Table for One

Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude"...

Language... has created the word "loneliness" to express the pain of being alone. And it has created the word "solitude" to express the glory of being alone.

~ Paul Tillich

Did you know that "lonely" was one of the many words seemingly coined by Shakespeare?

Now, this might come as a shock to some of you, but for as bright and bubbly as I can be, for as much of a social butterfly as I can be, I'm actually very much a lone wolf kitteh.   At times this is exactly what I want, and at other times it is excruciatingly painful.

If you've met me in person, you know I'm warm and affectionate (I give good hug) and a laugh riot social instigator.  However, if you've known me for a while, you've seen me in my quieter moments.  In those moments, I appear either distracted, disconnected, or deep in thought.  Sometimes I'm just observing life.  Sometimes I'm overwhelmed by it.

It's odd to be both very social and very asocial at the same time.  I don't know which one is my nature and which one is what I've learned to be out of necessity.  Ultimately I think I am social, but scarred and imperfect.  My instinct is to be social, but I am often awkward and say the wrong things, then retreat into my shell.

Growing up, I experienced inclusion and (intentional/unintentional) exclusion/rejection from my peers.  My father (in the guise of offering advice) told me that no one would be my friend if I acted "that way" (argumentative, opinionated) around them.  He wanted me to be a bit more moderate/agreeable but what I heard was that I needed to abandon myself in order to please people. That never sat well with me.  I was argumentative (I knew the difference between debate and fight) and opinionated.  I didn't attack people, but I stood my ground.  I didn't want to be friends with people that were pushovers.  I wanted them to respond and be just as forceful as I was (sometimes a category 5 hurricane).

I also realize now that I stayed close to home because of my agorophobe mother (who was not only afraid to go out into the world herself, but was fearful for her kids as well; luckily I do not have agorophobia like my mother and her mother before her) and lawyer father (who saw the very worst of humanity -- murderers, rapists, child abusers, etc.).  I began using the internet at a young age (11 or so) and spent more time learning how to be social on IRC and aol.com than building connections with actual people.

[[Edit:  My mom died when I was 13.  I instantly felt that I was different because of this -- burdened with a sense of responsibility and seriousness from that moment on that would forcefully separate me from childhood.  There was a lot of anger coupled with this.  While other kids were able to play and go to their activities, I was doing my laundry, cooking dinner, cleaning house, and trying to make time for my father to do things with us (that he never did).]]

In college, I was more content to wander the streets of Washington, DC at night than to actually participate in the life that was there for the taking (except for that brief foray into the intramural indoor soccer club).  Years later, I find myself doing the same.  I'm comfortable sitting at a bar by myself, on a park bench by myself, climbing the steps of the Lincoln Memorial by myself.  Sometimes it just doesn't occur to me that I should be calling friends, booking my weekend to the gills.

That is, until the weekend comes, and I realize that I am alone -- for better and for worse.

This either makes me a good friend (the kind of friend that can always make room in his or her schedule) or a bad friend (the kind of friend that doesn't call to make plans).  Luckily, I have many friends that understand that I'm a bit of a social misfit and don't hold it against me (i.e. they know I'm not mad at them, just that I'm oblivious).  At the same time, I can understand how hard it is for them to always be the ones reaching out to me or the one making plans.

I hope to work on this.  I know I'll never consistently be the life of the party or the epicenter of action.  But I hope that in putting this out there in the world, it will show that I'm cognizant of my shortcomings and will be mindful to improve myself whenever possible.

So what does this have to do with the whole weightloss/health gain endeavor?  Lots.

When I gave up drinking (when I had to go on methylprednisolone injections for my back), people didn't want to tempt me by asking me out to drink.  (I think some people also didn't know what I could or couldn't do with my back problem.)  Likewise, now that I'm trying to lose weight, I think some people aren't inviting me out to eat or to parties knowing they're calorie bombs. I need to do a better job of (1) showing that just because there's food or alcohol around that I'm not powerless in the situation to be moderate and (2) planning activities with friends that don't revolve around calorie consumption, but rather calorie burning.


I also want to recognize how this relates to me and dating.  I'm approaching 30 and never have been in a relationship where love was reciprocal.  This just makes me feel sad, and yes, alone.  A friend pointed out that it is better to be 30 and alone than some of the alternatives.  I'm not looking to rate or rank all of life's painful experiences, just saying that this is something that weighs on my heart (making it look like a hamburger).

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16 comments

  1. i totally get and feel this :-/

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  2. Big hugs girlfriend...your awareness around all of this is what will carry you through.

    I wasn't in a relationship where love was reciprocal until I met Tim when I was 32...and we didn't marry until I was 35. It is possible and it will be so sweet when it does happen. Hang in there...it WILL happen.

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  3. Wow, I could probably write the same words to describe what I feel. Thank you for writing this!

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  4. I feel bad that anyone feels this way. At least it proves the point that our suffering unites us more than it separates us.

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  5. Definitely know how you feel and glad you shared it. A lot of people (myself included) keep the lonely feeling bottled up inside when talking about it is really the best way to attack it. I think the shame of admitting it is the hardest for me, so I'm glad to have read this today.

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  6. SBTB -- I don't know if there's any shame in it for me. Just a mild discomfort.

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  7. I can relate to pretty much all of this, but in stead of the back problems I worked shifts and gradually people stopped asking if I was out that weekend. I am still trying to find the balance in my life and maybe find that relationship I would love as part of my life, a work in progress just hope it is not too late for this old dog :)

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  8. Si -- ugh... shift work is hard. And I don't think it's too late for you, especially b/c you're not an old dog :P

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  9. No not yet anyway I learn and I adapt, there is always hope, I dont do shift work anymore but it broke the links with many friends and relationships by the time I returned to civilization everyone had moved on.

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  10. Si -- I think one of the hardest lessons to learn in my life is that it's okay that some friendships outgrow the people.

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  11. Indeed and those that stand the test of time are very special :)

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  12. Wow, I actually read the book you linked re: "alone"... I read it when I was told Jon Ames had a piece in there who I have read.... anyhow question that is raised reading this post and as well having read others here before; you seem to have a good understanding of who you are, why you are alone either for reasons of your own or those of others; understanding this as it seems you do what keeps you from using that knowledge to go out there and pursue changing your lonliness into what it is you desire in a relationship?

    Ok, that may be to direct of a question. Feel free not to answer, delete, e-slap me; it is what popped to mind so I threw it out there. I am not an expert on the topic of relationships, and wish I could help but fear I have nothing to offer but blunt questions.

    Uh, by the way - U rock!

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  13. Hey, I came across your blog because I am on a weight loss journey to wear a bridesmaid dress myself. :)

    I will be following you and look forward to getting to know you through the wonderful world of blogging. :)

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  14. I can totally relate to you on this one. But sometimes being one with ourselves is a good thing. You have intense self awareness! And that is not a bad thing. When you least expect it, love will come knocking on your door! Chin up & keep taking the world by the horns!

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<3 Robby