Jul 9, 2017

A Dose of Loneliness Amidst the Crowd

Sometimes I just want to take a crowbar, firmly wedge myself into a group of best friends, and pretend like I had been there from the start. Does this happen to anyone else? Like I watch them from afar (thank you social media) and think to myself—Hey, I like that too. Or, Hey, that is something I love to do. Or HEY! We are just exactly the same, you and I. And in my case, it isn’t just a single group either. In fact, it is almost any group; any gathering of friends I am not part of. Every party, every event—Every. Freaking. Time. It always makes my heart hurt a little bit to be excluded. Then I feel silly, because I don’t even really know them! It is a vicious cycle I just can’t seem to quit. And why? Loneliness.

I pretty much have one best friend who has stuck with me through thick and thin over the years—and what a blessing she is. The friendship has lasted despite, or perhaps because of, the distance always between us. In looks, we couldn’t be more different. I am tall, and while not heavy, sturdily built with blonde hair, brown eyes, and skin that tans easily in summer. She is shorter and wisp thin with red hair, green eyes, and freckles. We actually met on the monkey bars, playing Olympic gymnasts, when I was about eight, and she was a year and a half younger. Over the years we never went to the same elementary school, the same junior high or high school, and for the most part, we didn’t go to the same college either. Across our entire educational career we literally had one class together. But we only lived about a block and a half apart and had so much in common we were as close as sisters.  

I had other friends in the neighborhood and friends on the swim team, but none of those really stuck beyond school. When college came and I felt like suddenly they all vanished. Back then I didn’t know anyone, and didn’t really have time to know anyone. I worked, went to school, went to the gym, slept and repeated the cycle. I still had my best friend most of the time, but we were getting busier and busier with life. Then I got married and moved—but not too far. Then she got married and moved—to Carolina. We were still best friends, but we hardly ever saw each other anymore.

And while I did find enough time to date and marry my husband in that time (thank goodness), there weren’t too many more people who stuck quite so tightly as him, my best friend, and my family. A lot of the friendships we made in our neighborhood were ebb and flow. We would spend a lot of time with people, thinking that this was finally it, but then they would move out or get busy with their jobs. Then we had our own kids. For some that makes building mommy friendships easier. For me it was even more difficult. I tried a few times to connect, and wedge myself into a group here and there. It just never worked out. You can’t force someone to be your friend. You must choose each other. And while there is something so beautiful and wonderful about that, it is also terrible.

Rewind to just over a year ago when we sold our home of 10 years to live in an apartment. We wanted to build a house better suited to our family desires, and I knew the apartment was temporary—a year at most. It felt like a waste trying to make any connections there. Why bother when we would be leaving in just one year? And it got harder and harder to stay in touch with my old friends. We never really spent that much time with each other, even when we were in the same neighborhood. And with the distance between us every visit had to be planned and scheduled. It felt like a job! As a result I just spent all that time with my family—not all a bad thing. I love them to pieces and they are so much more than just friends to me. But at the same time, they are stuck with me no matter what, just like I am stuck with them.

In this new neighborhood, I sort of feel like I have this blank slate, much like I did in college. Except this time I have room in my life to actually do something about it. And that completely stresses me out. I desperately want to make those deep connections again, but man I just know it will be a struggle for me. Will they like me? Will they want to spend time together? Will they make time? Will they choose me as much as I choose them? Will the friendship feel easy between us, like we had already been friends all this time? Can we just keep showing up in support of each other? I really, really hope so. Wish me luck!

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