Hot Loneliness and Hot Potatoes 

So even if the hot loneliness is there, and for 1.6 seconds we sit with that restlessness when yesterday we couldn’t sit for even one, that’s the journey of the warrior.  That’s the path of bravery– Pema Chodron 

Hot Loneliness.  It doesn’t sound like it’s actually something…hot, now does it, my wee girl.  

While I know that you haven’t known that deep painful ache that all of a sudden arrives, sometimes seemingly out of nowhere.  That pain that hurts so frigging bad that all you want to do is stop it, for a moment, by any means necessary, someday you will.  And so this post could very well be one of the most important posts I will ever write to you.  Because it’s the advice that I wish, so so much, that someone had shared with me.

Someday in the not so distant future, something will happen.  Perhaps you will feel out of sorts, like you don’t belong (*and in that case, refer back to Anne with an E, two posts ago).  Perhaps someone will hurt you in a way you couldn’t imagine, say words that don’t feel right.  Maybe, like what happened with me so many many years ago, you will feel emotionally abandoned, let down, and it will feel SO bad that you will do ANYTHING to stop it.  You will do anything just to belong.  

That ache? That’s the Hot Loneliness.  And it will feel as though you are the only one who has to carry around this weight inside of you.  

Except that everyone actually has it.  Everyone has pain.  It’s part of this thing we call being human.

The super duper tricky part here though, my darling girl, is what you actually do with that Hot Loneliness.

Most people you will come across in your life, myself included until very recently, will run from the pain by any means necessary.  Booze.  Drugs.  Shopping.  Gambling.  Endless Scrolling.  Endless Swiping left and right, looking for dates and warm bodies to distract from the pain.  

Or if you’re me, in an effort to stop feeling your own Hot Loneliness, in an effort to belong, you will take on the pain of others.  “Here, let me take that from you, if only you’ll keep me company.  I’ll take your Hot Loneliness if you’ll solve mine for a fleeting moment or two.  Let me belong to you.” Except…except this has led to nothing but trouble, believe you me.  It has led to hurt after hurt after temporary distraction from my own Hot Loneliness after hurt and hurt again.  And while it is nothing to be ashamed of, because almost everyone you will meet will do this at some point or other, it is not the journey of the warrior.

In fact, as a wise Mara Glatzel has often told me, not only is it not solving anyone’s Hot Loneliness, but now it’s a Hot Potato situation.

Remember that game, “hot potato pass it on” and you pass and you pass and whoever gets the potato is out? Whoever gets the potato loses?  Welllll…it’s exactly the same.  Because as I’ve come to learn, taking on other people’s Hot Loneliness doesn’t get rid of mine, nor does it solve theirs.  And then everyone is still hurting, (because the absolute only way to deal with Hot Loneliness is to sit with it yourself) except now I’m left dealing with the aftermath of holding onto all the hot potatoes, too.  

But there is an infinitely better way.  And since it’s taken me 38 years and a lot of broken relationships to realize, I’ll share it here:

Sit with it.  The Hot Loneliness will not kill you, even though it feels as though it might.  But all those other things? They could.  And they will never actually help.

So sit with that pain, that heartache that hurts so bad that it feels as though you’re going to explode.  Sit.  Breathe.  Cry if you need to.  Then shake it out. And I promise you, you won’t.  You won’t explode.  And you will, with time, feel something that Pema Chodron calls the “cool loneliness”, which feels like this dull little twinge. 

I like to think of it as a scar that reminds you of this incredible miraculous brave journey that you’ve just taken.  The Journey of the Warrior.  I couldn’t imagine a more worthy scar than that.

And, the even more incredible part? Once you sit with your Hot Loneliness, once you sit with your own pain? You won’t want to take on anyone else’s anymore.  You will, however, be able to do something so much more important: you’ll be able to witness their pain.  Hold space for them.  Hold their hand.  You won’t run and it won’t scare you, because you know that they’re on a warrior’s journey, too.

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