Do you fear being alone? Or is it a fear of “loneliness”?
As I age, I seem to embrace my alone time more and more. It is the time when I can write, or watch crap TV, and eat whatever I feel like. It is the time when I can make my own decisions and spend my time, my way.
Yet, I am not alone.
I am fortunate enough to be surrounded by a network of friends and neighbors, as well as my partner, even when they aren’t sharing my physical space. I know they are just a text or phone call away.
With that being said, there are also times when I share the very same couch with my partner and have full access to communication with friends, and I feel alone. It is like a vicious circle.
Loneliness, and the feeling of being “alone” are not based on physical situations. It is a mentality that gets caught up in your brain and your heart.
It is a lack of understanding of each other, and fulfilling each other’s needs. It is easy to feel lonely with someone sitting next to you if you have no communication and no empathy or understanding of each other’s needs.
In relationships, “sharing” has an entirely different meaning. You share space, activities, responsibilities and goals. You also aim to share ideas and opinions, as well as beliefs and dreams.
If you are unable to truly share these things with each other, it is easy to feel “alone”.
Loneliness Can Happen in Cycles or it Can be Random
There have been moments for me when I am in a room FULL of people. The buzz of chatter and laughter around me, seems to move the very air I am breathing. Yet, I feel alone.
It is a matter of being able to fit in and meld with the group of people, sharing an understanding, or laughter. It is the moments of acceptance and sharing ideas and thoughts that make me feel less alone.
Thinking back to high school, when my peers would all fall into these “groups” of like-minders, I often felt “alone”. There were the nerds, the headbangers, the country cowboys, the preps, the jocks, the freaks and the smokers. Everyone around me seemed to have this box that they fit into.
I was a floater. I came from a small town, and our high school was in the city. I was bright eyed and terrified of my own shadow, and couldn’t find a box to climb into. So, I wandered around, hoping one of these groups would accept me as part of their unwritten cliche’ members.
Fortunately, most of my peers would talk with me casually, if I made attempts to be friendly, but they all had their own private jokes, secret language, and “systems” that I never connected with. As soon as I walked away from their group, I would wonder what they were saying about me. I would feel alone.
Eventually, I found friendship and like-minded people in one group, BUT I also had to pick up a smoking habit to fit in. And I did. I joined the smoker’s group, just to avoid being the “floating kid”, after my first 5 months of trying to find my box. I look back on those days now and shake my head. What the hell was I thinking? However, I am still Facebook friends with those people today. And none of us smoke any longer. Oddly enough, they are still my go-to’s to chat with online or visit, as some of us live in my current city.
The point is, they accepted me, as long as I fit in their box.
Fast forward to last year. A bunch of the preps and jocks that I went to school with posted a “reunion” of sorts, on Facebook and invited me to join them. We were meeting at a pub to have a Christmas drink together. This was the group who casually greeted me in the halls of our school with a friendly wave or nod, but I wasn’t part of their box.
I was a bundle of nerves when I parked at the pub, not knowing how I would fit in with them all. They are now police officers and professionals, and I am now a professional Licensing Officer. I felt I deserved to be part of their group. I felt I would fit in and was partially excited to have a new clique of friends in town.
We have a picture of all of us, and you can tell I am the odd one out. It is painfully awkward for me to think about that evening. Everyone was sharing the photo on Facebook and Instagram, except me. When I got home, there were comments on the other’s posts asking who I was. Those questions were coming from the very same people from the groups in the halls. The people who waved at me a billion years ago.
That was a social reminder for me, to avoid those types of situations, and to be alone, rather than to feel lonely.
People in Boxes
A huge part of maturing is learning that people shouldn’t fit in just one box. We are all unique and stand alone as ourselves, as individuals. The need to “fit in” should dissipate as we grow older. Shouldn’t it?
I mean, we all have close friends, or family, who help us to feel less lonely. Yet, I would venture to assume that these are the very same people who have the potential to make us feel “alone”.
My family has their own box, that I don’t fit inside of. It is a choice I made long ago, after I learned how damaging the inside of their world was for me. My partner has his own box as well. His friends are all like-minded in a cigar club, where they find relaxation and enjoyment, sharing space and conversing over sticks and scotch.
My “box” has become writing. My other box is, of course, my full-time job. Both of these activities require me to be alone, for the most part. There are days when I am at the office, surrounded by 80 other people, yet I choose to hang out at my desk over lunch and write. I dislike the office politics and the lunchtime banter and seclude myself intentionally. I also see the irony that all of our office spaces are pods. Essentially we all work from our own boxes.
I come home and talk about my day with my partner, who really doesn’t understand my role at work, and he doesn’t read ANYTHING I write, so I feel alone.
I workout in my mini gym in my basement, alone.
I come upstairs and make dinner, alone, and then sit beside my guy on the sofa, reading as he watches TV. And I feel alone.
I try and make conversation to drown out the silence under the blaring TV, and he hits the pause button to hear what I say. He responds quickly, before pushing the play button again.
He is caught up in his show, and we are both alone in our focus.
Sometimes it’s comfortable, others not so much.
Anxiety and Loneliness
Anxiety can be crippling when it comes to feeling loneliness. It is a cycle that repeats over and over in your head. You tell yourself that you don’t fit in the world of boxes, and you build walls around yourself to create your own.
It becomes increasingly difficult to come out of your walls and allow yourself to fit into other’s interests and conversations, while you tell yourself you won’t be accepted.
Conversations stay inside your head that you wish would come out, but you fear that it will make you feel more lonely if the other person doesn’t comprehend what you are trying to say.
Over time, if you allow it, it takes over like a tornado inside of you, looking for an exit. You want to be heard and understood, but your fear of being alone, keeps you feeling lonely.
There are times when I voice my thoughts, and even end with the question, “Am I alone in this? Is it just me that feels this way?”
Then, crickets. The blank stare. The misunderstanding. The silence.
And then… loneliness behind my walls, as they build back up around me.
I’m not a freak!
Today Will Be Better
Today, I tell myself, I will put myself out there. I will talk, and engage and work my way into a box. I will become believable and fierce. I will put my walls down, and talk my way through it with someone who will listen and understand what I am saying. I am an “Authority” in my role at work, and people need to listen to me, right?
I will reach out to my friends and try to be social.
I will message my daughter and remind her that I am always here for her and that I miss her. I will try and make plans to go and spend time with her.
I will tell someone who is lonely that they are not alone.
I will have conversations with my partner, and try to engage in a new goal, or plan.
I will suck it up, put a smile on my face, and go out in the world to do what I need to do.
And look forward to coming home, to write, in the quiet.