Love, Loneliness, and the Spaces Between Us

Dear Reader,

I don’t know what you’re going through right now, but I hope this post will touch your heart.

One of my favorite bands is Muse, but their song “Aftermath” has never sat well with me, and in this time of social distancing and uncertainty, it feels like a good time to breakdown with you the issues I have with it (and other things – love, loneliness, and the spaces between us).

My Issues with Love

Image: One lit up red heart light among many dark ones.

The chorus of “Aftermath” croons:

From this moment

You will never be alone

We’re bound together

Now and forever

The loneliness has gone

It sounds lovely, but the first time I heard it, I almost sprained my eyes from rolling them so hard.

Here’s why: loneliness is not the absence of people; loneliness is the inability to communicate what is important to you.

Loneliness does not come from having no people about one, but from being unable to communicate the things that seem important to oneself, or from holding certain views which others find inadmissible. – Carl Gustav Yung

I believe this quote with all my heart. I might be a “restrained” introvert, but I understand this so deeply.

Love is not going to necessarily take your loneliness away. Henry Nilsson (who wrote the catchy “Gotta Get Up” piece featured in Netflix’s Russian Dolls), wrote “One” – though covers of this have been more famous than his original:

One is the loneliest number that you’ll ever do

Two can be as bad as one

It’s the loneliest number since the number one

“No” is the saddest experience you’ll ever know

Yes, it’s the saddest experience you’ll ever know

Right now, many of us are lonely– we are unable to express what is important to us to others whether that’s because we’re deprived of face-to-face interactions, we don’t have supportive relations, or we can’t find the words to say. Some of us are going through rough patches in love, and the strain of tight spaces and/or money and upended routines makes for strains in love (whether romantic or familial).

It has been shown that voice is more effective than text at relieving loneliness.

Maybe you need to talk to someone (or maybe they need to talk to you).

My Issues with Loneliness

Image: Plain white eggs, and one says Covid-19.

A while back, my sister and I were discussing MBTI traits and our most toxic traits. Mine is “too private”. I completely get this. I can have a lovely conversation with you for hours, while not having actually shared anything about myself – not having communicated anything important to me. And to be frank, if you don’t reciprocate in asking questions, then I won’t offer much information and will basically be interviewing you.

My husband and I have had strangers share deeply personal stories with us out of nowhere, and pondered later why things played out like they did. He’s said I’m like the monkey with cymbals from Wonderfalls- the answer to why they open up to me is, “because you listen”.

Image: Jay from Wonderfalls in background, with a souvenir wax lion in the foreground.

I struggle with loneliness even when there are people around. I’m introverted (I find people draining), and I’m shy (I fear judgment). The “from holding certain views which others find inadmissible” is my problem. My political and religious views are not tolerated in the area where I live.

When it comes down to it, isolation is a form of torture and punishment: solitary confinement.

The Spaces Between Us

Image: The Simpson’s Lisa on the left, red-eyed and holding her knees. Reads, Extroverts in Quarantine. On the right, The Simpson’s Lisa relaxing on the couch. Reads, Introverts in Quarantine.

I’ve seen this meme around, and it’s only partially accurate. My first thought was that … I wonder if extroverts will understand that I feel like the first image when I’m at a networking event. My second thought was that … suicides are on the uptick.

Since the library is closed, the county health department has reallocated some of us to field non-emergency calls in the community. During our training, it was mentioned that there has been an increase in suicide with people being alone, hopeless, maybe laid off.

I fear as this crisis drags on, more and more people will feel drowned by these circumstances.

Image: geese flying over a mountain-lake scene.

-> If you are having thoughts of harming yourself, please reach out to: Suicide Prevention Hotline.

-> If you’re struggling and need someone to talk to anonymously, please consider 7 Cups, or other free, anonymous peer support groups.

  • In the past when people were quarantined, they didn’t have social media, long distance calls were outrageously expensive, and news wasn’t as accessible. Today, we have social media but in some ways the spaces between us are bridged but contorted. Emojis evoke less empathy, and the bombardment of people we experience is too much in some cases.
  • Kindness is more important now than ever. The next few weeks, I suspect, will tax the essential workers of our world in ways we might not expect, and perhaps for longer. The next few weeks will tax those of us stuck at home as well.

    Poster with text: And then the whole world walked inside and shut their doors and said we will stop it all. EVERYTHING. To protect our weaker ones. Our sicker ones. Our older ones. And nothing. NOTHING. In the history of humankind ever felt more like love than this.

    For those of you struggling in loneliness, please know your sacrifice is appreciated.

    Please take care of yourself – open the blinds or curtains to get some sunshine if you can, call a friend, write an email, take a bubble bath, Skype dinner with someone, whatever it takes.

    Let’s stop thinking of this as social distancing: it’s physical distancing. Please keep reaching out to others.

    As an introvert living with my spouse and child, it’s not been as hard for me as this pandemic is for others. Because of that, I’ve been making a conscious effort to reach out to those around me, especially if they seem like they might be struggling. I hope you’ll do the same.

    May you be happy.

    May you be healthy.

    May you live with ease.

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