Ed Wilson: my loneliness
'We take life too seriously. We forget how weak,
needy and broken we are.'
You don't seek out and then read articles about loneliness unless you’ve come to the realisation that you’re experiencing loneliness. The stigma and shame you feel is real, and it takes a lot of courage to even 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.
This is the next article in an ongoing series where we're exploring loneliness as a lived experience from others in the global gay and queer community. I'm doing this because if you and I are to de-stigmatise gay loneliness, then we must know that there are other gay and queer people thinking experiencing loneliness like you are. The Loneliness Guy is a forum for that to happen.
To Ed Wilson. Ed is the founder of Brown Bear Coaching and the host of the Gayborhood podcast. If you’re unfamiliar with Ed's work he's all about helping gay men become the most well-adjusted, self-loving and effective people on the planet. Check his website here and his Instagram here.
A reminder: writing about loneliness and sharing our reflections with the world is never an easy thing to do. I want to honour Ed’s courage, curiosity and sharing his experience of loneliness and what he's learning about it.
This article was published on Ngunnawal country. I wish to acknowledge and respect the Ngunnawal people’s continuing culture and the contribution they make to the life of Canberra and the surrounding region. I would also like to acknowledge and welcome other Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people who may read this post.
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I get lonely. And when I do, I take action on that. It’s unavoidable and human and natural and I think it’s my body or my soul telling me something important.
I know the opposite of lonely too. It’s… satisfying. Important. Like life itself just got thicker and more colourful, and I’m part of it.
Just thinking of loneliness is painful. It’s like a disease, the way I see it. Being lonely and suffering from it, doing nothing to change that is going to eat away at you.
It’s like being unemployed. The fact of the situation suggests that you’re no good, you’re unwanted, you’re unsuccessful.
But I know better. I know these things are temporary and happen to everyone. Barack Obama (I’m a fan) was probably lonely at some point today. Or at least this month. I’m certain there were times in the White House, surrounded by staff, family, friends, advisors, political enemies, tourists and security he felt more alone than ever before.
Isn’t that strange?
No. I get it. I’ve felt it.
I’ve come to realise, through my work as a people-helper, that the more I consider a certain strange concept, the more it feels real for me: that we are all connected, that we belong together, that we are all shards of one gigantic mirror, or jewel or entity, that are now all split up into separate bodies, having separated experiences, but we are ultimately one thing.
It sounds strange, and not something you bring up early at a formal dinner. But I bet you I would, that’s something I’d do! Ahh, and I’d get knowing looks and glances from my man-partner, my not-husband and those friends who are close to me. I’m like that. They’d chuckle.
We take life too seriously. We forget how weak, needy and broken we are.
We need to remind ourselves, constantly it seems. I say broken because of the analogy above. Why is it when we have the most intimate experiences of our lives, inserting our fragile bodies into each other, exchanging juices and all that insane glorious biological stuff, that you feel a connection like never before? Why do I feel like I want to smash my soul into my man, and merge them? Especially in those moments. I feel it slightly, almost all the time. I want to not just live with him, I want to BE with him.
And then I look outward again. I look at every face, every body, ever colour, size and shape. I see people I want to be with. No, I don’t get horny for them. I do get that wanting to belong though. Wanting to know, share, exchange, understand, see and be seen.
This is life as a human being. It’s weird. I love it. Sometimes it hurts.
I’d say I wouldn’t have it any other way, but it seems that I cannot have it any other way.
So to you, whoever is reading this. I want to be with you. And I think you want to be with me too. And though we may never meet, please take this piece of my emotional cosmic yearning, and maybe compare it or rub it up against yours, and please feel connected to me, because I do believe we are one, and that that feels good, and right. No matter your past, your story, your troubles, your opinion of yourself. You are whole, so am I. We belong together.
Last week I felt lonely. I felt sad, down, flat, greyer than usual. Slightly empty. I wanted company, to chat, play, connect with some friends. I wanted that from my partner also. He’d been busy lately, his parents had visited for eight days, and for whatever reason he cut back on the sweet nothings and the little innocent intimacies I need and love.
I asked him that evening if he’d chill with me over a coffee the next morning, something we do sometimes, usually at my request, so we can have a comfortable catchup outside of our usual space and routines.
I let him know how I was feeling, what I wanted from him, including touch, talk, just to listen to my little rants and my desires for the future etc etc. He was, as usual, accommodating, and a few hours later popped into my office to give me a little head massage.
It’s weird, but it means the world to me.
I also video called my sister for an hour, she has a young one of 18 months five-hours-by-plane away. I feel torn between the life I’m excited for and want personally, and my family and my love for them and my hopes for our shared future as a family.
The call went for longer than I expected, had pauses, silences, and contained a lot of silly nothings, just life’s little happenings. I shared what I’m up to, and asked about parenthood and recent visits, I found it quite nourishing, and the next day had just about the most productive one ever, including launching my first podcast episode!
I guess I’m fortunate in that I have access to the people I need to cure my loneliness when it rears its head. But I keep my finger on my own pulse, and I’m always open to connecting with my next best friend. It just seems that as an adult it doesn’t happen hardly ever, and if I really want to make waves and new friends I’d have to find more time and space for that, for myself. And if I felt the need, I would.
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Ed - I'm so grateful to you for sharing your loneliness story and thoughts on loneliness with us. I can't wait to have a conversation with you on the podcast - we're going to go there and have some fun doing it. Please know that it's always a privilege to receive someone's loneliness story, and I love your courage.
Reader - you may need some help after reading this article. Please, reach out to your partner, a friend or someone in your orbit who you know is trying to put themselves into the world just like you are. That could be me through my mentoring services. That could be a therapist or a counsellor – including a crisis counsellor. That could be a coach. It could be a combination of all.
Be sure to check out my services page if you need help. I offer Connection Support Communities and 1:1 mentoring to my connection mentoring services.
1:1 mentoring starts whenever you need it, and the next Connection Support Community starts on Monday 17 October 2022.
Join me and Ed for a coffee and a chat in the upcoming episode of my podcast for gay men ‘Connection over Coffee with The Loneliness Guy’ from Thursday 29 September 2022.
Important notice: All views expressed above are my own/the authors 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 Services page if you feel that you need the services of a licensed helping professional where you are in the world.