loneliness

One is the loneliest number

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Even though I have a large family and many friends I often feel terribly lonely. I am trying to figure out why that is, so that I can fix it. I really don’t like feeling lonely. So far I’ve come up with two culprits.

One, I’m hypersensitive. Two days ago I commented on an old mission friend’s facebook post. He linked an article that’s title hinted at planned parenthood and Jason Chaffetz. This friend lives in Virginia and he said something like, “Jason Chaffetz is dishonest.” I didn’t take time to read the article because I really didn’t care, but being the social girl that I am, I still commented, “I actually know Jason personally, and I think he is pretty honest. Planned parenthood should be de-funded as all other non-essentials (let capitalism do its thing), and all politicians are crooks.” That may not be exactly what I said, but it is pretty darn close.

So, this friend was really upset I hadn’t read the article. After being questioned, I admitted to not reading it. He then went off!  I don’t understand why it bothered him so much, but it obviously did as he then personally attacked me. He berated me for being an idiot. He questioned, “how dare I comment without being well-informed?” I told him that I didn’t think it was a requirement to read every article in order to have an opinion, and I also didn’t appreciate his cruelty. I also gave him a few suggestions on how he could have been more validating to me. He and many of his friends then called me a looney-toon repeatedly over the next four hours. Not one person on his thread even tried to understand what I was trying to say in my own defense. I unfriended him, yet I still stewed about it in the confines of my own head for a significant amount of time. Eventually I turned off the repeated notifications I was getting, and washed my hands clean of it. I concluded that I really didn’t communicate effectively, and that I needed to be more careful next time. I also decided that anyone who was willing to act that way towards me was never really a true friend. I also talked myself off the ledge by reminding myself that one little facebook thread really didn’t matter. Nonetheless I felt alone. Very alone. I felt totally invalid, small, and stupid. I know I’m sensitive, and I therapized myself to let it go.

I also sent my husband an e-mail telling him that I was officially grateful I married him instead of this other missionary who I used to think was a great guy. At one point I thought I might like to date that other guy. Boy, that would have been a disaster.

Two, the world is cruel. Yesterday I was over life. I went to volunteer at the school for two hours, and then had to run to library to borrow a book for class. The copy I ordered has taken over a month to be delivered, and I couldn’t wait on it to get started for class on Monday. All the while I was lugging around a 30-pound baby that cries, whines, and poops at all given intervals. I decided to treat myself to a burger at one of my favorite local joints. I’d go home, lay the baby down for his nap, and get a few minutes to myself before digging in to my housework and homework. By catching a break in the middle of the day, I hoped to well up some energy to wrestle the baby on the soccer sidelines for four hours followed by the evening homework marathon.

As I pulled around the backside of the building in the drive-thru line there was a truck in the parking lot that was apparently trying to also approach the ordering position. I was pretty sure he was there first so I pulled out of the line to allow him room to get in. I pulled up alongside the parked cars in order to just follow him in. Meanwhile, the line was really backed up and we waited forever. At one point an orange car came around just as I had done, and seeing the situation drove all the way around the parking lot to line herself up behind the truck. As the truck pulled in she followed within 6 inches of his bumper to not allow me in. I rolled my window down. She rolled hers down, and screamed that she was there first. She knew she was lying. I knew she was lying. Why else would she have followed the truck so closely? How else would she have known to roll her window down in response to me rolling mine down? I was over it and baby Max was tired. There was now another car following behind her, and assuredly its driver would also claim preference. I asked her to pull up so I could just leave. She now uncharacteristically felt bad, and told me to go in front of her. I told her it was fine, and explained I couldn’t wait any longer. Then I left.

I was already exhausted and in a bad mood, so being denied a little essential happiness in the form of food therapy brought me to tears. I wondered why in life it is so common for other people to not give me the courtesy that I try so hard to give others. All I could determine is “the world is cruel”.

Then last night, I stumbled on this Ted talk. It convinced me that even after years and years of therapy, I still need to do a better job with my emotional well-being.

I plan to combat my loneliness by implementing Guy Winch’s inspired suggestions:

I will take action when I am lonely.
I will change my response to failure.
I will protect my self-esteem.
I will battle negative thinking.

I guess if I am focusing on these things for myself, I really won’t have to time to worry about the jerks in Virginia or the other ones in the drive-thrus.

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Lessons from the trail: grandpas

be my friend

Watching these grandpas walk together on the trail forced me to take inventory the other day. Am I a good friend? Do I have friends I can count on?

I have so much room for improvement.

I get lonely often. I have been trying to cultivate my relationship with God to a deeper level and feel successful. My relationship with my husband is better than ever (thank you marriage counselor.) I’ve also been spending a lot of time with my kids – can’t get away from them – blasted summer. However, I still get lonely.

At the same time, I like being alone. I don’t feel lonely when I am alone. Weird, eh? It leaves me wondering what my loneliness is trying to tell me because some of my happiest times are when I am alone. I guess when I am alone I am closest to God so that explains that. So what is this loneliness and why do I often feel it when I am surrounded by people?

As I run and bike the trail, I see all kinds of people engaged in all kinds of activity. Lately, though, I’ve been paying the greatest attention to the people who walk with a companion.

They always seem engaged in a beautiful thing with and without conversation. When there are just two people they always seem to genuinely be enjoying one another’s company. The picture above depicts one of these scenarios I found most touching.

I just read an article from the LA times that linked loneliness to premature death. I loved this line.

Anyone familiar with Henry David Thoreau knows that isolation does not necessarily lead to loneliness, while the story of Marilyn Monroe shows that a strong social life can still leave you lonely.

I think for me personally, I experience loneliness because at 39, I still struggle with emotional maturity. At least that is what the therapist said. Ha ha. I want to learn how to be closer to people. I want an old man to walk with on my path….o.k. maybe an old woman as I have an old man in my husband already. I’ve been on the prowl for a friendship that will be more deep and fulfilling, but so far it has been a challenge for me to find. Living in a society where putting on airs seems mandatory makes it almost impossible. There seems to be so much competition to be the best in everything nowadays instead of an atmosphere of  “hey, you’re screwed up, I’m screwed up, you want to be friends?”

At the same time, I over-share and over-communicate, and maybe seek out too much emotional support and encouragement. I air my dirty laundry in hope of acceptance and am often left disappointed. I also struggle with comparison so it’s hard for me to befriend people who are out to prove themselves better than me.

I find myself pulling away from people who are surface friends. I can’t handle being surrounded by perfect people. I need real. Part of me worries that maybe I am expecting too much from others and not focusing on myself enough, but I think that is just paranoia talking. I think what is really happening is that for the first time in my life I am getting in touch with the real me: the good, the bad, the ugly. I am learning to love myself and accept myself. Like a person who trains with friends for a marathon: when the person is running consistently 2 minutes faster per mile, it’s time to find new running partners. For me, as I seek out emotional wellness, it means that surface friendships are no longer enough. The other people are two minutes behind and I can’t stop my personal best to wait for them. It hurts. It’s a painful change, and maybe even sometimes a lonely place, but eventually I think I will find them and I will be all the better for it.

I am left pondering is true friendship able to be maintained despite emotional wellness?  I guess the real question is “should it be”?

I am going to open comments on this post only. I would love to hear kind feedback on how to create and maintain quality friendships.