I think I’ve been very lonely for a very long time now, and couldn’t look that loneliness in the face and acknowledge it for what it is.
I had the realization yesterday that my unfocused, existential boredom that couldn’t be assuaged was really a desire to be around congenial company in person.
Growing up homeschooled and then losing what friends I had when my parents divorced and left our church left me very lonely as a teen. I formed some light friendships via online chat rooms between 16 and 18, but at 18 when an extroverted nerd I met through work took me under his wing, I was absorbed into his friend network, where many people were happy to become friends with me, too.
The next 4 years were the happiest of my life. I was accepted and absorbed into a world of weirdo nerds with what were then fringe hobbies – LARP, dungeons & dragons, video games, etc. I’d found a community that felt like home.
After getting married and having children some of my friends, bless them, made an effort to continue including me in tabletop gaming, and hung out with me online in games like EverQuest and then World of Warcraft, but the demands of parenting and then moving an hour’s drive away greatly diminished my social life.
Eventually the only people I saw in person regularly were G, J (not my sister, different J), S and E. We tried to keep a regular tabletop game schedule of every two weeks. It was one of the continued highlights of my existence. G, in particular, had been my best friend for years (it would not be until much later that I’d be able to face the fact that I’d been in love with him – in as much as I could experience ‘being in love’ back then.)
When we moved to Illinois, we tried to keep our gaming group going but playing online via web cameras was not the same experience and the game ended up falling by the wayside. I still saw G & J via World of Warcraft during time periods when all three of us were playing.
My offline social life was officially dead, though, and would remain dead for the five years we lived in IL. I met a couple of moms and would sometimes hang out with them while our kids played, but it simply wasn’t the same as having people to spend time with that were my people, my community.
I’d always taken pride in my capacity to handle being alone, I guess. I’d look back at a childhood where I wandered and explored and lived inside my own head and was happy during those times by myself as ‘proof’ that I was fine on my own.
The fact that parenting and marriage stressed me out so much by giving me no time to myself at all, and leaving me feeling drained from how often I was touched, seemed like more evidence that I was simply naturally suited to being alone.
But I’d never set all three of my options side by side and weighed them. Of course being alone will feel positive and happy compared to being in a community or domestic situation where you’re constantly stressed and don’t feel good enough or accepted or desired.
But the third option – regularly spending time with people that are my people, as an accepted part of a community of like-minded people whose company I thoroughly enjoy – suddenly being alone all the time no longer seems like such a great option. Suddenly alone seems terribly lonely.
I don’t think I ever wanted to admit I needed people – really needed them – to be happy. Admitting loneliness, to me, feels like admitting a pathetic, craven weakness – a weakness that will get me scorned and rejected, thereby worsening the problem.
Who wants to spend time with someone that admits they need congenial company so badly they’re craving it like a drug and want to scream into the abyss because they don’t have what they crave?
Rationally, I know it’s not my fault. I’m human, and this is how we are, even when we’re introverts. We’re a species wired to be social. We need happy chemicals & bonding chemicals for a functional existence, and socializing in a way that feels comfortable releases those happy/bonding chemicals into our brains.
Rationally, I know that five years is a hell of a long time to go without being able to socialize in congenial company. That I’ve been starving for happy/bonding chemicals because most of the things that could have helped generate them have been stripped away from me over the years.
Rational isn’t much help. The feelings remain – the cravings and the desire to scream into the abyss. The feelings of shame and pathetic weakness for craving, for desiring. I know the roots of the shame and the feeling of weakness but they go so far down the idea of trying to grab hold and pull them out is daunting.
And I know even if I remove the roots of the feelings of shame and weakness, starving them out, that I will still be left with the loneliness, and there is no way to pull loneliness out by the roots and starve it into nonexistence, any more than there’s a way to stop needing to eat or to sleep.