Saturday, July 13, 2013

Where do they all come from?

Leigh wrote an important series on finding community recently (first post here), inspired by her feelings of loneliness in Nashville.

I could second most of that first post, except for the part about having any friends in the first place--something my husband and I have long lamented (I think I've mentioned before that we're both shy introverts, so making friends is not exactly easy for us).

But Jennifer left a comment that made me stop and think about my own situation a bit more:
You mentioned that you wouldn't notice it as much if your calendar was more full, and that's just the thing. People don't know they are lonely cause they've made themselves so busy. But the deep ache for community doesn't diminish with a full schedule. I make a living (as a yoga teacher) of asking people to lay on the floor and just be present with themselves and their thoughts. I hear, time and time again from people that this agitates them. To which I lovingly reply, "no - it just forces you to see the agitation that is already there, that you have perfected the art of ignoring."
Well. The DDH and I have long semi-joked about how we don't have any friends we can do things with, but it's always been as much joke as problem. Lately, however, I've been realizing just how deeply lonely I really am.

Something has forced me to "see that agitation" that I had "perfected the art of ignoring," and I think I've figured out what.

As an introvert, I lose energy quickly when around other people. As an extreme introvert (100% I and 0% E on the MBTI), I lose energy extremely quickly, and it doesn't take many people to do it. Telephone calls tire me out.

The office where I worked was one big room where the three of us had our desks. The CEO had his own office but was in and out of ours (and we of his), and other people were always coming through--contractors, clients, the IT guy, the UPS men. Though it was a small office, with few people, there was no getting away from them.

I came home completely drained every day. My dealing-with-other-people energy bucket was bone dry by every evening. I usually got home an hour or two before the DDH, which gave me enough time (most days) to build up just enough energy to deal with him, and no more.

I was lonely, I had no friends--but I also had zero energy to deal with any if I had them. The fact that my interaction-with-others quota was being exceeded every day masked the loneliness.


Then I started staying home with T-Rex. Most days, the only person I see is the baby, with the DDH for a few hours in the evening and the occasional encounter with a cashier. While there are some days when T-Rex's demands still manage to drain me (even the dogs take their share from that energy bucket, I've discovered), my dealing-with-other-people energy bucket rarely runs dry anymore.

While I was working, I thought I had friends via the internet. See, introverts also hate small talk--it's a big waste of our limited energy stores. And you don't need to small talk the internet. You can read blogs and leave comments and discuss the sorts of deep issues you might get into over an evening coffee date with a good friend, without all the hi-how-are-yous-nice-weather-we're-having-isn't-its.

So with my energy bucket empty and my discussion bucket at least somewhat full, I thought I was doing okay.

At first while staying home I spent even more time on the internet, until finally I realized--these people weren't my friends. I read their words and I wrote mine in the comments, but I didn't really know them and they didn't really know me. You. I don't really know you, and you don't really know me, and as much as we might enjoy our conversations, I can't call any of you up for a picnic in the park or a baby-free evening at a coffee shop. (Which doesn't mean I don't enjoy reading and commenting. You know what I mean, I think.)

I stopped reading a lot of the blogs. Or I would read them, but not comment. It just seemed pointless. And now I'm to the point where I have dozens of people liking my cute pictures of T-Rex on Facebook, but no one who will come to my house for a dinner party, even when I offer to provide all the food. There's no one I can talk to about my frustrations or work out a problem with.


This week I learned that New Mexico does not reciprocate with any other states for bar passage. In other words, the only way the DDH could ever work there is if a) he got a federal law job (unlikely, but always possible. maybe.) or b) he takes the bar exam again, which at this point he has sworn he will never do (and he's really bad at standardized tests, so that's probably a good plan on his part).

In other words, we will never move back to my hometown. We will never live near my parents or the friends who live there, who are still friends, or would be, if we lived close and our lives could better include each other.

I don't really know what to do about it. I've tried for five years to make friends here, but the one I succeeded in making moved away last month. It's hopeless, I guess. As an INTJ who's not that into Feelings, I don't really know how I feel about that.

But I think it's sad. I think how I'm feeling is sad.


  1. Interesting thoughts, Katie. I love your energy-bucket metaphor. Perfect. And your explanation of why we introverts hate small talk? I'd never thought of it that way before. Bang on. That makes total sense, why internet friendships feel so satisfying sometimes. No small talk, just delicious deep talk. But I'm fortunate in that I ALSO have a decent number of real-life friends to balance that out.

    That sounds so hard, being far away from family and childhood friends. I am terrible at making friends, too; I'm so lucky that I still live in my home town, with BOTH sets of parents and cousins and childhood friends all around me. I don't have much in common with most of them, but at least we have our histories together. We can rely on one another to be there. I don't know what I'd do if I had to make new friends at this stage in life. Probably just spend more time on the internet, heh.

    This is somewhat off topic, but Lydia totally drains my energy bucket, now that she's older. She didn't so much while she was a baby, but now that she wants me to read her a million books every day and needs to be fed actual food and wants me to put new clothes on her doll every half hour, I get pretty exhausted. I long for some SOLITUDE every once in a dang while.

    Again, this has been a completely unhelpful comment; I just want to say that I feel for you. (As an INFJ, I have LOTS of feelings to spare for you. :) ) Loneliness is hard. I don't know where friends come from, either, because mine all come from my childhood.

    1. What's weird is that we live in DH's home town, but he doesn't have any childhood friends! So it's not like I can even co-opt some of them. I don't understand it, since if we lived in Albuquerque there are so many people whom we would see. At least since T-Rex was born we've been seeing my in-laws more often.

      I can see how a toddler would definitely drain the energy bucket. I know when I nannied a seven and three/four year old, I was absolutely exhausted by the time naptime came around.

      Oh well. I'm making efforts to get out and meet people. Thanks for the sympathy. :-)

  2. :-(.
    I think I know what you mean about internet friends not really being friends. I do remember you and I reading the other's posts and commenting often, and then I had a baby, and we could never just get together so the babies would be taken care of WHILE we could do life together...and it stinks. Because I met such a beautiful person in you and our friendship is limited to the time we are able to spend reading and writing online.
    That is a bummer, and I guess I'm just commiserating (and craving more reading and commenting again).

    1. I mean, I don't want to say internet friends are not real friends. I have met some wonderful people online, who I really do consider to be friends. But it's frustrating that I don't seem to find these same like-minded type people IRL.Because sometimes you want to go do something with somebody, and sometimes in person conversations are better.

      We both need to write more, I suppose. ;-) But that's hard to do with these adventurous boys getting into everything!

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