Are You Lonesome Tonight (or How Eleanor Rigby and I Are Getting A Summer Home)
Breaking news: I get lonely.
Yes, gasp you should.
I know. It's confusing to me too. I'm the belle of the ball, like, always. Throw me in a crowded bar, plop me in a room full of strangers, or let me cannonball into the center of a tense board meeting, and I can be the life of the party, even seem coolly aloof and completely without care for being self-conscious or insecure.
The thing is, it's all crap.
Well, not total crap, but I'm learning that it's maybe 99% crap, and at least I'm aware now. Let me explain.
Sometimes it's exponentially easier for me to talk to someone about their troubles, than it is to sit with mine...even if their issues ring a resounding bell in my little Grinch heart. So instead of being completely vulnerable and brave, I chose to ask my entire phone list "what does loneliness feel like to you?" As I got the answers, I found a surprising universality, and an unsurprising hitting-homeness for me. There was almost no hesitation in the responses. It turns out that we all have loneliness scars. We all have the stories where we invited our class to our birthday party, and later found a pile of the invitations in the garbage. Or having plans to spend time with our girlfriend, then find out that she made plans with someone else. Or thinking someone was coming over to be with us, so we clean the toilet, and put on a bra, and wait...and wait...and then they don't come. Or have dinner made for our family, and they spend the whole time on their phones. Or sitting alone in your bed scared out of your mind with an anxiety that is ruling your life, and not having the words to tell anyone, even if you had someone. Or hearing that the woman you would have given all of yourself to is going back to her husband. Or being three weeks postpartum, and knowing you should be in love with your baby, and all you want to do is scream and cry and have someone hold you, but your mouth can't form the words. Or sitting at dinner with your two new friends, and feeling like you're just simply not in the same league, and all you want to do is eat your mac and cheese and go home.
I'm clearly not alone in this phenomena...you're somewhere, completely surrounded by people, some of whom you know, even one you might like. Suddenly, the lead weight of icy doom lands square in your gut, and you remember something: everyone here is connecting to someone, I don't belong, and no one wants me.
It's a real bummer that you can remember that little gem in the middle of a cold beer with friends, but you can't remember why you went to the grocery store yesterday. (It was for toothpaste, by the way.)
No one wants to talk about this, and all of my friends have blocked me in their phones because I bullied them into telling their inner sorrows. But, if I may, I'd like to say that I have felt all of this, and their experiences have helped me water-board some of these emotions out of me. (#toosoon?) Here is what loneliness is to us:
Lonely feels like another person, ironically, and is always around. Always. It's a Dementor.
Lonely knows how to narrow my vision. Lonely knows how to disconnect my little frontal lobe from processing anything logical. My frontal lobe might as well go to the movies and put its phone on airplane mode.
Lonely is depressing. Lonely and depression are not just BFFs, they run a farm-to-table co-op, and are adopting a baby.
Lonely is physical. Shoulder drooping, head sagging, achy. A nauseating churning right in the gut. It's enveloping, and suffocating and doesn't leave a breath of air for rational thought. It's exhausting, and if it didn't hurt so much, I'd be numb.
Lonely is despair, desolation and desperation. It's an unrequited longing. An emotional thirst. Lonely feels like shame. It's bile rising in your throat when you just know that no one wants you.
Lonely is jealousy. It's knowing that everyone is talking about you at the party, and simultaneously knowing that no one is thinking of you when you're home alone.
It's seeing that other family with the perfect marriage and a baby who isn't crying because that mom clearly knows how to soothe her child.
To say it's a loss of hope is almost too generous, because there was no hope to lose. Lonely steals your worth rug right from under your feet, and leaves you in a heap wondering how they even got keys to your apartment.
Lonely is getting excited to hear a text, only to find that it's AT&T, telling you that you've run out of data 10 days early, because you've checked your phone so often. Or worse, leaving your phone somewhere for hours, and thinking, "surely, I have 70 missed calls from him", then finding the only thing you have is 48 cat memes from your best friend, and 3 Snapchats. But you don't even understand Snapchat. How do you begin to explain to friends that you're actually not a bad texter, it's just the lead blanket of Lonely keeps you from having the energy to hit 'reply'?
Lonely makes you think that you want connection, but don't deserve it. It's telling yourself that you're not good enough for quality company with a heavy weight pulling on your heart.
Lonely is soul rocking. The hours are empty, and it feels like such a deeply rooted aching, that all you can do is cry. Sheesh, even Shakespeare knew this dance when he had Romeo say, "Ay me, sad hours seem long."
Loneliness is loud. It's like every little noise sounds like it's blaring, and the voice in my head is screaming at me at the same time. It prevents me from sleep, productive thought, and anything else that requires a brain...and there's no mute button.
It can knock the best of us off the most solid footing. You know when you're at the beach, and a big ol' cold wave catches you from behind when you weren't ready, and you tumble around, unable to see or get a breath, and when you finally land, sputtering and dazed, you're embarrassed and confused? That cold wave is Lonely, and the water is our own mean thoughts.
We're pretty much jerks to ourselves, eh? We think really mean things. We make up these stories that they're not texting us back because we did something wrong. We said the thing we shouldn't have said, or didn't try hard enough. But we can't see that maybe it's not about us at all. Maybe that other person is doing the best they can with what they have, and maybe their best is just being #theworst.
It's hard to be around someone who is lonely for any length of time, especially when they're so great. We've all heard, "just get over it! They don't deserve you, and you're with friends now...lighten up and have a good time!" Super helpful.
Or we're so stuck in our anxiety about [name it], we're too afraid to leave the house, even though those connections outside your door will help pull you back from the brink.
Anyway, more about me. Lonely is a frequent and unwanted bedfellow. It doesn't even put the toilet seat down. So rude.
But soft! What light through yonder Defazio's Pizzeria window breaks? It is the east, and hope is the sun!
I don't know how to end loneliness, and 'twas hard to write that word 47,000 times just now. I hate this as much as anyone. In fact, all I want in the world is to find the solution to this, for all of us, by the end of this soliloquy, and for it to never come up again. Alas, to be lonely is to be human. It's an emotion. In. Motion. We get caught in its web, and then it will pass. Sometimes, especially if there are mitigating factors like a breakup; or a tough time at work where you feel isolated; or a life change like a baby; or when a friend moves, it can take a while to see, but it really does change.
Emotions only stick around if we feed them. We believe those mean thoughts that tell us we're not deserving of love and connection. We feed them with the fuel of isolation. Then, on top of that suck salad, we invite shame to the party, and don't talk about these hard things. With the shame comes numbing, and we all know the endless ways we can numb the pain.
There isn't a cure for this, unfortunately, being human is chronic. (My condolences.)
However, keep those chins up, because I know something from my experiences over the last year: if you talk about it...really talk about it...with someone you trust, you'll be surprised that you feel a little lighter. You may even find that person nodding with you and saying, "yeah man, me too". That person may not be the boy/girl you're desperate for, or the friend you wanted to call, or the husband you just want to pay attention for a minute, or the invite to lunch at work, true. But if you take a trust fall and get weird with someone, you might be surprised that you're not as alone inside as you dreaded.
Just do me a favor, and stop believing everything you think, ok? You're not as terrible as you tell yourself. And you definitely don't deserve the self beating that you're penciling in every day. I pinky swear I'll try too.
Just lighten up and have a good time.....
...kidding. Be weird. It's ok with me.