Over the past few months, I’ve realized that I’m lonely. I have good friends and a fun social life, but as a single lady living far from my family, I’m missing deeper connection—the kind of simultaneously deep and shallow relationship where someone actively wants to hear all of my mundane life details or idiosyncratic thoughts. It’s not really a sad conclusion as much as an interesting one, as it’s allowed for some pretty good insights.
For example, I’ve discovered that one of the benefits of living on the lonely side of life is that I have plenty of time to think through issues and ideas. The upside to being in my own head so much these days is that I’m attuned to how I’m feeling and actually benefiting from the depths of my self-analysis. I’m reading interesting self-help books and using my commute time to ponder how I can apply those lessons to my own life (my current read: The Happiness Project). I took back up sewing as a sort of meditation now that the garden is closed for the season. I’ve even had a few “ah ha” moments sitting on my porch sipping tea, watching the squirrels chase each other on the tree out front.
While my lonely head time has been productive on many levels, I have found it more difficult to push through on thinking I’ve wanted to do around the tougher question of life and love. I try to think hard about these questions, mull them over, circle them again and again in hopes of finding the answers I’m seeking. I even talk out loud to myself using silly voices to try and spur new thoughts. Still, the answers seem elusive, as it’s only me there to answer my queries.
My current thought is that I’m struggling because many of these trickier challenges need a gut check rather than head time. I use the term “gut” loosely to describe a more innate feeling rather than anything strategically or headily planned. A wise friend recently told me that more often than not, we know the answers even as we seek them—and that part of our seeking is actually just peeling away the layers within us that prevent the “truth” or our more authentic selves from showing through. That’s the gut I’m talking about.
I thought about this gut-level instinct the other night when I randomly pulled a beer from the fridge that had been sitting in there for over a year. It wasn’t just any beer—it was a large bottle of delicious Belgian Tripel (my favorite beer), hand delivered from Europe by an ex-partner long after we broke up… some sort of goodwill gesture that ultimately prolonged me moving on. I’d been holding onto the beer as a reminder of the past, and also because I hadn’t figured out how to drink it without some good reason. My heady self concocted rules: it had to be a special night, the beer had to match a great homemade meal, I couldn’t share it with just anyone, and on and on.
I truly had no good reason to drink this beer the other evening beyond wanting to enjoy a great Tripel, and ended up drinking the entire bottle myself with frozen pizza and a chick flick on TV. Once the last glass was gone, I realized my impulsive decision was a gut-check. It was only a beer, but it helped me appreciate the layers of excessive thoughtfulness that prevent me listening to my gut. In loneliness or connectedness, my overactive thoughts, rules, and expectations often get in the way of just enjoying life. I started wondering if I were to live a life that reflected my gut instincts, maybe I would drink amazing beer with wild abandon and be able to let go of the attachments and fear that hold me back?
Beer may or may not be the answer to the elusive answers I’m seeking around life and love. But as I continue to sit with loneliness, it’s helpful to have this reminder about how my head and heart are not in lockstep. There is symbiosis, of course, but I’m now inspired to work harder to quiet my mind so that my gut can get some more airtime. I’ll continue my reading and writing and thinking, but I’m also listening harder. My first lesson: sometimes a beer is just a beer.