After a lifetime of battling his chronic and persistent loneliness, Ben Harris of Nashville, Tennessee, decided stop fighting and instead embrace it – and ended up finding a new best friend.
“I been alone my whole life,” said Ben, whose father disappeared when he was just eight years old, leaving him and his four brothers and sister in the “care" of their narcissistic alcoholic mother. Ben, the youngest of the brood, was the constant target of his brothers’ bullying and abuse. He sought solace in the woods of eastern Tennessee, only to be nearly crushed by the overwhelming isolation that had become like a dark angel on his shoulder.
Fueled by a sense of violent desperation, Ben says that he became a bully to his loneliness. "I tried to drive it away, or at least lash it into submission like my dad used to do me.” He flashed a rueful smile. “But no matter how many times I pummeled him to the floor, he’d jump right back up, eager for more." He chuckled to himself. "Yeah, he’s a feisty one, that guy. ”
As an adult, finding it difficult to form lasting relationships or authentically connect with others, Ben reconciled himself to being a solo operator. While he liked to think of himself as an unfettered free agent, what that really meant was all loneliness, all the time. "That loneliness was the only thing I could count on - the only thing I could really hold onto," says Ben. "Everyone else came and went, but not him. He was steadfast."
Finally, after a church supper that he pressured himself to attend only to feel awkward, out of place, and utterly alone even in the midst of the other fifty-some-odd guests, Ben finally gave up. “I came home that night, laid down on my kitchen floor, stared up at the ceiling, and surrendered. I said, ‘Come on in, lonely lonesome. You've won the battle, and you've won the war. Do what you will. You won’t find a foe in me anymore.”
In that moment, says Ben, everything changed. When he decided to accept and even welcome his loneliness into his life, he suddenly saw it in a new light. "I already knew he was feisty. And I came to see that he's loyal, he's resolute, he's true. Whether I’m in a cabin in the woods or in a crowded room, he'll seek me out and he'll find me. Without fail."
He gave a bittersweet half-smile and added, "Yeah, in some ways, I’d say he’s the only one who really sees me for who I am. And who still comes ‘round.”
He wiped at his eyes, suddenly grown teary. “Now that's a friend. A best friend."