The gift of loneliness
Updated: Dec 10, 2020
Is it time to open the gift of your loneliness this Christmas?
Very few gay men seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless they’ve come to the realisation that they’re lonely. The stigma of loneliness is real, and it takes a lot to engage with the subject.
I’m proud of you for opening this article. I recognise and admire your courage. Now that you’re here, let’s start getting you connected to yourself, those most important to you and to your community.
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It’s Christmas. And depending on where you are in the world, this Christmas may look very different to Christmases past.
You may not be able to spend the event with friends and family like you have in past years.
You may not have the big feast, the parties and the general merriment of the season.
You may also be aware that there’s a gift under your Christmas tree that you don’t want, and it’s so big that you can’t avoid it: your loneliness.
It’s been regifted
Indeed, the gift may have been under the tree in previous years but – for whatever reason - you didn’t accept it.
Perhaps you noticed the present lurking under the tree and chose to ignore it, deny its existence or avoid it outright.
Maybe there were other presents under the tree that you accepted and wanted to open instead. Perhaps it was the latest whatever that all your friends coveted. Perhaps it was the thing that you hoped would have you feeling something and kept up the appearance that you had it all together and are successful.
You may have noticed the gift of your loneliness under the tree and chose to prove that you didn’t need it. In proving that you didn’t need the gift, you worked hard to show that you were fit, fun, surrounded by friends, a regular bon vivant and living a life that made others envious.
Alas, there it is under the tree, yet again. This year, it’s harder to ignore.
So, stop ignoring it.
Accept the gift
No one ever wants loneliness or to be lonely. But the longer we ignore it, the tighter its grip on us becomes. Rather than ignoring it for another year, let’s open it.
Where to start? Well, as with any gift, we need to accept it and thank it for its presence. It’s only polite, right?
How to open the gift
It’s time to unpick the tape and reveal the contents of the present. Those shaking hands, racing heart and nervous sweat? Completely normal. You’re doing something you’ve known you need to do but long avoided, after all.
Once the wrapping has been removed, it may feel like you’ve opened Pandora’s Box, with all sorts of uncomfortable realisations, thoughts and feelings swirling around you. This may be scary, but I promise you that it’s not as scary as you imagine it to be.
Indeed, we do well to remember what remains in Pandora’s Box after it’s been opened: Hope.
By accepting and opening the gift of your loneliness this Christmas, you’ll be dealing with some uncomfortable thoughts and feelings, but you also have hope.
Getting to the part about hope
Here’s an easy step-by-step guide to follow once you’ve opened your present.
Step one: you’re amazing
Contrary to what those thoughts and feelings are telling you about your worth and worthiness, know this: you are worthy of love and belonging just as you are, right now.
Those thoughts and feelings will pass. Please remember this.
Step two: remain curious
The thoughts and feelings of loneliness and the subsequent emotional response will want you to pull away instinctively, rather like when you touch something hot.
Please, stay curious.
Step three: practice self-kindness and self-care, but don’t numb
Do something to reward yourself for doing something hard. Don’t seek the reward from others, reward yourself with something that will nourish you and replenish you, instead. Cranking up the tunes and singing and dancing badly does the trick for me.
Pay attention to the words you use when speaking with yourself. Speak to yourself like you would someone you love deeply and unreservedly. You’re not a failed human, nor are you a failed gay man. You’re a human who’s experiencing loneliness, and we all experience loneliness.
Avoid numbing the pain and discomfort. Stay away from booze, drugs, porn, work, exercise, shopping, gambling, sex (including masturbation); whatever is your way of avoiding pain and discomfort.
Remember: this too shall pass.
Step four: practice empathy
Don’t judge the thoughts and feelings; allow them to be. Label them if you want, but it’s enough for now to notice that they’re there.
Step five: say it aloud to someone
Does accepting and opening the gift of your loneliness remind you of something? The similarities between coming out as lonely and coming out as gay are striking. The fear that our sexuality had over us can disappear when we own it and speak the truth of who we are.
The same happens when we speak our loneliness aloud. You’ve come out as gay before, and you’re capable of being as courageous now about your loneliness.
Loneliness is a human emotion that tells us that we need connection. That’s all it is. Everything else we build up around our loneliness and what it means about ourselves is a story. While the thoughts and feelings of loneliness are real, what we make it mean is responding to a story.
It’s time to come out as lonely to someone who you feel has earned the right to hear your story.
Step six: Begin reconnecting
Your loneliness is yours and is yours to work through. It is tempting to do it alone and fix ourselves, but this misses the point completely.
The beauty of loneliness is that the connection we need within our selves, with those most important to us and to our communities starts when we speak of our loneliness.
Once we do that real, life-nourishing and connective conversations happen where we feel seen, feel heard and feel that we belong.
Don’t do it alone. You need help. That’s the point.
While your loneliness is your loneliness, you don’t need to work through it alone. I’m here and if you feel that I’ve earned the right to hear your story, I host a group on Facebook for gay men just like you who are working through their loneliness in a supportive and caring environment in a private Facebook page exclusively for premium subscribers of The Loneliness Guy (become a premium subscriber here).
You may also want the expertise of a great coach in your corner. I have a page on my site with links to two amazing coaches – Michael DiIorio and Mike Campbell – with whom I’ve partnered who can help you be you in the world.
Check out their services here and be sure to tell them that I sent you.
Join me and gay health and wellness coach Steve Seidel from www.stevenseidel.com in Ep. 19 of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ as we discuss the gift of loneliness.
That's it for 2020!
This is my last blog post for 2020. It’s been a big first year for this venture and I’m going to take a few weeks off over Christmas and New Year to rest and enjoy the summer-ish weather.
I want to say a huge thank you to my premium subscribers. Thank you for being your awesome selves and for inspiring me throughout the year.
Special thanks to my contributors and guests on ‘Connection over Coffee’: Sophia Kokores, Michael DiIorio, Alexander Gerard, Mike Campbell, Matt Landsiedel, Jesse Elkins, Calan Breckon and Steve Seidel. I love how my work has connected me with such amazing people like these and helped me introduce them to you, too.
Thank you to my haters and negative commenters on various social media platforms. I wish you nothing but happiness as you seek whatever you’re searching for and I hope that the release of emotion through your keyboard was helpful.
Thank you to you for reading my work, following and sharing my content on social media and talking about loneliness with your friends. I know it’s not always easy and I firmly believe that the stigma of loneliness will only dissipate when we freely admit it aloud and use it to get the type of connection we all need.
Finally, thank you to my partner, Jeff, and my amazing sons. From designing the logo to proof reading my work and to listening to my endless ideas (and contributing more than your fair share of great ideas), thank you. Your love is proof of what happens when we show up in the world as our authentic selves.
There’s so much more to come in 2021!
Merry Christmas and here’s to a happy and authentically connected 2021 for us all.
Where to now?
Connection is the antidote to loneliness. Subscribe to my website through either a basic subscription (free) or premium subscription (monthly charge) and let’s stay connected as we work to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men.
Premium subscribers join an exclusive group on Facebook in which we have regular video chats and help and support each other as we put our real, authentic selves into the world to get the connection we need. We’d love for you to join us!
Thank you for reading this post. I hope that you’ve found it helpful.
I’m now asking for YOUR help.
Sharing my work really helps it reach more gay men and helps us all to de-stigmatise loneliness and promote authentic connection for gay men globally.
You may not feel lonely and have just the right amount of authentic connection in your life, but sharing this article could really help a friend or relative who may be quietly struggling with the thoughts and feelings of loneliness and disconnection.
Please share this post by email, a message in a chat app or by sharing my post on social media (hit a social media icon below to share).
~ Thank you ~
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own and are intended to support, challenge and inspire gay men to consider the issue of loneliness and increase awareness of the need for authentic connection with themselves, with others and their communities as an antidote to chronic loneliness. They are not intended to, nor should they, replace the advice of a licensed helping professional. Please consult the Resources page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.