I was listening to the song “I’m Just a Lonely Boy” by Paul Anka the other day and it got me thinking. I never thought much about the lyrics as a kid and never related much to people who whined; I just sang the catchy tune that my parents seemed so fond of. But is there more to it than that, could there be something I missed?
I can only think of a few periods in my life where I was really…truly…lonely. I came from a family of 6 and was the youngest. That meant that years of cute older-brother friends, neighbours, cousins, girlfriends and grandparents were around at all times. Privacy was an unheard of thing and limits didn’t really exist. I’m still scarred by my mother walking in during a bath to point out how her era never shaved “down there”. I have since moved away to University residence, moved in with friends, had roommates for years and then lived common law with a boy. Rarely ever through the years did I really, truly…have a reason to be lonely…or even alone.
Lonely is a word for sad and pathetic people, right? My friend was going through a separation and even though he had roommates, was in two sports leagues and had a girlfriend he told me he was lonely. At the time I was really busy and thought that what he said sounded really silly. I mean, how could he be lonely with all those people around? So, when I tried to lift his spirits, he replied, “A different kind of lonely”. I get it now. It takes a really strong person to admit that. Nobody wants to look weak. Nobody wants to look vulnerable.
It’s not a word I have heard thrown around very much…until this past year. Maybe it’s all part of growing up, who knows. Now that we have baggage, now that we live on our own, now that weakness may in fact not be a weakness, but a strength…I get it. I really do. In fact, the girl that lived in my loft before me sent a text that read, “That apartment will bring you great things. I spent many lonely nights there, but in the end I think it brought great karma my way”. I was so surprised that this person I barely knew would confess that; what a deep dark secret…but what I can admit is that she knew herself and her insecurities. Damn grownups.
Last year another friend told me that in the end, you can only rely on yourself. In her words, “We are all alone, man.” At the time it seemed a tad bitter and overly pessimistic, but now I get what she meant. It’s not so much about you needing to be a loner, you know…”no man is an island” and all that jazz, but really that you can’t expect another to create your happiness. Somewhere in that loneliness you need to learn to do your own taxes, read your own books, decide on your own TV shows and stop focusing on the fact that nobody is by your side. Because, the only person who will be there for you your ENTIRE life…is YOU.
Your decisions only impact you (okay, okay…maybe your kids too). You may not think so at the time, you may feel like you are failing your friends, your siblings, your parents and your teachers when you don’t get the job, run out of money or put up with crap from your booty call. But, let’s get real…it took 32 years to realize the only person I am failing or not failing is me. So, can I admit that I’ve been lonely over the past year and a half? Sure as hell can. Some days to the point I was climbing the walls…but in that silence, in that deafening stillness that needed filling…I found out a hell of a lot about me. What makes me tick, where my loyalties lie, what I can rely on myself to do and as a friend put it, “how sensitive my bullshit meter is”.
I sort of always wondered how people living in their parents basements wearing Star Wars T-shirts and counting out their Castleville prizes do it? How do they spend hours, months, even years entrenched in meaningless crap without reaching out to the outside world? Well, in some ways it’s sad and in some ways it’s survival. Really, they are the strongest people if you think about it.
As an homage to all those lonely hearts out there, what I can say is that without emotion, emptiness or longing – a social person without a social life, a partner now single, a widow, an alienated friend, a postpartum mother…there would be a hell of a lot less memorable books and songs. So, let’s relish in our loneliness and raise a flag to all it has accomplished…I won’t deny that it’s a lot more fodder for Country Musicians, but what you are about to find out is that loneliness doesn’t spare many and spans all genres. This list doesn’t even break the barrier of lyrics implying the same thing. After all, one is the loneliest number, but as long as we are all reading this, we are actually united…and really not so lonely after all.
*Songs about Loneliness*
Only the Lonely – Roy Orbison
Lonesome Town – Ricky Nelson
I’m just a Lonely Boy – Paul Anka
Lonesome Traveller – The Ofarims
Are you Lonesome Tonight – Elvis Presley
Another Lonely Day – Ben Harper
One is the Loneliest Number – Three Dog Night
I’m so Lonesome I could Cry – Hank Williams
Lonely Street – Patsy Cline
Mr. Lonely – Bobby Vinton
All By Myself – Celine Dion
I get lonely too – Drake
Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes
So Lonely – The Police
Tired of Being Alone – Al Green
Tea for One – Led Zeppelin
You are Alone – Flaming Lips
Lonely People – America
The Ginga Ninja