Did the title of this blog post make you sing I Am the Walrus? Good. Good, good, very good. I love that about you.
Let’s talk about loneliness and connectivity.
My Mom asked me recently how I got so good at being alone. It’s a new problem for many people, this coping with the discomforts of extreme, open-ended social distance, and I could feel the weight of her question.
My first response, internally, was to begin outlining the thinking habits and reframing disciplines I have learned over the years, all the tricks and time management strategies that have helped me feel more productive, more fulfilled, less alone in the short term .
Blah blah blah
But as I brainstormed my overly long answer to her really sweet and important question, it slowly dawned on me that the answer to how do I get better at being alone is nothing close to how do I further insulate myself so that I feel less alone (because that’s all most such efforts are, at the end of the day, fillers and illusions). Rather, I think, the answer is to realize that we are not that alone after all.
I’m about to tell my sweet mom this, and though she isn’t much older than me, she is is still my elder and she is certainly wiser. I expect her to smile and say thank you sweetie, but maybe inside she will cringe, thinking her firstborn has completely discounted how alone so many people are feeling right now.
So let me share this much first: I have felt alone too, many times, often for long stretches of time, never knowing when some terrifying storms would end. I have felt alone in my unique schedule, way back when I was stay-at-home-hobby-farmer-mom alienated from her young daughters, especially back before we had Klaus and when my husband traveled a lot. I have felt alone in the midst of private, complex grief scenarios and in weird life circumstances and in hobbies and failed career efforts and religion quandries and all kinds of stuff.
I am not alone in feeling alone, and neither are you.
Without a doubt, pandemic has ushered in a whole new level of loneliness for many of us, even if we are mostly healthy, but especially if we are struggling with the virus (or fear of it) or depression or limited finances, or social conflict, or other very real stressors. Because loneliness is not just a question of proximity to other warm bodies; it’s about connection.
Even introverts, who recharge with regular bouts of solitude, still need to see and connect with people occassionally.
My assertion that we are not as alone as we think is more than a hopeful platitude. Connections are everywhere, we just have to see them. Following are a few links to things that have helped me so much. I hope some of it helps you too!
ONE… Read these two books:
The Book of Joy is full to bursting with not just encouragement, but well defined explanations for human behavior and lots of luscious mind exercises and meditations for everyone, regardless of your religion. Archbiship Tutu’s anecdotes about UBUNTU were life changing for me. Me= We. I am a person through other people. Everybody, Always by Bob Goff is a shorter, softer read but just as nourishing, a beautiful reminder of the many ways we can stay connected to people through Love.
TWO… Listen to this podcast:
The Anthropocene Review, an episode that aired on May 25 of this year, titled You’ll Never Walk Alone. Jessica’s boyfriend Alex recommended this to me several months ago, and while I have listened to and enjoyed other episodes by this production, for some reason I let this particular episode sit in my downloads, unplayed, until today. It turned out to be the perfect moment to receive the beautiful, intricate message. If you can give 15 or 20 minutes to one podcast soon, make it this one. We are not alone. Not in the world, not in our failures and short lives, not even in grief, no matter how it feels from time to time. We can keep walking, no matter the cirumstances.
THREE… Watch this Netflix special (just the first episode):
I started this docuseries on the treadmill a few days ago and was hooked. The first episode about Doc Rivers, NBA coach, had me wishing I was seated with a notebook handy, it was so filled with good stuff. He shared a pivotal moment in his coaching years with the Boston Celtics, when a stranger introduced him to the concept of UBUNTU (same as above, with Archbiuship Tutu). She told him to research it for himself, to learn it, and he did. He said that she was right, that it’s not a word but a way of life, and it transformed his basketball team. 35 minutes, friends. Give yourself this gift.
If you are feeling lonely or disconnected, please reach out to people. Please find ways to remind yourself that you are woven into the fabic of community, and you can feel safe recognizing and opening up to a variety of connections. They don’t have to be perfect relationships to be deeply, beautifully nourishing. In fact, the weirder the connections, maybe, the better?
Ha. I don’t know.
But I do know that we are designed, programmed, and forever meant to be in flow with others, not alone, not independent. We affect each other whether we like it or not. We feed and are fed by others. We are bouyed and cushioned and lifted up and then caught, safe and sound, by actual people and their human efforts. You are a person who is needed by some other person, by many people in fact. And your needs will be met in large part by other people just like you, probably even people who don’t realize they are meant to help you. Back and forth, inward and outward, forever and ever.
Okay. I am closing for today. Much to say soon about those aforementioned thinking habits and disciplines, ha!
I love you Mom.
Coo Coo Ca Choo