Lonely in a Crowd

I spent most of the past three days alone, and I made an interesting discovery. It’s not being alone that makes me feel alone and lonely. It’s being with too many other people that makes me feel alone and lonely. Every grief upsurge I’ve had recently has come after spending too much time with people who don’t enrich my life. (I don’t mean you, of course!) So often when I am with others, I sit and listen. I can’t contribute anything to the conversation because they talk about things that have nothing to do with me or my life, nothing to do with anything but their own insular and insight-less agendas. So I sit. And listen. And slowly disappear.

ReadingA friend invited me to have Thanksgiving dinner with  her five-generation family, which was very nice, and I was invited to dinner and a movie Friday evening, but the rest of the time, I was alone. (Didn’t even have to see or hear my strange roommate because he’s gone for the week.) Yesterday I did nothing but read. Just lolled around with a book in one hand and fruit in the other, which made it a doubly fruitful day. Today was a repeat of yesterday, though I added a hike in the desert to round out my solitary festivities.

And I never once disappeared. Never had a single pang of loneliness.

As it turns out, this isn’t such a great discovery, this realization that other people make me feel lonely, because there’s not much I can do about it. Obviously, I can’t spend my life alone. (People need people. Isn’t that the general thrust of life, love, and happiness?) I suppose I could make an effort to talk more when I am in a crowd, maybe even try to steer the conversation to make it more about me, but if I had anything to contribute, I would already be commenting. The sad truth is, I have nothing to say. (Which is why I so seldom blog any more. No insights, no interesting observations, no emotional highs or lows to ponder makes for mighty boring reading.) Admittedly, most people have no problem talking when they have nothing to say, but I have never quite mastered the art of talking to no purpose. Pointless conversation seems . . . pointless.

Anyway, this is not the week to worry about such things. My belly dance class will be performing a couple of numbers in a dance program at the local college this coming weekend. I’ll be with people most of the time — dance classes in the morning, rehearsals in the afternoon or performances in the evening, so I’ll set this conundrum aside for another time and simply enjoy being part of this special event.

***

(Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.”)

4 Responses to “Lonely in a Crowd”

  1. J. Conrad Guest Says:

    There have been times in my life, Pat, when the loneliest I’ve felt has been in a crowd. Yes, people need people; but a large crowd oftentimes leaves us feeling needful. We need to connect with one other person.

    The grieving process is long and sometimes lonely; but it’s worth it. Heal, grow. Only when one becomes whole again can they share themselves with another.

  2. mickeyhoffman Says:

    One scene where I feel like I’m living on another planet is when people show me photos of their relatives, none of whom I have ever met. I’m not sure if disconnected is quite the same as feeling lonely, but I sure feel that. It doesn’t hit me the same as when people are chatting about TV shows or events I don’t care about because my interests are eccentric, but when people know they are talking about something I could not possibly have any knowledge of, that gets to me.

  3. Toni Says:

    Being alone is grand! It’s a great discovery to make and the promise of being alone makes being in a crowd much easier for me!

  4. Chuck and Heidi Thurston Says:

    I wish I could find the exact quote, but Einstein once said (a fairly accurate paraphrase): “No matter what higher power we subscribe to, it seems to me that our primary mission is….that we are here for each other.”


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