There are times when I just can't walk fast enough. As though the pace of my gait will actually push me through the rough times just a little bit more quickly. But the buildings windows throw my reflection back at me and cold moments sometimes come to light.
I thought of a day when I had first moved to this new town. I had been ill for a while and had not attempted to connect with loved ones for some time. I felt alone. Old and tired, weathered by life and illness. I had a very superficial thought that perhaps if I spent a little money on myself I might feel better. What I really needed was some conversation. A flutter of inspiration in the form of a caffeine induced philosophy session with a respected acquaintance or friend. But there were no friends to be found.
I entered the tiny nail salon just before their closing time. Jenny, one of the three pretty young Asian manicurists offered to do my nails. As she was buffing and clipping, the smell of acrylic in my nose, I took a moment to notice my surroundings. There was one other customer. She was having her toenails painted. She looked sad. I thought for a moment I saw something in her eyes. Perhaps she was feeling the same sense of emptiness. Maybe she walked into that salon out of desperation hoping to find a human to talk to and willing to pay for them for their time.
The salon was showing a movie on a small T.V. I only saw the middle portion. It was called "Under the Tuscan Sun" I think. I smiled at the other customer and she asked me if I had seen the movie before. She told me a little about the story and I mentioned a book that I had read that sounded similar called "Eat, Pray, Love" by Elizabeth Gilbert. I was somewhat over excited by this small dose of human interaction. She told me about her pet horses and that she had her own business.
I started to perk up. I could do this. I could put myself out there and meet people. I could make friends. Social anxiety be damned! By the time my nails were done she was asking me for my number. She said we should get coffee sometime. I couldn't help smiling. I walked a little prouder, stood a little taller. It is amazing what social creatures we humans are. And yet...It is always so complicated, trying to find people we can relate to.
I started to imagine her as my friend. Making lunch together at her place and going for a ride on her horses. I haven't been on a horse since 3rd grade. I stopped at the grocery store on my way home. I picked up two whole meals worth of food. I had been cooking for just myself and eating mostly frozen pre-mades. I thought I might invite my new "friend" for dinner the next day. Maybe we could actually watch the movie we talked through in the nail salon. I would even remember to loan her the book I told her about.
But perhaps I was being too eager. Making something out of nothing. I didn't get her number. She probably wouldn't ever remember to call that over friendly awkward woman she met while sprucing up her toes. A few big exhales and a box of cookies later and I had almost put the whole excitement out of my head.
And then the next day:
I had gone through so many different emotions the night before. Starting out feeling so lonely, finding the hope of making a friend and then dashing my own hopes out of the fear that they might not come true. But, she called me! She wanted to meet for coffee!
We met up at a local coffee shop, an independently owned small business I had found a few months prior and really like the atmosphere in. I arrived 20 minutes before we were supposed to meet up so I could reread a little of Eat, Pray, Love. I wanted to be able to talk to her about it after she had completed it.
She arrived about 10 minutes late. I had started thinking she was going to flake out about 1 minute after our meet up time and my mood had dropped again. She walked in the front doors and immediately saw me. I was on the sofa I had reserved for the two of us in the far corner where the light wasn't quite as harsh. After dropping a load of books on the coffee table she announced that she had already picked up some coffee on her way to meet me but she would wait while I got myself some. Hmmm...
When I returned to our little sofa area she had several items laid out on the table. At first I thought maybe she had brought some books to loan me too but quickly learned otherwise. The first words out of her mouth as I begin to sip my hot chocolate were..."Gina, I invited you here today to talk to you about a unique business opportunity..."
If you're still reading this, you have by now gotten the gist of how lonely and empty I had been feeling at this time in my life. How excited I was about this new friendship and all the possibilities it might hold. Take a moment to imagine how embarrassed and ashamed I felt when I realized what was really going on. She was a network marketer with a pyramid scheme. She saw me in that nail salon the previous day and thought she saw some potential dollar signs. $$$
My heart sank. I felt like a fool. I listened to her entire speech about her cure everything juice and how I could become a distributor for her company and find people to work under me. How I wouldn't even have to sell the health juice at all, I would make all my money from people signing up to be distributors. Money, yeah, like the money she was hoping to make off me. She even went in for the close/kill.
"Okay, Gina... Are you ready to take your income earning potential to the next level? Write me a check right now, this moment and you will be taking the first step to a new life..."
Deep Breath. I wonder how many sales people there are in hell? Hey, I am just wondering.
I smiled, told her I was happy with my current business (lie) and handed her the book I had promised to loan her before making my escape.
Oddly, I wasn't as depressed after this as you might assume. Instead I was angry. I took the whole experience and pressed it tight. I formed it into a brick that I had every intention of using to continue the wall around my emotions.
Luckily, things didn't end up as badly as they felt like they were going those first few months in this new town. But on lonely nights, when I am walking to push back the worries, I remember moments like this one. I believe it is important to work through our pain. To connect with each other and to learn from our mistakes. We may make new mistakes or even the same ones more than once but we must press on.
Please share one of your experiences with loneliness here in the comments. If you were able to resolve the issue tell us how or what you learned. If you are stuck in a bad situation, tell us about it, someone reading this might have just what you need to hear.
In parting, take an enormous breath in, let it fill you to your toes... Hold it in, 1...2....3...4...5...6...7...8...9...10. Very slowly let it out, shaking your hands and fingers at the end. Repeat this a few more times.
You are where you are because of the choices you have made.Want a different life, make different choices. Good decisions feel good when you think about them and great when you make them. If your stuck, ask for help.