Thoughts on loneliness
I’m 32. I have a great job. My boss likes me. I’ve been with my husband for almost 13 years. I have a blog people read. I have a podcast to which people listen. I have sold art in over a dozen countries. I’ve published a book that people like and that continues to sell regularly - maybe not in large quantities, but it sells. As you look at my life you might think I’m happy, fulfilled. But, like many of you out there, I’m dealing with something that people are only just now starting to discuss: loneliness.
Some writers have attempted to blame the advent of social media. Others blame increasingly burdensome work schedules - smartphones mean that your office can always be found in your pocket for a late night request from the boss. Some folks blame pocket cultures - several write-ups last year dealt with loneliness in the aging LGBTQ community due to a number of factors. I don’t blame anyone or anything. I’m just...putting this out there to acknowledge it. To name it.
The problem with getting older and maintaining an active, in-person social circle is...well...it’s due to everything I referenced above. People get busier as they advance in their respective careers, have children, buy homes that take them away from the neighborhood you used to share. You go from being able to share an evening cuppa a few times a week to seeing one another once a quarter if you’re lucky. Meet-ups to wander the aisles of an antique store or try out a new lunch spot or just drink a glass of wine on the back porch turn into text messages longing to do those things that turn into someone you forward memes to on Facebook. It’s sad. It’s a sad thing. It doesn’t feel like the death of a relationship(s) so much as it feels like you stuck your relationship in a food dehydrator and it’s getting really crispy. Slowly.
My problem with loneliness, though, then becomes the spiral of loneliness. If I turn to my friends, they think I’m guilt tripping them because our work schedules haven’t aligned in months to see one another. If I turn to my spouse, he’ll take it as an insult to our relationship. Turning to my parents is hard, because they see it all wrapped up in being gay and moving far from home and everything would be much better if I wised up, met the right girl, and moved back to Texas. I see their point. Well...I see the point of my friends and spouse. They’re there. They want to see me, too. My ideal relationship with my husband isn’t exactly coming home everyday to quietly unwind next to each other on the couch for an hour before it’s time to go to bed. So we don’t talk about it, because everyone realizes it’s happening and acknowledging it feels like an attack.
And there’s no easy solve here. I have no tips for you. Making a community online only goes so far. It is only so fulfilling.
But...being an adult in 2019 means it’s hard to add to that in-person social circle. I can’t make friends with my co-workers, because it’s 2019. Social media is mined by your employers on a regular basis to determine whether your Friday night outing meets with their standards of acceptable after hours behavior. Venting on Facebook or posting a picture on Instagram can get you fired if someone from work sees and complains to HR. So...I close myself off. I don’t go out on Friday night for end of week drinks with my co-workers. I don’t go to their parties when asked. I don’t engage in their celebrations or follow them on social media, because I’ve done it before and lost my job or lost out on advancement because of interpersonal relationships or social media. And because we spend a majority of our waking hours at work, it’s hard to meet people. Where do lonely adults go to meet other like-minded lonely adults? The wine aisle?
Every week as the weekend approaches I have these fantasies of what I’m going to do: sleep in on Saturday with my husband. Maybe cook breakfast, catch up on our DVR, and do a few chores around the house. Go to the gym with someone. Meet up with friends for a movie or drinks or take a train to the city for...I dunno...a concert? Walking along the lake? Going to the Green Mill Jazz club for their legendary poetry night? But everyone is busy, and I can never seem to line my schedule up with anyone, and oh my various gods do you have any idea how much laundry I have to do, and the city is far away, and going by myself isn’t any fun, but the person who is free doesn’t want to go do anything because they also had a long week and have their own obligations or spouse or pile of laundry that deserves their time.
But have you seen this hilarious meme?
Maybe if we talk about loneliness we’ll begin to break its spell over us. Maybe if we realize how lonely the other adults are we can stop pretending we’ve got our shit together, that it doesn’t bother us. Maybe we’ll all be a bit more willing to plan for one another...to prioritize one another, because texts and email forwards and social media can only fill our cup so much.
Love and Lyte,