I’m so glad you’re reading this. It can only mean one thing, that I had the courage to finish writing it.
It happened again. There I was in a group of people. There were all so nice and we had something in common. There was laughter and friendly chatter and I could not have felt more alone. Why does this keep happening to me?
I tried to fight it with everything I had. I answered questions, I nodded my head, and I even initiated conversations and attempted to tell funny stories. It worked pretty well for a while and then I got quiet. I recoiled back into my own world inside my head where I feel safest. At first I was applauding myself on the accomplished task of socializing. And then I saw the lady I had been talking to, turn to someone else and start a new conversation. Was it me or was there relief in her eyes that I’d stopped talking and acting awkward? I watched the two ladies talk with ease. I laughed on the side when they laughed as if I could relate, but honestly, I don’t even know what they were saying. I was lost inside my head again. Finally I just got up and went to the bathroom hoping to kill more time until we could leave.
I’ve been reflecting on the experience and wondering what why being in a group triggers feelings of loneliness inside me. I know some people that can’t stand to be alone because that is the setting where they feel the loneliest. For me, it is clearly the opposite. I prefer to be alone and it is the group experience that often unnerves me. It’s yet another way that I’m different than other people. Am I really the only one who feels this way?
I really didn’t want to keep writing about this feeling until last week. The universe always has a plan… I just happened to meet someone that said she feels this same way. She wasn’t commiserating with me. I had not shared my feelings with her. But I knew what she was going to say before the words ever came out of her mouth. She said, “There are all these people around me but it’s too much, it’s like the more people that are around me the more I feel…..lonely.” I mouthed it as she said it. I knew she would say it. It was like we were meant to meet. I also knew then I had to finish writing this blog entry for her, for all the others (there must be more), and for myself.
Knowing what I know about Erickson’s stages of psychosocial development and how our childhood experiences can greatly affect our adult life, I went digging. I dug into the childhood memories to see what came up for me and why I felt inadequate in a group of people. I landed on a birthday party of mine from my elementary years. I found myself right back in my back yard getting ready to play a game with all my friends around me when my older brothers showed up. In a matter of minutes all my friends were playing whatever game my brothers had instigated. I was standing there in front of everyone in broad daylight yet I had disappeared. Even on my special day to celebrate me, I wasn’t enough. I know in part it was this moment that changed things for me; one because I remember it so clearly, and two because my eyes well up and my heart hurts every time I recall it.
When I’m in a group of adults, the thoughts sound like this… “I won’t be interesting enough to keep them engaged, someone better is about to come along to entertain them, I’m inadequate.” So guess what I do. I disappear before I can be outshined. I may not get up and leave but I disappear inside my head where I am safe. I find lately, that people don’t sit near me when they have other choices. Actually, it’s been going on for years I’m just recently admitting it. They look my way and choose somewhere else where people are talking and perhaps looking a bit friendlier. I think I am sending off the signal that I am unavailable. In fact, I’m sure of it. I always believed in my head that I was making myself unavailable to be hurt but now I know I am making myself unavailable to connect. Human beings are hard wired to connect. In a sense I am going against nature to protect this little girl inside of me. Something has to give.
I have to believe that while I disappeared on that day, I have had every day since then to show up in the game of life and it is now a choice for me to disappear with no one to blame except for myself. I can’t say I’m looking forward to the work ahead and that I’m not afraid to shush the voices that tell me I’m not enough, but I’m going to try. I want to feel merrier than I do right now.