I would definitely put myself on the introverted end of the social spectrum. I enjoy peace and quiet, I would choose small gatherings over large groups. After social interaction I like time out on my own – not because I don’t enjoy the company, but because alone-time allows me to recharge. That said, the last few months have taught me a lot about loneliness. You can be an introvert and be lonely. You can enjoy being alone and be lonely. You can even feel lonely when you’re with people.
When my relationship ended I had 6 weeks until my degree finished. It was crunch time and I didn’t have the expendable hours, the brain space or the emotional energy to deal with it. So I shelved it and ensured that every hour of my day was occupied. (Someone warmed me that it would probably come back to bite me – with her refreshing blend of honesty and compassion – and it did. Dealing with it later was a bit like going through it twice, 2 months apart.) I moved back in with my family and worked until everything was done. Then I worked for the Literacy and Numeracy tests that I had to pass to get on my PGCE course. I got a puppy. I bought a bike. I tried to be a busy. But being busy only really gets you so far and it certainly doesn’t stop the loneliness. You can crawl into bed at the end of a long day and still find your brain conscious, hyper-aware of the silence and the space at your side.
I have a great family and a small but wonderful group of treasured friends. I have been loved, supported and encouraged by each of them. They have shown up on Skype when I’ve felt like crap, come out for dinner with me, invited me over when I was going stir crazy from being at home all week. And I am so grateful for it. But there are still weeks when everyone is busy. When you send a message that goes unanswered, or realise that you’ve spent 3 days in the house and want to spend the next day under the duvet because, really, what’s the point in getting up? And while family are important and much-loved, sometimes you just want to be with friends.
And none of this is anyone’s fault. The fact that other people have plans, hobbies, partners… pleases me greatly. I want my friends to have happy and busy lives. Feeling lonely and, frankly, a little sad, doesn’t make me feel cross or jealous. But I find myself missing people and finding the loneliness overwhelming. All of my emotions and affections seem heightened, to the point where I sometimes I re-read the messages I send and find the desperation quite pathetically evident. There is a huge void in my life and it feels like I need about 6 new friends – in addition to the fabulous ones I already have – to fill it. I find myself sharing my feelings (both good and bad) around so that no one feels overburdened, or suffocated by my affectionate volcanism. I doubt any of them are aware of how needed and valued they are right now.
Twitter, I have found, has a tendency to perpetuate and increase the feelings of loneliness. The rate at which news and posts comes through can make you feel like you’re simply an observer, watching other people live their lives. I took a week out just to see if it would make a difference, and even though it didn’t, it showed me how much time I spent on it just passing the time. Even in the real world, everyone seems to have someone. On days out, all you see are couples or families, friends and siblings. Solo day trips are liberating in one sense, but sometimes also tainted with feelings of isolation.
The obvious solution is to go out and meet people, but how does one go about meeting new people and finding new friends? Choirs or book clubs don’t tend to attract an abundance of people my age. I’m not particularly sporty, don’t have any real hobbies, and really don’t like that awkward mingle-with-strangers scenario. So, what do people do? Where to lonely people go? Have you been lonely and overcome it? Is my loneliness merely a byproduct of my new and unwanted singledom? Do I just need to get on with it and be less introspective? I feel concerned that my loneliness is going to turn me into one of those awful needy friends, the sort of person that others tire of. How do you say, please just talk to me for half an hour without sounding pathetic?
Finding refuge and comfort in this piece, as always.