It takes a lot for me to feel lonely. More than a month ago, I moved to a new town and started a new job. A lot of my energy has gone into getting used to my job and to learning (or not learning) the secret of waking up early and arriving at work before sunrise every morning. I have spoken to people at work and to people at each church I’ve visited, as well as to some family and friends on the phone. But outside of work, Sunday church, and occasional phone conversations, I have spoken very little to anyone in the past few weeks. As some may call it, I have been “unsociable and taciturn”, and yet I have barely noticed.
It could be considered a good thing that I don’t get lonely easily. I feel no awkwardness in going to restaurants or taking day trips alone. I don’t mind silence, and having one’s house to oneself is really quite exciting. So, basically, I don’t pine after the loss of friends easily. But is this really such a good thing? I think not. Apparently, it’s typical of my Enneagram personality type (Nine) to be very self-unaware. So un-self-aware, in fact, that we often think we’re other personality types than our own. For several years, I thought I was a Two. Because I am badly unaware of my own self, I distract myself with tasks, food, sleep, music, sewing, and daydreams, so it takes quite a while for me to notice any loneliness. I have to consciously remind myself that community is indeed important. Sometimes, I have to force myself out of the house to spend time with people when I’m really tempted to text them and make up some feeble excuse for not coming.
I get so stuck in my head that I don’t notice it when I’m alone and I really would often rather be alone than have someone else come in, mess up my pleasant thoughts, and require me to be mentally present. (Gosh! How selfish!) When I was born, my brother was eleven and my sister was eight. As my brother and sister got older and started having more mature conversations at the dinner table, I grew accustomed to tuning them out and making up stories in my own head. I have always had quite a life of the mind… That is good, too, but I really got carried away. I remember in junior high having to consciously tell myself that I should start paying attention to the conversations my family was having at the dinner table. After all, by that point, I was practically an only child, so with me not in the conversational picture, the table was missing one of three possible participants. That would have been boring! My parents are great, but sometimes they need a little of me in the house to change things up. Haha. It was difficult for me to learn to pay attention to conversation and engage enough to carry at least a little weight in it myself (as much as a twelve- or thirteen-year-old could carry).
So now to the present day. I still find myself zoning out into my own thoughts and almost forgetting about my physical and conversational surroundings. There is so much to think about, so many things I could plan or dream about, so many characters to examine. (I’ve learned that a wonderful way to see people is to see them as characters in a story, from an author’s point of view. It also helps me love – or at least understand – the difficult ones a little better.) And in this way, I rarely get bored or lonely.
But recently, one of my college friends had a birthday. She is one of a very few people I knew in East Tennessee before moving. We went out to eat with her friends and hung out at her house, talking and playing games. Her friends were so lovely and easy to talk to that I was immediately reminded of the preciousness of community. We all need it. Every single one of us.
Where would we be without community? A few days after the birthday party, I was doing some hand-sewing and searching for something to watch while I sewed. I ended up watching thirty minutes of a movie on the television before realizing I actually had absolutely no interest in the movie, the characters, or whether or not they survived their trials. Nevertheless, those thirty minutes left me thinking even more about community. The film was about a post-apocalyptic version of the United States (what’s new?) where people were so hungry that a group of people had formed and was eating every person in its path. The main characters were trying to escape to a safer place before being found and eaten by the bad guys, the cannibals. Occasionally, there would be a flashback about the fear that overtook the characters’ family and supposed friends at the beginning of this period of starvation and violence. (These “friends” never came onscreen and didn’t really seem to exist.)
I’m really wondering why I even watched thirty minutes of this movie…
What I came to realize was that, had these characters (their names were never mentioned in the portion I watched) been part of a good community of friends and families, they probably would have fared much better. Of course, then, much of the story would have been lost. But it was largely because they didn’t have friends with whom they could form an alliance and fight through their trials that they were so afraid and in such great peril. We are much stronger and much more capable of doing something together than we are alone, not just because of a larger number of people (although I’m sure numbers are helpful), but because love (one of Dumbledore’s favorite topics), friendship, loyalty (Sam, Frodo, Merry, and Pippin, for example), and trust strengthen the bonds of community. Even if a community of people could not prevail over the evil forces fighting against them, at least they would be together instead of overcome by wearisome loneliness.
Community is essential to our well-being. Even if you, like me, do not easily feel lonely, you and I must learn to consciously remind ourselves that we need community. If we are not spending time with other people and forming meaningful relationships with others, we can lose perspective. When I spend too much time alone, I constantly find another thing that I could and should do around the house, but instead I waste my time with food, movies, or staring into space. When I spend time with other people, I get more done. I get done some – not all – of the things I want done around my house because I enjoy having people over and don’t want my house to look terrible for my company. But I also realize that there are many more important things than having a spotless, beautiful house. Spending time with other people helps me focus less time on selfishly examining my life day-in and day-out; it helps me to focus more on others. Everyone has a different story, different personality, different needs, and different desires. Everyone is so very unique and special that how could we ever get bored if we are part of a community? I have come to realize that if I get bored in a certain community, the problem is probably my own laziness in not wanting to put forth the effort to dig deep, ask uncomfortable questions, or change things up.
So, I encourage you to get out there and join a community (or form one yourself), if you haven’t already. Everyone is a different character in an ornate story and we should be excited to see how the combination (or collision) of each character figures into that story.
- Unsociable and taciturn: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z9SXvUdM_iw
- Having one’s house to oneself: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=muL4dsrJkNg&list=UUXfbQAimgtbk4RAUHtIAUww
- Enneagram Type Nine: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/TypeNine.asp
- Enneagram Type Two: http://www.enneagraminstitute.com/TypeTwo.asp#.VFAY8L6Lrao
- Grew accustomed: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CPhsR0T_cjA
- Numbers: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQq4LjSF2rc
- Dumbledore on the power of love: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h-yiVejjJLg
- Friendship: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b6eIgrYraEc
- Loyalty: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TrJJ6ncp1fc
- Sam and Frodo: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QiQtBT-7IeY
- Merry and Pippin: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=S610iFLodYo
- The four hobbits, for example: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q19z6-tbIHY
Read from the beginning: https://soarwithlaughter.com/soar-cloud-high/