I didn’t realize how lonely I’ve been until this weekend. Even surrounded by my children and my husband on weeknights and weekends, I’m lonely. Even seeing some friends occasionally, I’m still lonely. I’ve spent too much time alone with myself that my brain is playing tricks on me. My insecurities are rising, my childhood programming re-emerging.
What I don’t think many people understand is that humans need interaction on a really deep, primitive level. Real interaction: exchanged smiles, long hugs, eye contact, handshakes, small talk (someone, anyone, ask me about this snow we’re getting, eh?!).
We need these things to know where and how we fit into the world. Connection acts as a compass to who we are and who we need to become to be our best selves.
Humans need a balance between alone time and people time. We need the alone time to reflect and grow and make tweaks to ourselves. Then we go out in public and practice those new ways with other people. Then back in alone time we think about how those tweaks worked for us and what we can improve to become the best people we can be for ourselves and our global community. That back and forth is what gives us confidence, boundaries and faith in ourselves. When you remove the chances for human interaction, the time alone goes bonkers. Or at least it does for me. I begin to wonder if I’m a good enough Mother. Wife. Friend. Daughter. Sister. Community member. Am I checking in on enough friends? Did I make enough eye contact with the check out clerk? Did that come across as rude? Can I do more? Should I do more? Should I do less? Are naps with the kids awake acceptable? How can you tell a snakes gender? (Its in the shape of its tail FYI)
My brain runs absolutely wild. My compass swirls with abandon.
And it’s not loneliness in the sense of “I’m alone and I feel alone”; it’s lonely in the sense of “I don’t feel connected to the outside world.” Even though I text with friends and run errands with my besties and FaceTime with my dad and sisters, my connection to the outside world has shifted. As an extroverted woman, this is hard to adjust to.
Social distancing, masking, isolation and lock downs are taking their toll on people. The elderly in nursing homes are protesting; the loneliness is killing them. Overdoses are on the rise. Mental health is declining. Divorce is increasing. Spousal abuse is out of control. The lack of in-person visits are creating havoc; miscommunication is destroying relationships. We need more than texts and emails and quick glances in the grocery store from 6 feet away.
It’s a conundrum: I’m isolated, my insecurities grow, I retreat into myself, I don’t reach out, I can’t go out, I feel bad for not doing more, my insecurities grow, I don’t want to go out, I don’t leave my house for weeks, I’m lonely. Repeat.
Too much time alone inhibits growth, communication and change. It’s in conversations we have those life changing ‘a-ha’ moments. It’s in the body language you hear what’s not being said aloud. It’s in the book club discussion you learn a different point of view. It’s in the hug with a friend that you feel how much she needed touch. In our touch deprived society, a hug speaks volumes. When our brains become off-kilter it’s hard to get it back in balance without the heart-to-heart, face-to-face girl chats or therapy sessions or anything else that brings peace outside your inner world. You can’t fix a problem with the same mind that created it, right? So how do we change a brain that’s in isolation and feeling lonely and disconnected? How do we change this, specially in these times when things seem to be getting worse?
I wish I had solutions to end this blog with. I like to end on a positive note but I don’t have any answers right now. Until the powers that be open their eyes to the damage they’re doing and make changes, I can’t see anything changing any time soon. Now that the ‘rules’ have changed, no one is allowed in my home. Not one person to link me to humanity, to the outside world. I see another lock down coming soon too so I know I won’t be alone in this. What do we do to combat loneliness and disconnection? Where can we seek connection equal to what it was pre-covid? What do I do to combat the side effects of this loneliness? How can we heal what can’t yet be healed?