Am writing to say that I’m putting the blog on hiatus for a bit. I’ve enjoyed writing LonelyTheBook, and have especially enjoyed hearing from people all around the world. Right now, though, my attention is on responding to loneliness. This means I’m going to be creating a new blog. Whether that means an entirely new site, I’m not sure, but things will be changing.
I will be looking for interview subjects for the upcoming book, so please stay tuned, and if you see me post about something that captures your fancy–such as “religion” or “animals”–just get in touch.
I’ve been running this blog for over two years, and some of you (you know who you are) have been with me from the get-go. To you, I say thank you. In fact, as a way of thanking you, I am signing off with my all-time favourite quote about loneliness, ever. The smartest and most lovely and simply the best thing anyone has ever said about it. It’s from a poem by Franz Wright, and it reads:
Since you left me at eight I’ve been lonely / Star-far from the person right next to me.
“Star-far from the person right next to me.” Does it get any better than that, folks? How I wish I had written that! Here’s to the future–to changing the sense of being “star-far.” I look forward to our continued adventures.
OMG, just did a quick Google search of “loneliness” and “gay” and was horrified. All sorts of posts re homosexuality being the direct route to loneliness, heterosexuality as the cure…No! No! No! That is not what I meant, and I’m now concerned that some nutcase is going to cite me as an “authority” on being gay and lonely.
What I meant is this: I think there are some subtle links between loneliness and homosexuality, links I/we need to think about. Not one single lonely person (and I hear from a lot of lonely people) has ever contacted me to say, “You know what? I think I’m lonely because I’m gay.” No one talks like that. People do point to connections — place, faith, moving, bullying. I have never heard from a single person who has ever said, “Wow, I think I’ll cure my loneliness by becoming straight.” Life is way, way more complex than that.
Just needed to vent. I hope people click on my loneliness and homosexuality posts so that they emerge in the general listings and appear *before* the conversion pages.
Was flipping through the local gay paper this weekend and saw an obituary for a well-known gay organizer. The organizer had committed suicide; the obituary noted that depression had long been a problem.
Nothing in the article talked about loneliness, but the obit made me think about the emails I’ve received from gay people over the past two years. Many of these people have linked loneliness to sexual orientation. They’re not saying that they’re lonely because they’re gay. They are saying that being gay has made loneliness worse, or that they have a harder time finding friends or lovers, or that they’re still dealing with a hostile family or with the residue of childhood bullying.
I didn’t address homosexuality in Lonely, in large part because I didn’t see a connection between what I went through and the fact that I was gay. The vast majority of my interviewees were straight, and we were all talking about the same thing — feelings of disconnection, too much aloneness, etc.
But the obituary (combined with some of the notes I’ve received) has made me think that maybe I’ve missed something. I’m sure that loneliness will be more of a problem if you’re in the closet, because there will always be a gap between the self you’re showing and the self you really are. And one gay man I spoke to — who was very funny and smart — stressed that he was still hindered in some situations because he felt he had “backward” social skills — ie., he’d never learned to date or interact in an “ordinary” way when young. I’ve also heard from people who have had to chose between sexuality and religion, and I’ve heard of (though not from) people who have had to leave small towns in order to be fully out.
In these cases — parting with religion, or with a possibly well-loved place — I can see how sexual orientation might make your loneliness sky-rocket. Any other thoughts? This will probably be Part 1 on this issue, and I’m sure I’ll write more. Right now, I just wanted to put the idea out there. You see, usually I can generalize…I can say, “Well, if it involved loneliness and it happened to me, my observations probably hold for a lot of people.” But that obituary made me think I really missed something, that *my* experience of being gay (within a liberal family, in a big city) might in fact not be at all representative.
Thoughts welcome….more to follow….
One question I get a lot is: Have you read The Highly Sensitive Person? I haven’t, partly because I feel as though I don’t need to read it. I AM the highly sensitive person. (People say this to me about Lonely, too: “Oh, I could read your book but it’s already my life. What else is there to know?”)
I do plan to read HSP. In fact, it’s probably going to get worked into Book The Second, at least in a tangential way. Is there a link between loneliness and the HSP? Here I’m on shakey ground, and feel a bit silly, because I haven’t read the book. But so many people have stressed that there must be a connection.
Here’s what I do know. I’m super sensitive to noise, and to heat, and to light in the summer. I’m also probably a bit more sensitive to rejection than the average person, but these things are hard to judge, and my sensitivity probably varies from situation to situation. I’ve also found myself in situations where I haven’t felt sensitive at all–such as having some senior partner at a law firm scream at me, or blowing off bad reviews of my work (we won’t talk about *that* ELLE review).
Is there a link to loneliness? Some researchers argue that people who struggle with loneliness are more sensitive to rejection than other people, and that this fear of rejection can fuel the loneliness cycle — the more you fear rejection, the less likely you are to reach out, and the more lonely you become. But I also hear from people (all the time) who can only be decribed as incredibly tough: they can handle isolation, job losses, break ups…and still write to me with an awful lot of good humour. So maybe they’re *not* more sensitive than the next person.
Am going to stop there. Could keep analyzing this but am so TOTALLY exhausted right now from writing more or less non stop that I might just collapse. Was not going to blog today, but picked up an HSP comment (thank you) and it got me thinking. If you have thoughts, feel free to add them.
First, my apologies. I knew a lot of time had gone by since my last post, but when people started to ask, “Are you OK?” I knew I’d really left things too long.
I’ve also been very remiss about returning emails. If you’re written to me, thank you! I am not ignoring you and will write back shortly.
The problem, I’ve discovered, is that I’m a one-trick pony. Am working on Book The Second, and when I’m doing that I can’t write anything else. Nothing. It’s like my mind turns itself on when I sit down to work on a chapter, and just switches itself off when the chapter’s packed up.
Good news! Am now on Chapter 4 (five, really, if you count the preamble). Now the doubt sets in. I find there are at least two stages to writing. The first stage is when you feel really good and confident. The second stage is when you think, “OMG, it’s all awful.” You can go back and forth between these two poles endlessly: confidence, despair, confidence, despair. It’s a tiny bit crazy-making.
There are wonderful people in the world called editors, and I’ll be contacting mine soon for some professional feedback. A few clear words from an editor (“fix this,” or “this doesn’t work,” or “have you thought about X?”) can totally stop the crazy see-saw. The problem is that you can’t contact an editor until the material is pretty much ready to go, and to get to that point…well, it’s the see-saw again.
I’m blogging today because I’m not writing. I have a headache, and–even WORSE–it’s starting to get hot in Toronto. Like, really hot. I have a fan and an air conditioner but I hate feeling as though I can’t head out during the days. My brain just fries. I lose my sunglasses and forget my sunblock and it all just goes downhill…
See! I do love to blog. I could babble on for hours. I like reaching out. I just have to try harder to do this while I’m writing. There might be one or two of you still reading. I wouldn’t be surprised if everyone else gave up on me. There will be more to follow. More b*tching about the summer. Updates on the book. Oh, and stuff about loneliness and isolation and how to respond to it.
Thanks for all the feedback to date.
I’m now full up for the first phase of interviews. You know what that means? It means you guys ROCK! I’m going to be conducting running interviews over the course of the next several months, so please keep your eye on this blog, as there will be plenty of chances for “jumping in” on different subjects. The book is weaving and winding and slowly taking shape. Feedback helps, so many thanks.
I am rapidly changing direction when it comes to feedback. Online feedback works really well for some books (Gretchen Rubin’s *The Happiness Project* uses online feedback exclusively), but it’s not working for me. I find I get curious about people’s posts, and I want to follow up, and I’d really, in the final analysis, just rather be having a conversation.
So I’m now seeking interviewees for a series of questions about place, loneliness, and belonging. The questions will range from home, to neighbourhood, to city, and will examine what these places mean to you. How do you create a sense of home when living alone? Do you feel embedded in your neighbourhood? Does your city feel cold to you? Do you fantasize about moving to the country? Or have you moved to the country only to find yourself cut off and alone?
The questions will be wide-ranging. We can talk about what’s most important to you.
Remember: I change all identifying details, so no one will know it’s you. This has worked in the past and it’s an approach I’m comfortable with.
I can call or Skype you anywhere in the world. If you’re interested in participating, please just send me a note. And, two quick follow up points: If you’ve already sent me comments by email, but are in the mood for a talk, we can just pick up where your comments left off. Also, if you have emailed me in the past to say that you’d be happy to participate in future research, please note that I’m not ignoring you! It’s just hard of me to keep track of individual comments. I *do* want to hear from you!
One more quick note: Rest assured that any comments sent to me will be kept entirely confidential. It’s the stories that matter…your identity will be protected.
OK, so I think the last post might have been a bit vague. Let me try again.
I’m interested in how people use place as a response to loneliness (or how you see place as a contributor to feelings of isolation). How, in other words, does place help or hinder feelings of loneliness? Are you attached to a specific place? Does your neighbourhood feel cold and unfriendly? Is your home your refuge, or do you find that living alone (and being alone in the home) makes loneliness much worse?
Basically, I’m opening things up. Hopefully this approach is more workable. I’m learning that posting Qs online is very different from a long, person-t0-person interview. So please be patient — I’ve got to get the hang of this new approach!
Again, think place. Where do you find a sense of belonging? Have you lost a comforting place? Found one?
I could keep going with these questions, but will leave it at that for now. Post to the blog or write to me at moc.koobehtylenolnull@ylime.