Loneliness and the Search for Belonging

A friend posted this on her Facebook last night:

Loneliness

I really identified with it, which made me want to write about it, since that is how I process and communicate best. Talk about “raw”, this post is going to be raw. Bear with me while I work it out, and then speak up and tell me what you think.

I am lonely. Which is strange, because I am always surrounded by people. Small, not-quite-grown people mostly, but people.

I know that human interaction does not quite fill that loneliness, no matter how hard I try, and it never will. Christ alone will completely fill that hole. But I still want the human interaction.

Sometimes I feel too alien to even try. So I pull back, turn inward, and draw away. I feel like there is a black hole inside my chest that is sucking me in, turning me inside out, but that’s okay, it can’t make me weirder than I am now, being inside out.

I look around at most of the people I know and I just feel that I am never going to “fit in” with them. That sounds like I am feeling sorry for myself when I say it, but I don’t mean it that way. I’m not going to sulk about it. I just want to know where my tribe is hiding.

I welcome any friendship. But I’d like to be with a group of people where I don’t feel like the elephant in a room full of swans, or the peacock in a room full of doves. I feel like I am always speaking a slightly different language, never quite getting the vernacular.

In my little corner of the world, I feel strange, only understood by a few, and (mostly) kindly tolerated and endured by the rest but not really belonging anywhere.

Now please hear me: it’s not that I think people don’t like me. This is not a “nobody likes me; everybody hates me” kind of situation. I think I’m fairly well liked. In a distant, “she’s nice but she’s not everyone’s cup of tea kind of way”. And I have learned to embrace that. I’m NOT everyone’s cup of tea. What I want to know is where in the world ARE my people?

I just want to belong to a whole bunch of people. I want to hang out with them and work things out with them and struggle with them and learn with them and just plain “life” with them.

In my mind this looks like our kids playing together while we visit, and sharing coffee and lunch. It looks like family dinners together, loud and silly, but full of friendship and camaraderie. It looks like planning homeschool fieldtrips together, even though we know it’ll be mayhem. It looks like companionable silences watching our children. It looks like not always agreeing, but always working on it, extending grace, loving anyway. It looks like inviting each other over without cleaning, helping each other without having to be asked, and being involved enough in each other’s lives to know how to do so.

I must pause here to say that I have had a taste of this. There are several people in my life with whom I have worked on developing this type of relationship. The problem is that they are either too geographically distant to make most of this a reality, or they are too busy with their own extended family to become very involved with a whole other group of people. Both of these are understandable. I don’t have a large family though, and I don’t think my family is moving any time soon. So, here we are, my family and I. Still “without a place in people’s lives; still not belonging anywhere”.

I do wonder sometimes if this has to do with my geographical location. There does seem to be many large families in this area. In fact, the joke is that everyone is related to someone here. This isn’t true for my husband and I, as we are both “implants”.

I also wonder if it has to do with my relatively unique upbringing, particularly my teen years. (I will blog about that someday, as obviously where I came from contributes to who I am, and I would share that with you all.) Maybe that is why I always feel slightly offbeat from most other people, as I was describing before.

Also, (because of that unique childhood), I struggled for years with a fear of rejection. I didn’t even know it until a friend pointed it out. I didn’t like to hear it, but once I thought about it and prayed about it, I knew it to be true. I hid myself, and always withdrew before I could be rejected. I still have those feeling pop up from time to time. However, for at least the past three years, I don’t feel like I have allowed this to limit my social life.

But, whatever the cause, I feel isolated, lonely and “unplugged”. Both my husband and I feel this way, actually. We would love to be immersed in community, in our tribe and village. We just have to figure out how and where!

So now, friends, I turn this over to you. What do YOU look for in a “social life”? Do you think what I have described is possible outside of an extended family? Do you feel a sense of belonging where you are? I would love to hear your thoughts on this!

What do you think?