On Loneliness

(Originally published August 2017)

Humans are a social species. Aristotle alluded to humans being “social animals”, naturally seeking the companionship of others as part of their well being. When we are in the company of those we love, we are our best selves. People often refer to their spouses as their "better half", implying that without them, they aren't whole. On the day my first and only child was born, I had the epiphany that myself, my wife, and my child, and most families in general, are far greater than the sum of its parts. We elevate our loved ones, enthusiastically sharing in their triumphs, and empathetically comforting them when disaster or hardship strikes. When our spouse or children are hurting, we can actually feel physical pain. When we are away from loved ones for an extended period of time we feel like less of a person. It's as if part of our self is missing, or that we are "on hold" until we can be whole again. It can cause physical discomfort, anxiety, depression, and a slew of other ailments. 

 If any of you have ever seen the show "Alone", you know exactly what I am talking about. These people in the beginning often talk about all kinds of things; their qualifications, fears, jobs, what they will do if they win, etc. But after a couple months of being away and completely isolated, their conversations they have focus solely on one topic, their family. They often express regret or guilt for making the choice to leave or guilt for "not being able to be there" for their kids. There have been quite a few normally steadfast, burly men on that show that have been reduced to blubbering, teary eyed, piles of sobbing flesh due to the separation. I am not making fun of them. I can, on some level, sympathize with their situation. I don't think that being deployed in the military is even close to as arduous as their position, as far as isolation goes. After all we have chaplains, MFLCs, Skype, Facebook, and our brothers in arms to ease our social needs. I know that attempting to prevent isolation is one reason why the military creates the distinct subculture that I love so much, I have developed friendships in the military on a six month deployment that rival those I have cultivated for over 20 years. However, I think that we often feel incredibly isolated while deployed. We become the oxymoron that is a group of lonely people. Being away from my wife and child is the hardest thing about deployments. 

I realized today that at the end of this deployment and with the time from my last deployment, I will have been gone for one third of my child's entire life. I am not trying to elicit sympathy, just feeling guilty (like those people on "Alone"). I really don't know where this is going, but I like to write when I am feeling isolated. I also become incredibly argumentative when I am feeling isolated. This usually leads me to argue with strangers, and sometimes friends on the internet. Usually I am fairly cordial while offering facts and citing sources, but sometimes I become incredibly scathing and petty. I become a rabid, raving lunatic in my own head, trapped incredulously in the persons argument like an animal stuck in a tar pit it willingly walked into. I have lost a few friendships to these arguments. I often feel regret after the fact for acting like a giant asshole, but I am too embarrassed to apologize. If you are one of those friends or strangers that I have argued with and been a petty shithead, I sincerely apologize - unless you are that one guy from Ernie's Facebook page - fuck that guy - you know who you are... 

If you have read this far, you must be really bored. There is good news though - unlike last time when I gave you nothing, I have something for you this time. I don't know if you will like it, but it is seriously one of the most beautiful things I have ever heard. London Grammar, "Rooting for you". Do yourself a favor and look up the song.  After that song, listen to their 2013 album "If you wait". If you don't like it, I'll give you a nickel next time I see you. If you find Hannah Reid's voice as soul soothing as I do, you're welcome.


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