Is a place that I know well
It's the distance between us
And the space inside ourselves
Is the chattering in your head
It's the call of the living
And the race from life to death
Woa and I know Yes and I know What you feel...
And I've got a longin'
That's hard to find
Won't give me no peace of mind
Something that I've lived with all along
Days and weeks and months and years
Filling in the time my dear
Tryin' to find the place where I belong
- Annie Lennox, "Loneliness"
I feel unbearably lonely lately.
Not the loneliness of being actually alone. I leave my house, I go to work, I make myself socialize. I have individual people I love, individual people who love me back. I am lucky in that sense. I am not alone.
I’m feeling the loneliness that stems from the lack of a community, I think. Or maybe my lack of close relationships just becomes more acute without at least a group of peers. Up until a few years ago I was mostly able to stave off these feelings because I at least marginally belonged to the artificially constructed community created by school. But in truth, I’ve never had a group of friends, and that’s something that bothers me more and more the older I get. I struggle with all interactions, but I especially do not know how to interact with groups. If I absolutely have to interact with more than one person at once, I’ll cling to the person I know the best and basically focus all of my attention on them. Most interactions in general leave me feeling lonelier than when I started, because I'm not making any kind of connection with the person or people in front of me.
I find this so difficult to explain, because when I do, people just reassure me that “everyone feels this way” before they rush off to have coffee with their group of friends or “catch up with their old gang” from high school. And for a long time, I assumed it was an autism thing, but the more I interact with other autistic folks, the more it seems like it’s just a me thing – even the most socially awkward of my friends on the spectrum have their gaming group, or their knitting group, or even just a group of online friends they have in jokes with. They have people they can be themselves around.
Lately this is eating at me for reasons I can’t quite explain. I burst into tears at tweens an actual third of my age (when did I get old enough to equal three times a tween???) hashtagging their squad goals, whatever the heck that means. I cannot watch a fucking yogurt commercial, where women in Lululemon pants laugh together about how great their digestion is going to be after all these probiotics, without teetering on a meltdown. It feels like I am missing some fundamental part of the human experience that is only closed off to me and that is just this casual, everyday, taken-for-granted thing for everyone else.
Again, none of this is technically new to me, even from when I was a little kid. I have always been weirdly close with my family while not actually feeling as though I am a part of my family, or like we are anything but a random assortment of people who happen all relate to one another. They are a bit like strangers I love very much. I am closest with my mom, and we talk almost daily, but I would still never dream of telling her an emotion I was experiencing about a personal matter.
Interpersonal relationships puzzle me on so many levels. The girl I consider my best friend is someone I’ve known since I was five, been close with since probably fifth or sixth grade, I’m an honourary Auntie to her amazing daughter… and we speak once, maybe twice a year. When we do talk, we talk almost entirely in a set of pop culture references that are really only funny to us. I love her to bits and I’d fight dragons for her if it ever came to that. But all this without any actual communication or feeling of connection.
I’ve been pushing myself to be more social lately, and I think that’s contributing to the lonely feelings. Every interaction just seems to drive home to me just how little I understand about having friends. Some of it is that I am trying really hard to be a somewhat social person – as much as my spoons will allow – and people seem to be excited to hear from me and see me when I make contact, but… I don’t think anyone has initiated contact and reached out to spend time with me in… well, years, actually.
People like me. That’s not the issue. I’m generally a likeable human, apart from being someone who talks WAY too much and always realizes they're coming up on a boundary shortly after sprinting/skidding across it. And it’s not a matter of not trying. I’ve pushed myself onto the fringe of many a social group and been more or less tolerated. In junior high, for about a year I went every day to lunch with this group of three girls. They were already a group of friends but they seemed okay with seeing me every day, and I was over the moon. I remember saying to them one day that I was excited to be part of their group, and they all kind of did this little side-eye thing before the nicest one said in her kindest voice: “well, I mean, you’re not really one of us”.
I think, what I want more than anything, is to be part of an “us”. It kills me that I don’t know how to do that. If they gave out points for trying, I’d be topping the leaderboard, believe me.
I don’t really have a clever or pithy way to end this post. Usually, when I write about something I’m facing, it’s a way of helping me to work out a solution. My best guess for a solution in this situation is that I need to just suck it up and accept that I’m not meant to belong in that way, but that feels like it’s going to leave me more depressed than I was when I started writing, so that won’t do.
Somewhere, deep in the dark recesses of the internet, there’s a still-existent website that hosts much of my wonderfully terrible teenage poetry, which, in true Katie fashion, runs the gamut from philosophical musings on Tigger from Winnie the Pooh to alarmingly angsty stuff that is thankfully not searchable by my name lest it be a red flag of psychological unwellness to my future employers. And while I know that “nobody understands me” is basically the battle cry of teenagers everywhere, it feels like everyone else either outgrew it or learned to hide it better than I have.
On a near-daily basis I ask my Daddy some variation on “am I yours?”; “will you keep me?; and “do I belong to you?” I know he wonders why it never seems to sink in that the answer is a resounding “yes”, but the thing is that I already know the answer – it just helps to keep hearing it. Belonging, to me, is an emotion as much as a state of being, and it’s one that’s always felt out of reach to me. For now, though, feeling for that one minute a day when I ask that question and get my answer that yes, I belong somewhere, to someone – there is at least one “us” to which I am an integral part - that’ll have to be enough.
With great love,