“First, are you really lonely?” He challenged me in the chat box, “You seem to have many friends with various roles in your life. A few of your relationships seem deeply satisfying.” He was right. “He,” is a friend as far back as middle school now reconnected on social media along with a whole community of others. He pushed further, “Does being an introvert make you lonely? The way you talk about your hobbies in general indicate to me they give you great joy.”
He was right – about all of it. In just that week alone, I had had a heart-to-heart with Susan, coffee with Allison, a deep conversation with Todd, received a sweet message from Matt, attended a show with Lindsay and Angela, was inspired to support my veteran friend Ed in a fundraiser, planned a fall excursion with my best friends Genelle and Traci, exchanged light-hearted bantering with Greg, and went off on vacation with my daughters to also spend quality time with my parents. This doesn’t even take into consideration the dozens of interactions in the week with co-workers I adore and my clients whom I endeavor to support.
How, despite having rich connections and joy-filled hobbies, do I experience loneliness? I suppose it is the same way I can experience jealousy when my girls have a brand-new experience at their dad’s house. Or I can feel fear when getting ready for bed while home alone after having watched a serial killer documentary. Our feelings aren’t always rationally related to truths.
Many facts can be true while simultaneously tangling up our heartstrings. I see it all the time in our work with spouses going through divorce. The fear of an unknown future forces rash decisions about parenting plan provisions or hurt from a disloyal spouse causes pettiness when dividing up personal belongings. “He is a jerk” but “he is the father of our children.” “She lied to me” and “She was committed to me in marriage for 17 years.” These can be facts while simultaneously evoking very different emotions. I can have fulfilling relationships and be lonely.
Herein lies the beauty of our humanness. We are complex and emotional. We can navigate with both logic and love. I see that it isn’t wrong or right. It just is. We closed out our chat boxes after sharing our feelings with appreciation and a new understanding of each other. In this act of meaningful engagement, neither of us felt lonely and I could feel with contentment that the dots had been connected.