It had become the topic of a long-running joke and I knew it. People with whom I hadn’t spoken in a while had gradually stopped asking me if I had managed to move out of my parents’ house, because they would already know that I probably hadn’t:
The retrospectively optimistic sounding, “Ah well, perhaps by the time you’re thirty, though” comfort-sentence was adapted several times over the years until it basically became something along the lines of “hopefully by the time you’re reincarnated, though”.
I didn’t stay living at home with mum and dad through choice, it’s just that moving out was something that was beyond my financial reach for a very long time, especially given that I was buying on my own. And because I live in the South East of England, where even the old lady who lived in a shoe probably had to resign herself to a twenty grand deposit and a thirty seven and a half year mortgage for the benefit of cuddling up to a steel toe cap each night.
Everybody knows how expensive it is to buy a place. I consider myself extremely lucky to have been able to do so, and no matter how many sacrifices I have to now make to the amount of ‘fun’ I can have in order to keep myself fed and cleansed, I am so thankful to finally be here in my very own flat, where the cupboards are full of ingredients to create copious Thai curries, and the decor is dominated by my favourite shade of yellowy-green.
I have been single for an extremely long time and have never felt that bothered about it. In fact, I am generally quite apathetic about the idea of marriage and children, which is maybe why I have been single for so long. I genuinely enjoy my own company, and whilst I do, of course, also love being around friends and family, I am also a bit of a fiend for wanting regular access to personal space, and am not too ashamed to attend events alone if I want to go but nobody else is interested. I have always felt very lucky in this regard, and some of my favourite memories are ones in which I “went alone”.
Because of this, I didn’t think I’d have any issue at all with loneliness when I moved into my own place. Largely, it’s been as fun as I thought. I watch whatever I want to watch. I eat whatever I want. I don’t need to explain to anybody where I’m going or what I’m doing, and the truth is that by the time I come home from work I’m often so tired that I don’t think I’d be a great conversation maker anyway. It’s nice to be able to sit in silence without worrying about radiating tired or draining energy towards others. I’m terrible at concealing my feelings, and can’t feign enthusiasm if the reality is that I feel like a dusty old over-caffeinated broomstick who drastically needs a bath and a mug of Horlicks.
I hadn’t noticed any problems at all, until one day I realised how much more anxious I had been since moving. Combined with a job which whilst enjoyable also necessitates a great deal of time alone, I have been spending a lot more time in my own head and not around others, and am only just starting to pick up on the thought patterns and behaviours that this has influenced. When I’m at home alone, or driving around in the car, I overthink and ruminate about things a lot more than I used to. I see problems that probably don’t really exist anywhere else beyond within that mass of space between my ears, and then wonder if I’m being overly cynical, yet other times, I think I’m incredibly naive about a lot of people and things. And then I just get confused and don’t know what to think about what I think.
As soon as I’m back around people, those anxious thoughts vanish. It’s almost like putting on a pair of spectacles that enable me to read situations more clearly (to be fair I seldom wear my prescription glasses as I just feel that they make me look like Velma from Scooby Doo). I either conclude that my thoughts were irrational, or realise that even if they were true and the world really was about to end, I could probably get over it anyway. Perspective comes flooding back and reminds me of everything that I have spent many years encouraging others not to forget through this blog and other means – that the world is much bigger than your living room, pretty much most problems are only temporary, focus only on those you care about, and that even when times are hard, Frazzles exist to make it all better again.
I know all of those things and have often pride myself on being pretty emotionally aware in many regards (though this has not always been the case), but only since moving out have I really started to understand how much of an influence loneliness has on the way we feel. I haven’t always felt as strong as I thought I was. Living alone is different to traveling alone, attending a concert alone, or going for a walk alone. Living alone is having nobody who really understands or knows about everything you’re going through. You may have plenty of people you speak to about a lot of things, but there’s nobody that has understanding for absolutely everything that happens on a daily basis, nobody who just knows.
If I sound as though I’m feeling sorry for myself, then please be assured that I’m not trying to. I chose this way of living and I don’t regret it. I’ll happily take a few anxious thoughts every now and then if it means be able to watch retro episodes of Bruce’s Price is Right at breakfast-time, or listening to the same song on-loop for several hours, without causing anybody else any unwarranted distress.
I have always believed that the key to inner peace is knowing how to manage alone – emotionally, practically and financially – and so I see this latest challenge as nothing more than exactly that, a challenge, and a learning curve which will make me stronger. The anxious thoughts I’ve been experiencing recently may disappear as soon as I’m around other people, but I’d like to get myself into a position whereby I can work through them alone instead, from the convenience of my kitchen table rather than anywhere beyond.
I’m writing this post for several reasons; not just for a bit of helpful reflection of my own situation that may resonate with others who feel or have experienced the same, but largely to be open about loneliness as something which is widely known to cause a great deal of emotional difficulty to many people. As a society, we have become so much better at understanding mental health over the years, yet still many people suffer from the likes of anxiety and other issues to which over-thinking often contributes, and don’t voice it, for whatever reason. Perhaps they are afraid of what others might think, or they just don’t know that they can talk about it. If these people are lonely – be it because they live alone or they just feel alone – then it can be even harder to trace or help.
If you are feeling lonely and are finding that the internal thoughts, questions or worries are making too much noise within, then recognise that that noise is just a scream for release. Pick up your phone and either make a call or send a text to a friend or relatives to make arrangements to meet. Let the thoughts out and see how different they now look. Listen to another person’s perspective on them.
You are not really that lonely, and your worries aren’t really that bad. You just needed to talk.
Song of the Day: Proleter – Lullaby
Now this one has definitely been played on loop in my flat at least hundreds of times in recent weeks. It’s the sort of song that just makes everything seem hilarious if you have it stuck in your head. Which happens frequently.