People like it when I write about human vulnerability, even though everyone wants to encounter a happy face out in the world. Moments ago, I speculated with my friend that often when we’re alone, we acknowledge our dark side, and when we park ourselves in front of a computer to read, we welcome other people’s dark sides. It validates our feelings and offers us a connection. But funny, as we put on our shoes and move away from the computer, we demand lightness.
Readers who like the dark might appreciate my looping of yesterday. Yesterday, I couldn’t see the light. And I wrote about it, but the words embarrassed me because later in the day I accidentally landed on a woman’s blog who had been chronicling her encounter with infertility and cancer. I read the final post, from her friend, announcing her death. At 33.
So I got embarrassed about writing of my loneliness. Suddenly it sounded so quaint. Except for the fact that I wasn’t sure I had a friend who would write my final post, and then it didn’t seem so quaint. It seemed very real.
And before all my friends attack me saying that they’d write my final post, let me just say, I’m not trying to diminish your existence. All I’m saying is that some days I feel so alone, despite my friends, despite my son, despite my family, despite my dog, that refuting my loneliness is pointless.
And if you’re curious, this is what I wrote yesterday before reading of the passing of the woman with cancer. It’s more honest this way, because trust me, I was tempted to make some grand revisions afterwards. This wasn’t what I intended to post today, but sometimes you’ve just gotta go with your gut…
Getting Out of Neutral
Today is one of those days, the kind where I can’t quite shift out of neutral. Try as I may, I just can’t get my head around anything.
Well, that’s not entirely true.
I’ve got the mosquito bite of loneliness, a small, nagging sensation that keeps interrupting everything I attempt to accomplish. My mind clings to thoughts of people coming together. Those who do and those who don’t.
I’ve been in the ‘don’t’ category for a long while. For me admitting that that bothers me is like openly declaring a communicable disease. It’s something I’d rather keep private. But if my goal here is honesty, I figure I must reveal.
The Revealer. That could be my super hero identity, the one who utilizes powers of self-disclosure to unite society for the strength and good of all mankind. I like it. Kind of makes you smile, doesn’t it?
I’ve always thought admitting to loneliness is the worst possible thing anyone could do. Let’s face it, no one likes a whiner, and if loneliness is the worst thing on your plate, you’ve got it pretty good. Yeah, maybe, but if you do face a big problem and you face it alone, suddenly loneliness seems like a pretty brutal added burden.
As I see everyone else walking down the street hand in hand, sharing a large bucket of popcorn at the movies, glancing over a shared menu at a cafe – yes, in moments of self-delusion, everyone else is perfectly paired as if prepping for a cruise on Noah’s Ark – I can’t help but blame myself. On a population-exploding planet, if you can’t find someone to click with, the trouble must lie within you, right? Of course, right.
In addition to the reality-twisting blinders I wear as I move through my city, I fault Hollywood for my completely romanticized view of love. In other words, the one is just waiting around the corner poorly parked so as to invite the beautifully accidental collision. Or, at first you two may hate each other, but it all works out in the end. Or, yes, she might be poor and uneducated and he might be a wealthy Rhodes scholar, but really, they’re perfect for each other. Just ask Hollywood.
While it’s only a movie, after years of digesting the romantic poison, I think all of us buy it a little. At least subconsciously. I go everywhere looking for connection. Maybe I’m just a circus freak and my breed is very rare. On the other hand, one stop at Craig’s List personals and you’ll get a really healthy look at freaks. Maybe the problem is that I’m not freaky enough or in the right way or that the human condition is one giant design flaw.
I think that’s it.
Loneliness may be my curse, but I have enough friends on antidepressants to make the drug industry proud. Call me crazy, but I prefer the days of nonprescription self-medication. At least that often included a social component (which selfishly also served as a beautiful antidote to my loneliness.) Distraught friends, rather than trolling Google for diagnoses of their depressive symptoms, called one another to go for a drink. Talk often trumped the actual consumption. Sure, some friends became alcoholics, but in my circle, relatively few.
Everyone faces days where they feel stuck. It’s always considered the greatest badge of courage to go through life without complaining, to bravely accept the downs and humbly enjoy the ups. But in that model, many of us feel as if we’re the only ones struggling. With false smiles plastered on our friends’ faces, we feel a few steps behind. I know I do.
As hard as today is for me, I’m giving myself permission to feel bad and not cover it up, to not dismiss the emotions with the realization that I’m not homeless or starving or injured or ill. I’m just me facing the specific challenges placed on my plate as I try to find meaning and connection in my life. Tomorrow, this may all seem ridiculous as I wake with a lightness in my soul, as I dine with a cherished friend, or collide with my next great love. I know it’s all possible, but please excuse me if I had to journey through this shared meditation to feel it.