Close up Hands Tea x

Sit a bit and hear some observational stories I’ve been steeping.

Look at all the lonely people.

Eleanor Rigby — a rather jaunty little tune about loneliness that questions where the lonely people come from and where they all belong.  Growing up and listening to the song, my heart was confused.  The melody gave rise to my spirits while the words made me terribly sad.  It was a weird emotion for a little kid to have to go through.  I’d sit with the image of poor Miss Rigby, all dressed and waiting for someone who never showed up and Father McKenzie, toiling over sermons and socks with holes and ultimately never connecting with anyone either.  Heartbreaking information to process before one made her way to elementary school.

facebook logo sideways copyEven as a child, I felt that the answer to both questions asked, “Where do they all come from?” and “Where do they all belong?” was the same: Everywhere.  For me, the unasked, and perhaps more important, question was not the where, but the why.  “Why are they lonely?”  I understood early on that a lot of people could be alone and not feel lonely, but others would feel lonely even if they were in a crowd.

Turns out, loneliness has become a bigger problem since I was a frowning little kid who pondered the lyrics of a two minute E minor ditty from an album released when I was just a toddler.

Noted psychologist and social theorist Professor Ashis Nandy says “Globally, modern urban living has become more and more individualistic and loneliness is a by-product of it… the concept of extended family has weakened and our circle of friends has narrowed.”  Today the answer might be that the lonely come from a world filled with the internet and automation and that they belong out amongst other people in the world, away from their computers, laptops and smartphones.

Still, a bigger problem with folks who are lonely today is… oversharing on social media. A new study out of South Wales, Australia finds that oversharing on Facebook is actually a sign of loneliness and that 98% of the lonely “tend to share more about subjects like religion and politics” and that they often share personal information online like relationship status and their address.  In fact, over-dependence on social media can actually lead to what some doctors are now calling “Facebook Depression.”

Now, even though I mentioned getting away from the computer, laptop and smartphone, I do want to say that I believe they can be wonderful tools to connect and communicate.  I often tell people that social media is a way for me to “have tea or talk over the fence” with people I wouldn’t ordinarily see on a day-to-day basis and I absolutely love that.  You should know that researchers have found that social media doesn’t cause loneliness and can actually be good for those who are shy, since it provides a space to safely engage with others.  However, on the flip side — some people can feel intimidated by the constant pressure to “show your best self” and therefore do not post or engage as often, which makes them feel left out and lonely.

Experts say that people who feel lonely have to be proactive to alleviate their loneliness and employ at least three tools:

1)      Don’t isolate.

2)      Keep busy.

3)      Be kind to yourself.

Those three things can be difficult to do, especially if you’re feeling lonely, but starting with one can lead to action on all three counts.  You don’t even have to go in order.  In fact, address #1 & #2 and get away from the computer (not because it’s a bad thing, but because it can be isolating and feed boredom, the opposite of busy) and start with #3: Be kind to yourself.

Ask some people how they can be kind to themselves and they’ll often just stare at you, with no idea of what to do or how to begin.  PsychCentral.com gives some ideas on how to be kind to yourself, but I’m going to suggest you just start with three:

1)      Give yourself the bare essentials – nourishing with delicious food, drinking enough water, exercising and getting enough sleep. You can add things like fresh flowers for your table or a new book later.  After all, you deserve it, my friend.

2)      Say nice things to yourself – be positive, supportive and true. If you’re not comfortable saying things aloud, get a journal or post-it notes for your bathroom mirror. This is about you, so keep it private.

3)      Feel your feelings – don’t judge so harshly the things you feel. You’re allowed to feel honest feelings, but out of respect for others, you don’t always have to share.  If your boss acts like a dunderhead now and then, you’re allowed to close your eyes and roll them (nobody really needs to see that) and feel what you feel.  It’s okay.

Nobody likes to be lonely and I don’t really believe anybody likes seeing people who are lonely.  If Eleanor Rigby were a real person, I’d want to be her friend on Facebook and post encouraging things for her to read and engage her in conversations – even if only for virtual “tea time” on the internet.  I’d “like” her selfies (even tho’ I abhor that icky word) after she’d put on her face that she keeps in a jar by the door.  I’m who it’s for.  When Father McKenzie posted the words from his sermon, I’d comment and tell him how brilliant I thought it was.  I’d hear and I’d care.

Even though we might sit at home in front of a keyboard in solitude, we’d all be saved from the scourge of loneliness.  Everyone, everywhere.

xo – t.

“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

“What should young people do with their lives today? Many things, obviously. But the most daring thing is to create stable communities in which the terrible disease of loneliness can be cured.” – Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.

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