Reaching Out

I have spent a great deal of my life alone, dealing with stuff. I have been alone in court rooms, making police statements; before surgery and after. I have been alone in hospitals and clinics and in my room at home. Of course, being a writer is a solitary profession, and as a homeschooling mother, I have to organize social occasions and outings. There is something comforting about relying on yourself to give what both you and your child need, and yet it is frightening too! Big decisions are made by me. No back-up, just me. No pressure!

There is a low-grade depression which can bring forth ferocious social anxiety at times, making me wary of reaching out. I hadn’t seen a friend for many months, and had missed her greatly. I rebelled against my fear of being dismissed and walked into her work the other day. I was greeted with a big hug, not only from her, but also others I knew. It felt like a home-coming, and I realized how silly my fears were. I had felt as though I was stuck between worlds. One as a mum who travels widely in order for her daughter to see friends and attend classes, and then as a woman who feared she had lost connection to the community in her dear little town.

I see now that I can be both… I can hold onto both. I was afraid that I would be forgotten, left behind. Feeling brave, I texted other friends, and organized catch-ups. I have a list of treasured people I want to catch up with! The brain can tell us porkies as a way of protecting us, but one of the biggest fibs is that to retreat shall protect us. It won’t, we will just feel alone. I have been alone too much in my life, and it is time to reach out. Time to yourself can be reflective, a way of filling your cup. Socializing can too. It is about getting the balance right. Who do you need to make contact with?

The feeling of aloneness.

I have often been alone in life. Sometimes, through illness. A destructive home life made me feel extremely isolated. I felt different, and often very alone. I came to grips with this sense of emptiness when I was doing Correspondence school after my fall. I could go weeks without seeing anyone other than my parents. Doctors’ visits were a chance to have some human connection, as was church, when I was well enough. I learnt that solitude can provide an immense amount of joy; not requiring others to fill deep voids in one’s soul is a rare privilege. I could gather my thoughts, be my own cheer squad, and had no need for corroboration. I left home, started writing and creating works of art, and the same applied. I would sit with people for a short while, revelling in the pleasure of sharing experiences. I was interacting with folks for the joy of it, not because I needed their energy, or anything else. Then, I had a baby. A child changes everything. Who you are, and certainly how you see the world. She was such a sociable little girl, and at six, this has expanded beyond my wildest imaginings. Everyone in our town seems to know her. For a hermit, this has been confronting. To mingle with scores of people at playgroups, mothers groups and now school and the extracurricular activities this coerces… I find I am more vulnerable.

Without an extended family around, I need validation that I am a good mother, a good person. The others come to social situations with the backup of aunts and uncles, cousins and siblings, parents and grandparents. I come alone, as does my husband. This is a very different sort of aloneness, and carries a peculiar melancholic aftertaste. To feel alone in a group… To have nothing to contribute amidst many of the conversations about their families, pregnancies, etc… To feel like I am left out, have only one foot in the parenting world… To wake in horrific pain, take some pain relief, and smile whilst my spine goes into spasms. To wince when a mother chats to someone alongside me, but doesn’t include me. Parenthood can bring up many childhood insecurities, and that has surprised me. It can be so difficult, having to be out there for the sake of your precious child, when your soul just wants to shut the door to your home, and not come out. The dance of friendship and connection feels like dancing on a high-wire at times. So fraught, so tender. I knew nothing of the delight of connection before, of having somewhere to be, and commitments to attend to. To be granted a smile and a hug, to have friends ask how I am and listen for the response. To laugh at nonsense and nod our heads emphatically with the thrill of identifying that someone else has had an experience such as ours. This makes the terrifying daily encounters with others bearable. I must learn to wrap myself in warmth of an evening, and praise the little girl for not having given up on people, and on life. I thank my beautiful daughter for bringing me out of my home, and showing me the ease of which she mingles with people. There is hope for me. I must not lose myself by seeking validation from outside. It isn’t fair on others, nor on myself. The aloneness… Some of the particles that make up the cloud can’t be dissipated. I will always be alone in some respects, but I need never be lonely.