The Trick To Aloneness Is Not Feeling Lonely.
I’ve been in a weird place lately.
It sometimes happens when Justin’s gone for extended periods, and it’s made worse, it seems, by the fact that I’ve neglected to build myself any sort of real-life social network in our new home. I’ve started building pillars, for sure, but the mortar has yet to dry.
I’m still trying to do what I said I do here. Trying to make friends. Trying to make plans. Trying to fix the house. Trying to learn. Trying to grow.
I bought an old-fashioned push mower because I couldn’t get our 10-year-old Rusty McGrumpsterson started and spent hours just adjusting the blades and gnawing through our foot-tall, bedraggled, excuse for a lawn.
It helped a little.
See, It’s like I have all the time in the world and so I have no time at all.
Trying to explain this quandary is difficult. It makes me sound like a wealthy woman begging for change. A healthy newborn requesting more time. A GPS asking for directions.
I’m a deluded sieve with a dream of holding water. The loose-jointed molecules glide through my grip, my hands coated in lubrication for extra instability. I have so much space in my life and so many things to fill it with that I can only stare in paralysis as the slippery stuff slides past.
Instead of choosing productivity, I involve myself in moderating other peoples’ lives — challenging them from on-high to study and explain their own secret chess moves because the truth is, I don’t even know how to play.
I talk to my dogs more than any sane person should. We don’t have actual conversations, because those would require response, and I haven’t fallen that far off the cliff.
But there’s this weird thing that can happen in the world when you start to feel particularly alone but refuse to accept it. In response to a challenge extended by my sister to take my own advice and join a Meetup group for some social interaction, I joined several and participated fully by sitting back and watching their activities for weeks until it dawned on me that watching a Meetup group isn’t the same actually meeting up with a Meetup group. So, after ruling out many of the appealing wine and craft beer tasting options that would also unfortunately require me to drive long distances — and through tunnels beneath the Chesapeake Bay, no less — I settled on one with a much lower risk of public intoxication among strangers and the subsequent potential for vehicular homicide.
I’d already started dinking around with a clever little app on my phone (Mind Snacks, for those who are interested), and I was walking around my house saying things like, Molto bene, e tu? and Ay, formaggi! in a ridiculous Italian accent, so I thought maybe it’d be fun to take real lessons from a real Italian and maybe meet a couple of interesting people at the same time.
So last week I drove to a quaint Italian brasserie and market in Virginia Beach, forked some cash over to a chic European woman, attempted to order food in a foreign language for the first time in years, and, once again, opened myself to something new.
The place was tiny, maybe ten tables at most squeezed down the length and imposed upon by burly glass cases stuffed with a smorgasbord of charcuterie and rich, cheesy pastries. These were my people.
Our group of 6 was incredibly eclectic — each individual bringing a different ethnicity and life experience to our cozy little table. These were people with whom my path might never have crossed in normal, day-to-day life, yet our interest in a foreign culture connected us in that moment. For the next couple of hours, we immersed ourselves in the awkwardness that comes with learning a new language — stumbling over idiosyncrasies and the rolling of “r’s,” like toddlers again just learning to speak — to work the words through our teeth and our tongues. It was funny and embarrassing and difficult and enlightening.
I will definitely be going back.
Later that night, I had a friendship request on Facebook from a member of the group. After following proper online stalking procedures prior to acceptance, I realized we had not one, but seven Facebook connections in common. It turns out that this member of my Italian meetup group was friends with a number of people he’d met while contracting in Germany — the same set of military folks I’d made friends with years before while stationed in Valdosta, Georgia. He’s also friends with my cousin, whom he’d met in Germany as well.
And after I moved past the moment of omg you know so-and-so? it hit me, like BAM!
I mean, we say it all the time — it’s a small, small world, right? But sometimes it feels big. So ridiculously big, and it makes you feel small, and maybe alone, but remember — you just remember that you’re never far from someone you know. Or someone who knows someone you know.
And that pretty much means that we’re surrounded by acquaintances all of the time.
And that makes it worth trying, right? To do more? To experience more? To be more?
It’s encouraging, I think.
The sunset on the way home was the preamble to my little epiphany — just a moment of intimacy between me, my Tracker, and the James.
I didn’t feel lonely then.
I don’t feel lonely now.
Have you ever had a weird moment of connectedness? Met a stranger who knew some of your people? Tell me about it. It’s pretty groovy.