[Content Note: Isolation.]
Last week, I posted a thread inviting people to share the ways in which their lives aren't perfect, and I noticed that some people mentioned being lonely. This can be a difficult time of year for people who are and/or feel lonely, so I am reposting this piece which originally ran last summer, for anyone who may need it now.
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There have been a lot of stories about loneliness in the news lately. Stories about people who live in big communities, but can't find meaningful friendships. Stories about people who feel alone at work. Stories about how social media can create feelings of isolation, as much as it can create community. Stories about how loneliness can have physical effects on the people who suffer from it.
Loneliness is different from being lonesome. Plenty of people are lonesome, but not lonely. Plenty of people who are lonely aren't lonesome; they may be surrounded by people, but nonetheless feel isolated, longing for meaningful connections that elude them.
I'm a lonesome person. I like lots of time to myself, and I have even more time to myself than would be my preference, by virtue of this job. Many days, Iain is the only other person to whom I speak, face-to-face. But my days are filled with interactions with terrific people. The contributors and moderators, who give me air in my lungs every day. Distant friends, who offer laughter and support. Local friends, with whom I meet for coffee and boozy brunches. We often have visitors, who seek a getaway filled with friendship and furry snuggles. And no one can feel truly lonely when they regularly receive packages of Garbage Treasures in the mail from Deeky.
So I'm not lonely, most of the time, despite being lonesome.
But sometimes I get lonely, in a way I didn't when I worked in an office and thus had lots more face-to-face interactions with other people every day. Even though many of those interactions were undesirable ones, heh.
Loneliness hurts, for me, in a way that it hard to describe. It reverberates intensely, and it puts me completely out of balance—and out of sorts.
I feel deeply for people who are lonely in a sustained way, and don't want to be.
There is community in this space, like many spaces, but it isn't always easy to get what you need to alleviate loneliness, even in a non-virtual room filled with people. Because sometimes it isn't company we need; it's to be seen. To matter.
I don't know what it would look like to subtly create the space to be "seen" within this one. So here is a not-subtle thread, for anyone who needs to ask for something that can be provided here to ask for it. Maybe you just want to say hi, and see some likes on your comment. (I promise you will get at least one!) Maybe you want to ask that people see you, and get replies that you are seen. Maybe you just want to express that you're lonely, and have a safe space to talk about it with other people who feel the same, in the hope of feeling a little less alone.
And maybe you can't bring yourself to comment, but I hope just having the option lets you know that you are not alone and that you matter to me.