On Being Alone

A secret: this is what all my posts are actually about. Cleaning your space? Writing and making stuff? All ways to be okay with being alone. That’s why they’re here on the weird kids’ blog. I welcome the weird kids who feel accepted and have many friends, but I’m really talking to the ones who don’t.

Not a secret: I am alone. I have one friend, whom I can never see irl because neither of us knows how to drive, and my husband. I’m not going to list the friends and family I don’t have or that I’m not close to, because it would just be a long list of complaints.

But note: I am alone, but I am not always lonely.

I have reasons for being alone: I grew up geographically isolated; I never learned to drive; I never kept a job more than a couple of years; I didn’t have money for college; and if I ever had had a social life it would have been interrupted by my diabetes, and now by this fatigue thing. 

And I just don’t get along with most people. It honestly is because I’m weird; I’m not actually mean, my intentions are good. I literally just don’t know what words to say in a conversation. I’m one of those “I hate small talk” people, but like most skills I hate doing it because I suck at it. I’m working on that, but without a job there’s no one to practice on. I’m also faceblind, which people… don’t respond well to.

So that’s me. You might have similar reasons for being alone. Maybe your family actually sucks in a way mine doesn’t. Maybe you were kept from interacting with people at a job or at school because you have a disability, physical or mental. Maybe you never had someone to introduce you to a group, and you never found your way in. Maybe you want online friends, but you’ve never been able to game the algorithm to get followers.

Whatever it is, I’m making this blog to help you and me be okay with it.

This isn’t about Loneliness

Loneliness is one of the most painful things there is. But you can feel lonely in a crowd, you can feel lonely while talking to your actual spouse. Loneliness is not the same thing as being alone.

I’m also not going to talk about solitude, because that implies a certain spiritual or academic use for being alone. You seek out solitude intentionally. Also it implies quiet and distance from other people, which you don’t have to have. So solitude is nice, but I’m not going to tell you it’s okay to be alone because you actually have it and you should actually be enjoying it. Not correct.

I’m also absolutely not going to start telling you how to go out and make friends and get less alone. You don’t have to! It’s okay to be alone and it’s okay to be okay with it. I’m focusing on that. 

There are times where I will tell you where to find people, but that’s a matter of finding “your people”. Groups to work with and ways to make the world better. 

And I will give tips on interacting with people, because when you’re alone for a long time your talking muscles get atrophied. I’ve learned a lot from being awkward and I want to share it sometime. If the stuff I’ve learned helps you too, cool. That stuff is for other posts, though.

Being Okay Part One: Being Better

Have you read the Ted Chiang story, “Exhalation“? The striking image from this story that I want to talk about is the robot who learns to open up the back of his own head and tinker around. You can do that too (at the moment, only metaphorically).

You can rebuild yourself. While you’re alone, you have the opportunity to make yourself better, cooler, more skilled, anything you want. You can do this for yourself, for your own personal satisfaction; or you can make yourself awesome for when your future friends/found family/tribe show up. If you’re spiritual, you can work on raising your vibration and thereby raise the spiritual consciousness of the whole planet.

You probably know what I’m going to say here: use the time to Make Stuff! Get really good at art. Who can stop you? It can be whatever art you want: drawing, writing, the art of conversation, the art of behavioral psychology, piano, Seidr work, anything. There’s time now!

Learn to focus on your pursuits instead of the fact of being alone. You just don’t have to think about it.

There’s also a secondary benefit: All that cool stuff you’re making? That’s content, baby! Post your cool thing online! And don’t even worry about whether you think it’s cool or not. Hundreds of times I have seen someone post or publish something and say “Eh, I don’t think much of this,” and then it’s their most popular thing. We’ll call it the “Creep” effect. You just don’t get to know beforehand what people will like.

Tertiary benefit: People like and share the cool thing you made, and then maybe someone talks to you about it, and ta-da, you have a new internet friend. Shocked emoji. And you have all these new skills and interests to make conversation about. Oh my god–you’re cool.

Need some ideas for a skill to focus on? I know you can come up with a list based on yourself and what you already like. For me, I read, take walks (and get to know the area I live in intimately, down to learning where specific plants grow), knit and crochet and weave and try to sell the end products, and now I guess I write, too.

Being Okay Part 2: Not Being Okay

You’re a complete person with everything you need inside you. But you’re also stuck in a body that evolved in groups, and sometimes you miss them. Sometimes you need help with stuff, like reaching the top shelf, and you just need a person around.

Sometimes being alone sucks!

And it’s okay to say that out loud. You can say it to a person, if you have one around. Just one, I’m not saying you have to have a bunch of friends for this. You can also say it out loud in art. 

Make a zine about all the times you wanted someone nearby. Make a sculpture of yourself with a missing piece. Knit a sweater for two people and do a performance art piece where you wear it alone and look sad in public.

And then refer to Part One. 

Make the cool stuff. Focus on the making. And then share it.

You get all the benefits I already listed, and also when you name a feeling it becomes less powerful. You don’t have to drown in loneliness anymore. You can have the upper hand. You’ve named and externalised the feeling, and at the same time accepted it as part of yourself. Now you can move on to a different, perhaps nicer feeling.

Being Okay Part 3: What to Do When You’re Really Not Okay

Being alone can cause depression. It affects the actual structure of your brain and the actions of your hormones and neurotransmitters. All the art in the world can’t completely stop those effects. And depression, as you know, can cause being alone. You self-isolate for any number of symptomatic reasons.

So you need to know how to be okay when your brain goes kerplooey. I’m going to tell you the normal tips for coping with depression, and you’re going to roll your eyes, but they do help. They do not make you non-depressed–they’re not a cure. They help you cope. (Also: I am not a medical or psychiatric professional and my advice does not override that of medical professionals. I am not a doctor and I am not your doctor.)

Here we go, the song you know:

Go outside. Sunlight is good for you. Even if it’s winter. Don’t fall for the fallacy of “If I can’t do everything, I might as well not do anything.”

Talk to someone. Even if it’s a hotline. Even if it’s over text: If you’re in a really bad mental space, text “start” (or any other word) to 741741 and someone will be there to talk to you. But you can also try talking to someone who isn’t a crisis volunteer. Find your acquaintance who is most likely to listen to you, and give it a try. Tell them how you feel. You might find that they care more than you expect. And if they don’t, screw ‘em, try someone else.

Exercise. Or, I should say, literally move your body at all. You don’t have to go straight to HIIT or have some complex program of “this body part on that day.” You don’t even have to get out of bed, especially if that would just make it all worse–like if you have POTS or another problem with standing. Lay there and wiggle to some music, wave your arms and legs around, or do some bed exercises. If you are okay with getting up, stand in the middle of your room, put some good music on, and just try to resist shaking it. Do it for like ten minutes every day. The end. If you like standing up and leaving your house, take a walk. Just along the road. Be safe.

If you’ve been prescribed meds for your moods, take them. And stay in contact with your doctor. If your loneliness is hitting a lot harder than usual, then you need to talk to them.

In Conclusion,

Being alone is a land of contrasts. The big fact here is that you are a complete person on your own. You don’t need anyone around for you to be “good.” Some things are easier if you have people around, and belonging to a group is one of the most pleasant feelings you can have. But guess what? You already belong. In the universe, on the planet, in Indra’s net, in All That Is. No distance from people can sever your connection to us.

What do you focus on? Do you have any further thoughts for other lonely people? Do you have “Eleanor Rigby” stuck in your head now? Sorry. But hey, talk to me! Heck, talk to me anyway–it’s not like I’m talking to a bunch of other people!

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