I like adults with just about the same energy with which I like children. Let me explain. Children are curious, interesting and cuddly, but they are also quite exhausting – anything outside of two, three hours and I want to fold them up neatly and return them to their parents, which is not to say that I will not come back the next day or week, wanting more of their fascinating mind, but rather, that essentially, when interacting with people, regardless of my loud jives and bad jokes and impassioned debates, I have a daily quota, after which I just want to be left alone. See ehn, I wrestle with the idea of public social occasions and avoid them as much as I can. When I do show up, it is with extreme effort, even though I have been known to turn up and eventually have a good time.
My point is, when the talk of social distancing newly began to spread across the world, I did not share the same angst or anxiety of my peers. I considered the possibilities of getting more productive now that I could finally be left alone. It felt like Christmas! No more happy hour invitations by my colleagues. No more loitering about the streets of Boca Raton heading to the next needless meeting. I could just be me, happily alive and free in my ensuite room. I told myself: I will read books, write more and finally, launch my website and content marketing projects. But Fam! When trailer jams caterpillar, the story becomes something different.
Recently, my mother complained to me on the phone about someone who called her and spoke for two hours. She sounded bewildered and frustrated and could not understand how people could possibly talk for so long. #Sigh. You know they say the apple does not fall too far from the tree, and in this regard, I am the exact replica of the tree from which I fell. I do not recall my father ever going for a social event that did not revolve around his village chieftaincy responsibilities. He was often in his room, home early from work, indoors through weekends, happy and content in that private space. Even when my uncles came over, my father was often the first to retire for the night. For personal reasons, I consider my father a heavily flawed man, but I still admire his ability to self-isolate without any trigger, to be so complete and sufficient in his alone-ness.
Before now, I have never really consciously considered myself lonely. I have a pile of work that can keep me busy for weeks; an active personal and family online group, a handful of friends whose love for me is completely humbling, and a mother who will never run out of prayers to say over the phone. Yet, I found out quite staggeringly, that I was lonely. It is a feeling that crept over me quietly. Me, lover of my personal space, weary of people, avoider of social gatherings, lonely. The shape of the alienation I feel is not merely a result of feeling stranded in the middle of a desert— with no one to talk to. It is instead and also, a sense of disconnect that stirs itself whenever I get into a conversation with a long-lost friend, a past love or just some random follower of my work. It is being in the middle of a conversation and realizing with horror that you do not relate with this other person. That you do not know how to relate.
We highly functional introverts tell ourselves that the problem is outside, right over the horizon in the energy-sapping world. We laugh and play, but when it is time for real connections, we close the blinds because people are too much stress. But what if it is also inside? What if we have fed ourselves with the rhetoric of self-completion that we no longer know how to connect, how to stay sufficiently interested in anything beyond ourselves? #Sigh. I do not want to end up in my fifties, suspicious of anyone that shows interest in my life. I like myself, but I also want to connect. I want to grow out of my skin and really begin to participate and experience life with others. Think about wanting these things now that there is a Pandemic and everybody is forced to keep away from others, Lool.
Regardless, I am learning to say yes to more opportunities. Loneliness is often not a sudden occurrence, it is a buildup of disinterests, lethargy and practised independence. Of course, one cannot erase every option of feeling disconnected, that is the fabric of life. You grow, evolve, become one thing and you are alienated from others. But it helps, I think, to still keep your interest in people. To say curious, entertainable, open. It doesn’t make life perfect, but it can make times like this a little more bearable.
How do you cope with loneliness? Drop a comment below