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Never go grocery shopping when you are hungry. I learned that piece of wisdom only after I had blown twice my budget rushing to get food in the house before a snowstorm. I think the same principle needs to be applied to when you are lonely. The emotion of loneliness is probably the most misunderstood. One of the most entrancing and loneliest people I had a brief opportunity to meet and work with in the late 80’s was Phyllis Hyman. Her songs still haunt me in how they tell so much of her story inside. Phyllis had a well earned reputation of being impossible to work with. And I was a young man known for not holding my tongue.

Whoever came up with the bright idea of assigning me to one of her concerts… let me just say, it almost didn’t go on. I couldn’t understand how such a moving songstress could be so nasty and yet be the same person. You just couldn’t fake those types of emotion in music. Seven years later when she committed suicide her note said “I’m tired. I’m tired. Those of you that I love know who you are. May God bless you.” I was a little older and wiser and I literally wept at her passing. I had come to know a little of what a life in music can do to one’s spirit. I still have to hold back at the sound of her songs.

Her last album, “I Refuse to Be Lonely”, was appropriately titled. Loneliness is both an emotion and an action or in English terms- a subject and a verb. We can be lonely and we can act out of loneliness. We can be lonely surrounded by a hundred or a thousand people. We can be married and still lonely. We can be alone and lonely. But the choices that make us lonely make a huge difference in how much we can handle the emotion of loneliness. If you are alone because you have made a decision to be alone rather than to compromise your principles, even though you feel lonely, you have made a CHOICE of SOLITUDE. But acting out of loneliness only seeks to have a void filled by whatever is available that remotely resembles what we want.

I had a friend who was lonely one night so she called a telephone chat line and invited this guy over. It got hot and heavy before she came to her senses, asked the guy to put his clothes on and sent him on his way. She was lucky she didn’t get raped. The next month she found out she was pregnant and the guy never even penetrated her. She had the baby. Years went by and she asked some friends if they knew him. Turns out she was lucky she waited those years. She was 30 at the time of the encounter and he was a really mature tall and heavy voiced kid who had just turned 17. Fives years after the fact, nobody raised a fuss but that act of loneliness created a child and could have gotten her brought up on charges had the parents pressed the point.

Loneliness has gotten some of us into relationships that you are now too entangled to know how to get out. Now in those relationships and STILL lonely, you flirt online with people you know you have no business talking to the way you carry on. The only thing that breaks the cycle of loneliness is honesty- with ourselves, and to those in our lives. Loneliness without honesty creates misery and that misery ultimately creates unnecessary tragedy. People have asked why I am so open in writing about so many things. I always laugh and say “anybody crazy enough to want to get to know me, is going to do it with their eyes WIDE open from the beginning.” Honesty is not the cure for loneliness. But it is a very good contraception, and even better anti-biotic. But ultimately, it still comes down to choice. Think I’ll go listen to some Phyllis.