Without warning, this longing.

For years, I have lived in exile – from intimate emotion, from touch. I learned to live without, and felt stronger, superior even. I was untouchable in the Western sense: unreachable and thus invincible.

There were reasons for this – years of rejection, renunciation: a palimpsest of neglect. This was followed by my own rejection – of Ben, the alcoholic, whose odour and appearance were alien to me, and repugnant. Thus began my ascent over myself, my conquest over longing and need.

I found shelter in solitude, dug a moat around it. There I remained, watching from this fortified outpost, determined to stay until the end of my days. There, I am still.

But my dreams betray me. The things I see betray me, too. One day: a middle-aged couple at a bus-stop, speaking, laughing. The man puts his arm around the woman. They are across the broad width of a highway, but I can still tell that they are smiling.

One night, in my sleep, I feel the memory of an embrace holding me. One evening, loneliness feels less of a friend. I am seized by mordant longing.

Each time I see a casual expression of intimacy or love, I am reminded of what I have lost. It feels intolerable – impossible, even, that I shall remain here without. Even more impossible that I should experience it again.

I have become Untouchable, in the Eastern sense. A paraya, a figure dwelling on the margins of society whose very presence is defiling. I retreat into motherhood, my work. I try to ignore the loss, claim it as a deliberate choice. And fail.

Without warning, this longing… is upon me.


Don’t get any big ideas, they’re not gonna happen
You paint yourself white and fill up with noise
There’ll be something missing
Radiohead, Nude


23 thoughts on “Longing

  1. I know how you feel, in a different way but not so different. I haven’t felt a loving embrace for years. I say three because three years ago is when I left my ex, but really it’s been more like eight because he never loved me nor embraced me in any sort of comforting way. I have made myself a paraya, retreating into my self, and my couch.

  2. Beautifully written and so incredibly sad… Build a craft on feather light dreams and carry yourself across the water. No one should ever long for love or be denied its warmth and compassion – self imposed or not. I understand the inclination but we are not, none of us, meant to be alone with only longing for a companion. You’re amazing and your life haunts me with it’s naked truth and honesty, but you are clearly a survivor. Build the craft woman. Build the craft.

    Namaste xo

  3. You are bringing your feelings in closer. (This is good!) Maybe you pushed them away for years. You are worthy of love and capable of giving love. Hug your daughter, hug other people and they will respond. Blessings, Joanne

  4. I know the story only too well but I can not go there anymore..The shelter in solitude, I used to be so lonely in my marriage. I live alone now but I am not lonely. Congrats on being able to write about it all. I wrote it once before and then pressed delete and crashed my computer

      • Since being diagnosed with emphysema a couple of weeks ago, second hand smoke from my x . The memories came flushing back, my head was in another place a place I thought I had been finished with. I was so angry as though I was being punished all over again. I’ve made an appointment to see a counsellor as I have a lot to deal with and I don’t want my head running away with all those thoughts all over again.. I am going to write about my thoughts again soon

      • Thank you for your thoughts I appreciate them. I do hope his ears have been burning badly. I wrote a post about second hand smoke and growing up around it as a Baby boomer, now I am showing my age. But I do reflect on the damage he has done, I have now gone back to counseling to get me through the next few months, I realise I wrote about it yesterday, but I did have a good session yesterday and now feel a bit better again.

  5. Thank you for sharing this. I was searching the internet for loneliness associated with being married to an alcoholic and came across your post. This really hit home for me. I’ve been married for 7 years and I have kept my feelings buried for most of them. But this past year something inside me has woken up and I realize how lonely and unfulfilling my marriage has been. I’m making plans for my escape and to start taking care of myself. I wish you all the best.

    • Hi Tinkerbell, I’m glad you’re plotting your escape. It is so much lonelier when we live with daily neglect and rejection. Far better to be on your own. As I’ve said elsewhere, there is liberation in being alone. I wish you well.

  6. Pingback: Why bother? | married to an alcoholic

  7. I am sorry to hear this, and yet I understand…and I was the alcoholic in my marriage. I too held off on intimacy and put my wife at arm’s distance even knowing when she longed for it like you so beautifully put it here. I was selfish, caught up in my alcoholism, and I detached from myself so long ago it just felt an extension of it to detach to the woman I loved deeply. I do not make excuses though, and it has taken time to get back into a place of pure openness and emotional attachment and honesty. It does come. I too used to weep when I saw a couple who were clearly in love and loving one another – and wondered, why not me? When all along I had it, but didn’t know how to express it or show it. I held up to myself an ideal that I knew I couldn’t achieve, so didn’t bother to even try. And it really hurt her. And me, as I was the one who could change things. It wasn’t until we separated, both of us not thinking we would ever be back together that we each did our own work and then saw each other in a new light. Everything is the same, and yet very different.

    I hope that this comes to pass for you, however way it goes.


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