Look people in the eye like you are trying to see all the way into their soul, all the while knowing that you might never be able to go past the walls they surround themselves with to protect their wounds.
Listen to people intently, all the while being aware that they might still be telling you only what they think you want to hear, or what is “ok to say.”
Reach out to people in the very moment you think of them and realize that, with your best intentions, it might not make an ounce of a difference because they’re lost in their loneliness.
tWitch and Matthew Perry have been on my mind this week. Reading Matthew’s memoir and hearing of tWitch’s passing reminded me of the fact that there is a pandemic, still very much in full swing, one that so few acknowledge and even fewer are willing to dig into (whether in them or in others) – deep, relentless loneliness.
My mind flew back over a decade ago, to the very last phone call my late brother Alex and I had. I was in the middle of a messy divorce and he was working in another country, trying to run away from himself, from heroin and from failure. He asked how I was, I said I was feeling anxious, that I felt a bit alone in all the struggle and his answered was piercing: “Tell me about it, I invented loneliness.” Almost eleven years later I remember where I was in my parents’ house when I was talking to him, the way his voice sounded, him trying to seem cheerful and encouraging while bottling up his demons, the latter still slipping through enough to offer me a glimpse into his hell.
We are entering a VERY tough time in the year. Don’t be fooled by the idea that there are twinkles everywhere – the darkness we carry gets so much worse when everything around us lets us know we are different, inadequate. There is so much pressure this time of year to be happy, to be joyful, to show it, to make others happy, to be with others regardless of the fact that loneliness hurts so much more in the middle of a crowd.
I don’t have words of wisdom. All I want to say is that one of my deepest regrets is not stopping in the middle of my conversation with Alex to say “hey, what do you mean you invented loneliness, what is going on?” He might have not answered, the darkness we carry is hard to reach by others and sometimes even by ourselves. But what if he had?
I wish for all of us to have the power to be kind! Everyone, EVERYONE, we meet is fighting a tough battle. And sometimes people are so hurt or so alone that the only way they know how to build fences around their painful wounds is anger and judgment. And darkness is scary when we sense it in the other. Still, try to be kind. Even if that means not responding with the same anger and judgment. Tis the season …
Photo by Peter Oswald on Unsplash
Thank you for this coverage of what it means to be lonely, even within a family or a crowd.