Is this just an American thing or what? Why is it that this sense of being alone in our experiences persists? Regardless of what Facebook, TV, new stories, friends, relatives and therapists tell us, we feel as if we are the only stupid, depressed, lonely, tired, hassled, sad, worthless people in the world.
When someone else shares a bit of their own experience and we feel that connection, “YES! I understand you!” or “YES! They understand me!” that seems to last a moment, a fleeting flash of warmth. And then, alone in our heads, we find ourselves comparing ourselves to others, mostly in not very positive ways. Why is that?
Of course there is that old American individualism bit that surely gets in. And as Americans we tend to move more, live further apart than in some other countries. And there is technology that while it purports to be a way to “stay in touch” with people we love somehow seems to push us further from real life experiences.
My rumi said to me the other day, “you sure know a lot of people for not having any friends.” Well, it is true that I have (holy cow, I just checked my page to be sure of the number – how did that happen?) 218 “connections” on Facebook. Yes, that is true. Many of my fb “connections” are from the large community choir that I am a member of and hey, while I really enjoy choir and genuinely respect and admire many of the women, there are a very few that are even close to friends.
Which led Amy and I to a new discussion, “What is a friend?” How does a person define that? I said that a friend is someone you call when the chips are down. A person who calls you when they need to talk. Someone who you want to share the events of your life with. Someone who you feel “gets” you. Friends are people that you want to do things with. Even with a busy schedule, you make time for friends. They are people that you would contact even if you were not both at work, and if one of you left, you would stay in touch with. People you like, who like you.
By that definition, I very few friends. I mean, I could count them on the fingers of one hand. And when I was checking my phone logs for something entirely separate, I discovered that the only phone calls I have made or received on my phone in the last 2 months are work calls and two calls from my mother. There was also one call and three texts to friends. In two months! No wonder I feel alone.
Culturally we have grown away from community events and gatherings. There was a time (yes, long, long ago) when people did gain something from their community. I am not saying everyone got along, but hey, if you needed a barn…there was a barn raising. Nowadays when I am talking to clients who seem way too isolated, the only great option I can give them for interaction is church. Which is sometime not an option at all.
So…now what? I feel alone because of all the nasty little cultural stuff and also because I AM mostly alone. I don’t like it one bit. I have never lived this way before and I can hardly stand it. I tried all the things people suggested, even churches and joining organizations, but so far, nothing has panned out. My current solution is kind of a drastic one…my plan is to move away from here and start somewhere else. It’s nice to have a plan, but since I am essentially stuck here till next year because of school, it’s not very satisfying.