This feels like a very risky topic. It’s a topic I’d like to be entirely transparent about, at the expense of revealing just how pathetic I might look. Not the most entertaining or positive of topics. But, I’m all about honesty in my writing, so here goes.
Am I lonely? Yes. Emphatically yes. It’s definitely ebbed and flowed over the years, but I’d probably say I’ve felt lonely for most of my adult life. Transitional periods have always been really hard, though I think this current season I’m in just might be the worst.
I was very lonely in college. I had both Greg and my best friend Dianne at a different college a mile or two away, which was enough of a cushion for me mentally that I had very little drive to give dorm life my all. I had a single room, which I loved, but also allowed me to hide away. I had no interest in partying or drinking or doing any of the things that young women fresh in a world of freedom felt like doing. I was always surrounded by people, but felt almost no point of connection with any of them. I did have Greg and Dianne in my life, but they were plenty busy with their own lives and classes and friends and jobs. I remember calling my dad up on Friday nights begging him to bring me back home for the weekend because I couldn’t bear two full days of trying – and failing – to fit in.
I was desperately lonely right after we got married. I was supposed to transfer to an elite and amazing design school, but quickly realized we simply could not afford it. I was suddenly a college dropout in a new state with no friends, no job, all while trying to navigate the new world of married life. I did eventually get a job I enjoyed and made a few friends at the same time Greg was making some good friends too. This was a brief 2-3 year time in our lives when friendships were a high priority. We had game nights, we got together for cookouts, friendship was worth the investment to all of us. I miss those years, and those friends. Ten years later, we still haven’t developed any mutual couple friendships, and it kind of sucks.
Another lonely period of my life was when we became pregnant with Shepard and decided to move back to Wisconsin. That was one of the most stressful years of our marriage as we were trying to sell a house we weren’t even living in during a terrible fall in the market, while jumping back and forth into multiple temporary living situations, while pregnant and later with a newborn, while also trying to figure out why our 2.5 year old was displaying such destructive behavioral issues AND not speaking any actual words. Greg was busy learning the ins and outs of his new job with a really long commute and so stressed about our housing situation. I had no friends, no time to recharge, no way to connect with anyone going through the same things that I was.
After we moved to Columbus and Caden started preschool, everything began to look up. Those were probably the least lonely years of my life. I met other women that I had things in common with. I met women that were also desperate for connection. We had playdates often. I met a friend whose son shared a speech therapy time with Caden once a week and we had no choice but to get to know each other. When Shepard entered preschool I joined the board and met new friends and got to develop my current friendships even further. I went to an exercise class with a friend at night and got to know her better. Groups of women had coffee dates. We met at night for drinks and so many people always showed up. I had two friends I went out to new restaurants with every month. Everyone I knew seemed to love and value our friendships and it was a wonderful few years of deep connection and being known and realizing that even though we were in the trenches of motherhood, we were in it together. I wish I could figure out why all of that changed just a few years later.
Enter my life now. When both of my kids started school full time I began feeling like an actual human again. I love my children, but I’m not a very good full time mom. I was thrilled to suddenly have days to myself to work and get stuff done. Though I was jumping for joy at the freedom, a huge majority of my friends decided to have another baby, prolonging their years of playdates and connections to each other, while I unfortunately had fallen out of the loop because you don’t get called for playdates when you don’t have any kids at home! You don’t even really have play dates at all once your kids are in elementary school – at least not ones where parents tag along at. My main form of getting together with people became eliminated as we aged out of the system. It wasn’t anyone’s fault, it just took away the easiest method I had for staying in constant communication with my friends. Friendships are easy and natural when you connect with each other in person a couple times a week when you inevitably always have to be at the same places at the same times. When you don’t have that anymore, it gets so much harder.
The loneliness has gotten particularly hard this past year. It’s been about a year since I broke my ankle and lost my freedom to leave the house for about four or five months. I feel like that’s when isolation really set in for me. I stopped picking my kids up at school, the one remaining place I still had opportunity to see people on a regular basis. Though to be fair, almost all of the friends I connected with after school had either switched schools, moved away, or stopped picking up their own kids too by this point. But that took away a huge every day chance I had to form connections and deepen friendships with people. It’s hard to get close to someone when you never, ever see them. And I never really see anyone! I work at home alone. I don’t belong to any boards or regularly meeting groups of people. I’m very, very isolated. Especially in these neverending winter months that basically suck the life out of you.
I think the hardest part of loneliness for me at this point in my life is that I feel like I’m the only one who feels this way. I try often to get together with people and it almost never works out. Everyone is so busy. Everyone (except us) has kids involved in multiple activities that take them out of their houses a couple of nights a week. Some friends have moved away and while not that far, far enough to make getting together a hurdle we can’t seem to successfully jump. Most people are completely devoted to their family time and simply say no to friendships during this season. And it’s hard. So hard. I’m constantly being rejected. As I’m writing this, I am once again sitting at my house wondering if anyone will show up for a craft night I have scheduled for right now, starting an hour and a half ago. Nobody came. And I get it, we’re all busy. But it hurts nonetheless, especially when nobody even acknowledges I put the invite out there. I am so incredibly close to just giving up entirely. I’m sick of being rejected or ignored or shamed because I’m apparently the only one around who still wants to make female friendships important in my life.
I’d love to say that at least I have my family and they will be enough for me. But that would be lie. I feel lonely in my family as well. I’m not sure if it’s because I’m the only girl, or if it’s just because the three of them have such strong aligning interests and I’m not part of it. I don’t care about video games. I never have and I never will. On occasion I try to muster up some excitement for other activities, but it’s always met with complaints and resistance. The boys crave every minute of Greg’s attention and they usually get it. I’m so glad he’s such a great dad and that the three of them have so many things in common. But I’m always the odd (wo)man out. And none of them ever have much time or attention for me. Unless someone needs food or clean clothes, I feel invisible to them most of the time.
Okay, this feels like the most depressing thing I’ve ever written. I’ll try to perk up a bit. While I am lonely and this is depressing to talk about, I don’t think I’m depressed. Or…not all the time. I love to be alone. And honestly, maybe people just don’t like me anymore. I kind of live in my head and have very set ideas of how I want my days and my life to go and can sometimes be very uncompromising. I’m also very easily hurt, even if it wasn’t intentional, and I have an enormously hard time forgiving and forgetting those hurts. I’m shy, painfully shy with new people. I hate small talk, but I don’t know how to get to know someone without starting at that step. But if you only spend a minimal amount of time together, you’re stuck on the small talk indefinitely. I long for the days of old when friendship was treasured above all else. I have hope that maybe someday when everyone’s kids are grown and gone, friendship will be important again. I just hope I can survive the years until then. And keep trying in the meantime.
I’ve been very lucky to have met my best friend Dianne when we were only five. Even though we haven’t lived near each other in 15 years, we talk through email every single day. I don’t know how I would stay sane without that outlet. It’s not the same as getting together and chatting in person, but at least I can talk to her about anything, anytime. It fulfils a desperate need I have to connect with someone who knows literally everything about me. I don’t have that with anyone else. I usually feel like I’m annoying people when I text them and I’m a burden when I ask for their time. Which is maybe on me. If I wasn’t so overly sensitive and probably imagining more negative perceptions than might be true, I wouldn’t feel so rejected all the time.
All I can say is that the times I felt least lonely in my life were the times I was involved. When I had a job outside the home I made friends easily. When I had Caden I joined a moms group that didn’t result in any lasting friendships, but it helped me get out of the house and realize I wasn’t alone. When the boys were just starting school I met other people in similar situations and made seeing them a priority. And while it’s far from easy, I still have so much flexibility both in the day and at night and I try to never say no when someone asks me to get together, no matter how busy I am. It’s easy for me to put the blame on other people for not having the same desperate need to connect that I do. But the truth is that they’re all already out connecting at the things they’re involved in. I’m the one who stopped volunteering for things because it brings me way too much stress. I had to stop going to exercise classes after I broke my ankle. I did make an attempt to join a creative writing class, but there was only one session three months ago with no sign of a second one. I think it’s high time that I stop expecting my circumstances to suddenly change without making the extra effort required to put myself out there – to strangers – and pursue something more. Living in a small town sometimes feel so limiting when it comes to opportunities that interest me. But I think it’s time to try. I’ve had enough of being lonely.