Engulfing Loneliness

What is lonely? Is it a feeling? A state of mind? A physical lack of others?
Of course everyone feels it differently.  Not everyone even realizes they are lonely until they look back and reflect on the moments of their life.

This recently happened to me as I walked around the campus of my alma mater, some 21 plus years later.  I was physically without my family or friends and, for the most part, chose to take this trip alone.  Wasting time until the school store opened, I walked around noticing the many changes and the foundations that remain the same.  The "kids" that trudged along with backpacks and Starbucks cups are just slightly older than my oldest son.  I sat and absorbed the energy of the youth, feeling so old but yet, feeling as if I had just left that campus yesterday.

Reflecting back when I was in my early 20's, working 40 hours a week, taking a load of classes and trying to be so grown up, I missed a lot of what is truly college life.  Sure, I went out, drank a little, skipped a few classes, but generally speaking, I was hard core "adulting." My boyfriend, now my husband, did not care to go out, but, at the time, it did not bother me.  I worked so hard normally, that it did not dawn on me that I was missing valuable time as "a college student" to just be around a bunch of crazy people my age, who knew nothing about what the world held after graduation.  

After he graduated, he moved back home, which is my home town too.  I spent so many Fridays and Sundays driving back and forth.  I never got to really rest and relax.  When I was at school, he was always so jealous, that I found myself walking a very thin line.  (When I say found myself, that was just a few days ago...) 

As I walked around that campus, I realized that this is exactly how I walked around campus all those years ago.  Alone, for the most part, engulfed by 26,000 other students.  Being focused.  Being good.  Being an adult.  I rarely cut loose and let my guard down to relax.  

Now, to be honest, I had a relationship prior to my husband, that was very controlling and manipulative.  I did not see it until many years later as truths seeped out of friends and family as I attempted to heal from a high school romance that I thought would be forever.  So I was a bit habituated into pleasing others and not really taking myself into consideration.  (I do this still way more than I should.) Now I am not blaming anyone, but I am stating some cold, hard facts that I follow my heart and do not allow my head to enter the equation as much as it should. 

So here I am, walking around campus, and it hits me.  I have been lonely a very long time. No seriously!!!  A VERY LONG TIME!!!

I believe it started in 9th grade when my best friend and I let our friendship be ripped apart by a guy. (DUMB, I KNOW!)  I isolated myself because I never wanted to hurt another friend like that again.  I did not want to worry about another girl in high school being angry with me because of a boy.  And we know how vicious girls, and women, can be over a boy or man.  I threw myself into school, cheerleading, and outside activities to avoid being close to others, but especially girl friends.  I threw myself into a relationship or two, that I felt safe being a part of.  Later, I filled my time more, with a job.  I found this pattern still exists today. I avoid the loneliness by making myself busy and busier.

During the high school romance, I became more isolated and just hung out with this older boy and his friends.  I did not have good, true friends, that I hung out with on a regular basis.  Just him and the guys he chose as friends.  Like I stated above, I did not see it or realize it at the time.  He was truly in control of me, the friends I hung out with, the places we went, and many more decisions, including the college I chose ti attend right out of high school. (I'd like to shake that girl, now!) 

After a heart wrenching breakup, I thought I was going to die.  LONELY ripped my very being apart. I flailed around aimlessly for months.  I did almost every destructive thing a girl could do.  I truly felt alone during this time of my life.  He had chosen our friends, our routines, our hangouts for so long.  I had no where to go that was not about him.  I had no friends, because the people I thought were my friends, were truly just his friends. YEA... Lonely...Manic and Devastated.

When I met my husband (again... we went to school together 8th-12th grades), he filled a void in me.  He listened and cared and helped me get my act a little better together and get back into college, where I originally wanted to go.  It just happened that he was already there.  Once I was there with him, he became my life outside of school and work.  I did not think to drag him out, make new friends and really enjoy college life.  I thought I was doing everything right and I did not want to disappoint anyone, especially my parents or him.  (Disappointment is a whole other post) 

He graduated 2 years before I did, because I had taken several detours before I found my way back.  He got a decent job in our hometown.  He would get off of work at 5pm.  I would get off of work at 10-11pm and drive home four hours to see him for the weekend and drive back late Sunday evening and get up Monday morning and start all over again.  Eight hours a weekend, at least, in a car alone.  Yea, that hit me not so very long ago.  Those were some lonely times.

After work, mostly, I would go straight to my apartment and study then get up at 6:30 am and back at it again.  Isolated from campus, in an apartment, it was harder to meet people too.  And the few guys that lived in the apartment below me,  he was so jealous of them too.  I kept a safe and friendly distance.  Did I realize this at the time?  If I did, I rationalized my way out of it.  But looking back, I was very lonely in college.

So fast forward to marriage and kids.  Life gets busy and crazy.  When the kids were younger, I had a tribe of friends that all shared the same story as new mom and need for adult time.  These women were my rock!  Hardly a day would go by that we did not get together.  Slowly, life shifts again and most have moved away to different towns and made new friends.  Chaotic with kids, sports, work, etc., I remained here in my hometown.  The women that were once in my everyday life, are now hours away and we share a few phone calls or texts a year.  Guess what?  I am so lonely without them!  I miss them so much!  I miss the bonds we shared, the girls nights out, the complaints and laughter.  I have not have such an amazing group of friends since.  I am lonely once again.  

Now do not get me wrong... I have loved my life for the greater part and I am unbelievably blessed with incredible children and a great family.  By stating the lonely, I am not diminishing any of the good. (The good are many more posts, just not today)

As our children grew, my husband worked hard to provide.  He took his golf trips twice a year and traveled often with work. (He still does) We started not connecting as much.  He is running in one door and out the other.  I am a stay at home mom with three beautiful, but demanding children.  I started to become lonely, even more so.  When the purest and most intimate connection you have ever made begins to crack, it is very lonely.  He was busy.  I was busy.  He travelled, Hawaii, Vegas, Chicago, New York, Russia, etc.  I stayed home.  Once again, it felt like I had few choices and no control.  Everyday and everything revolved around my kids because he was not here to help.  I grew sad and depressed.  I look back at pictures during this time and I see the dimness in my eyes and the attempts at a smile.  Still, he went on with his life and his routine.  I grew lonelier.

So walking around that campus, all I could think was, damn, I have been lonely such a very long time.  How did I let all this happen?  Do others feel this way?  Does anyone see the lonely in my face, hear it is my dulled laughter, read it into my texts and words?  Is everyone this lonely?  How did I get here.  How did I let others determine who I am and what I should do?  Have I just given up somewhere along the way?  Do I deserve this empty loneliness?  If I screamed from the rooftops how sad and lonely I am, would anyone hear or listen or care? Is that what it is all about?  Is there some good in lonely?  Am I destined to be a shell of a person, who constructs the smile to get through societal expectations?  I do not know, but it was an absolute heaviness that overtook me as I stood there in the midst of all that brickyard.  A hundred people walked around me and I felt encased in a vat of loneliness.  

As I drove that four hours home, I tried every way I could to distract myself from all these thoughts.  Music blared and my mind swirled.  I am lonely, physically, emotionally and mentally and I feel empty.  I have carried this abyss with me for a long time, sometimes it is shallow and sometimes it is bottomless.  I am sad that I am in my mid forties, surrounded daily with incredible people and I feel completely alone.  Yea, that is so very heavy...AND LONELY.


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