She’s spent decades trying to do the right thing; trying to be polite; to be nice; trying to get along and trying to work within the system. Nominally it’s served her well though personally I think her benevolence was abused. On that totally separate subject (ask if you care) there’s another massive helping of retroactive candor and rebellion long overdue.

Were she superficial, she might well be willing to settle for being a success by general standards. No doubt she’s happy with her life at some level. It certainly seems idyllic. But if she’s still that same 19-year old at heart, then she’s a profound and intense person who takes life very, very seriously and who might well be less-than-happy at a soul-deep level with the results of her life decisions, including being tolerant and flexible when (in my opinion) that meant being unfair to herself.

If so, then her debt to the Sex Pistols has yet to be paid.  She’s long overdue for some serious candor and rebellion central to her personal life, and my guess is that it’s not far from happening. At that point there will be no finessing it.  Tabloids will hardly want to print her eruption since their style is sneaky, as if divulging some dirty secret. My guess is she’ll take the wind out of their sails because she’ll know that living with integrity (as who she is)  is good, not dirty — and nor would she keep it a secret. She’ll probably write songs about it and sing it to concert halls filled with thousands of people who appreciate and like the newly “out” girl – regardless of what “out” ends up meaning.

She and I are about the same age. We are old enough to realize that death sucks, and that we have a life to live. The clock is ticking, and there’s no time to waste on pretenses. The “live it up” image that a 19-year wild girl is supposed to have doesn’t actually have substance in the case of most 19-year olds. The truly rebellious, candid, wild girls are those of us who have silver strands in our hair.

Based on my own experience, the beauty of rebellion and candor is: one doesn’t necessarily have to make self-sacrificial gestures such as quitting one’s job, marriage, band, etc. One can simply be rebellious and candid and then if someone else has issues with it, that’s their problem. By implication, she could simply stay put, say and do whatever fits with who she is, and live her life openly as such. Based on how well she communicates in interviews, whatever she ends up saying is likely to be well-articulated and very interesting.

The Sex Pistols would be proud.

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2 thoughts on “Empathy with Feeling Alone about Feeling Alone

  1. Did we date the same woman? I had a girlfriend who was the same kind of mess as I and it did not work out. Of course, I was dating her at a time during my life when I didn’t have it all together. I was going through my divorce and was in the middle of dealing with custody and court and all that. My crazy and her crazy just did not mix, though. I always thought maybe if I had dated her during a healthy period of my life that I could have made it work. She was a great person but it was not meant to be. I still think about her sometimes and miss her, though.

    I know what you mean about being too old to continue fucking around. Like, I am closing in on 35. I want to settle down-ish, and find a long term partner already. I don’t want to just go out and get laid anymore, those days are behind me.

    • I understand … and I relate to the “newer and better me” and how things might work out the second time around.

      Getting older has its drawbacks but it also means we get smarter and thus stronger … mentally, which counts for a lot. All of that life experience compounds to where we could now be wonderful mentors to our “younger selves” … or to our current selves moving forward.

      I was doing a lot of driving today, thinking about life, which includes a decision-support software system I’m working on for one of my clients. Such software basically enable better management actions based on better management decisions. So, that got me thinking … what if I had decision-support software for my personal life? What would I have done differently? More relevantly: what would I do differently right now if I could see the future consequences of my next set of decisions? Much to ponder …

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