Friday, March 10, 2017

Hodgepodge 132/365 - Loneliness

The other day Gretchen Rubin (Happiness Project) posted a story called "7 Kinds of Loneliness (and Why It Matters)." I was intrigued—not because I feel lonely; I don't. But I was interested to see if I "qualify" to be lonely—i.e., how these feelings of loneliness might resonate.

Here are the seven kinds she has identified (abbreviated):

1. New-situation loneliness
Moving to a new city where you don’t know anyone, or starting a new school or a new job where all the faces are unfamiliar.
2. I’m-different loneliness
Your values or pleasures or, most fundamentally, your self-identity don't jibe with those of the people around you. Or maybe you’re just hit with the loneliness that hits all of us sometimes—the loneliness that’s part of the human condition.
3. No-sweetheart loneliness 
You have lots of friends and close family but no romantic partner, no one to share intimacy with. Or you do, but you don't feel a deep connection to that person.
4. No-animal loneliness
Gretchen describes this such that the animal connection somehow "replaces" the need for human connection, but I see the comfort of animals more generally: they provide an additional living spark to our lives, and sometimes you just want to hug your dog/cat/whatever.
5. No-time-for-me loneliness
Gretchen means this in the sense of others not having time for you—they're too busy or their lives have changed (kids, jobs, etc.) or they already have lots of friends and don't "need" a new one. But I'd also include the loneliness you can feel if you don't get enough time and space to really and truly connect with yourself; where you lose touch with your soul. That living in a rush on the surface can, I think, also be lonely, maybe just in an existential way, but still. (Perhaps that's included under #2.)
6. Untrustworthy-friends loneliness
"An important element of friendship is the ability to confide and trust
. . . if that’s missing, you may feel lonely, even if you have fun with your friends." I might call those superficial, not untrustworthy, friends. But I get it.
7. Quiet-presence loneliness
"Sometimes, you may feel lonely because you miss having someone else’s quiet presence. You may have an active social circle at work, or have plenty of friends and family, but you miss having someone to hang out with at home — whether that would mean living with a roommate, a family member, or a sweetheart. Just someone who’s fixing a cup of coffee in the next room, or reading on the sofa."

The last one resonated with me. Today, for example, I persuaded David to work from home for that very reason: as I finish ticking things off my packing list, I didn’t want to be alone. It is comforting to have him and his sounds in the other room, even if we’re not interacting much. I don't think I'd exactly feel lonely if he weren't here, but it's nice to have him here.

As for “new situation loneliness,” that may apply to some extent in Italy, where I won’t know a soul. But as several people have mentioned the last few days, it’s also lovely to be completely anonymous in a strange place. I remember a dinner in a restaurant in Honfleur, Normandy, long ago where I had just that feeling of full-hearted contentment as I listened to and watched the other diners interact—simply observing, taking it all in. I didn’t feel left out because I was on my own; rather, it was grounding to be part of the energy in the room and the sharing of food. I guess it’s a little like meditating with a group versus on one’s own. Even if you don’t say a word to the others, there’s something about the heightened energy that motivates.

I will be with a group these next two weeks, so I will need to practice being social. It'll be fun, I'm sure, but I am an introvert: I don't derive energy from other people. So I will need my alone time. What is the term for not getting to be alone—is that the opposite of lonely?

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