#FirstWorldFriday: I live in the most densely populated city in the world and I’m lonely #GRATITUDE

first world problem tears

This is First World Fridays #FWF (check out the first FWF here – it was a wild success!) where I share the frivolous stuff that I allow to occupy my mind, and I turn it into an expression of gratitude. Please do it the same – in the comments, Facebook, Twitter, privately within yourself. Tag it #FWF (yes, I’m asking you to tag your silent prayers) and let’s start a revolution!

 

My #FWF: I’m lonely. Yes, I wish I had a romantic partner. I also wish I saw my friends more and was closer to my family. But is this a first world problem? After all, loneliness is human, universal. Everyone has felt isolated or misunderstood. But Americans are uniquely — and increasingly — lonely. With all our wealth and options we chose to move away from our families and hometowns — seeking adventure, fortune — and yes, love — in locations we expect will be more fruitful. We tend to prioritize work, and spend less time with loved ones than other people in the world.

I couldn’t be a more classic example of this – having left my small, rural Illinois town for the first time when I was 15 to study abroad in France for a year. Great, experience. Loneliness like no other. Command-A, Command-C, Command-V x100 — adventures to Latin America, Bulgaria, the American South and Southwest. I seek out and revel in the adventure and opportunity. Everywhere I go I also find love — romance, friendship and connections. But loneliness always makes an appearance.

This cycle has taken new color since I became a mother. Now any isolation I experience translates to my kids. If I have fewer invites to weekend barbecues than I prefer, that means my kids do, too. If I am sad that I don’t have a partner, I worry that my kids miss out on benefits of that relationship that would extend to them.

I am lonely because I am human, yes. But maybe I am also prone to isolation. Is it because I’m a weirdo who few understand? Dunno. Am I repugnant and repel? Some, sure. Or do I throw up boundaries to protect my lonely heart. I imagine so. Maybe mine is a typical case of I’m-busy-and-so-is-everyone-else. Many days, I feel like it is all I can do to get through my work projects and get the kids through dinner and bedtime without collapsing. There are plenty of people I can and do often call see, but that can feel like just one more task on the list.

But all of this is a choice. I subscribe to the philosophies of abundance and scarcity — if you believe that wealth/love/time are in short supply, that becomes your reality and you make choices accordingly. But if you accept that good things are infinite, you are open to the abundance. To reframe: This whine of a #FWF is just that – an indulgence.

The irony of my whine is not lost on me. I’m not the first New Yorker to observe how many lonely people there are in this giant, crowded metropolis. Even though we’re all living — literally — on top of each other, cramming ourselves together on subway cars, elbowing one another out of the way on the sidewalks and eating shoulder-to-shoulder in popular restaurants, all-but-spooning in elevators, it is very easy to feel very alone here. New York, as it is in so many ways, is the most American city. This is the place most plagued by transplants and workaholics who forgot to create personal lives. And the cycle perpetuates itself. As often as people move here from elsewhere, they also leave. Again and again, those of us who stay find ourselves saying goodbye to newfound friends.

 

Gratitude:

  • I’m grateful I live in an age of unprecedented communication. All my friends and family who live afar?  I can text/Facetime/email/call them any time of day or night for virtually free. Airfare has never been more affordable and my time is ridiculously flexible. I can connect with anyone more or less whenever I want. I hereby vow to do more of that (are you on my friend/family list? Consider yourself warned!)
  • I’m grateful have the where-with-all to talk myself out of my loneliness. Some people — very depressed people — cannot. I’m not there.
  • I’m grateful that I am a naturally friendly people and tend to connect easily with others. I know it is not so easy for many.
  • I’m grateful that I *do* live in a densely populated are full of people who are my type (friends, colleagues, dudes), where all it takes to make connections is an attitude shift.
  • I’m grateful I have the where-with-all to change shit up and stop with the navel-gazing already.

 

Now your turn: What have you been fretting over this week? Was it really important? How can you turn those negative thoughts into acts or thoughts of gratitude. Please share in comments!

 About #FWF: Each week I will post here about the annoyingly frivolous thing I worried about the previous week. I also vow to devote that energy into an expression of gratitude. Two things are true: Sharing openly that which we are ashamed of (in this case devoting time and energy to silly stuff) frees you from that shame, and gives others the permission to do so. Also: The only way to be happy is to be grateful. So post here, on social media, or privately within your family, circle of friends, or even within yourself your own #FirstWorldFriday. Remember – In one breath purge your silly worries, in a second express gratitude.

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17 thoughts on “#FirstWorldFriday: I live in the most densely populated city in the world and I’m lonely #GRATITUDE

  1. My FWF:

    I started to worry that the changing table I’m ordering for my nursery won’t have enough space to place baby changing stuff on the same level (making it more difficult to change the baby).

    Gratitude:

    First, I’m having a baby! Second, I have the means to afford this furniture, and she’ll even have her own room. Many other kids don’t have that. As far as the easy access to wipes, clean diapers go, I guess I can just wait and see whether or not it’s actually a problem.

  2. I’ve been worrying for weeks that my having a glass of wine alone, while I watch my favourite show once a week after the kids are in bed, means I have a drinking problem. LOL. I actually hide the bottle so no one asks because I don’t know if it’s considered ‘okay’ or not. I lived with an active alcoholic for 9 years so my views on alcohol consumption tend to be a bit skewed, if not completely distorted. I need to go easier on myself I think!

    Gratitude:

    First, my weekly ritual of wine + TV = bliss, and I deserve it. Second, I’m not an alcoholic. Third, I’ve discovered some awesome wines that actually last for a good deal of time, instead of being consumed by my ex in two seconds.

    1. Hi Amy – Love this! And ESPECIALLY this: “I’ve discovered some awesome wines that actually last for a good deal of time, instead of being consumed by my ex in two seconds.” haha! Enjoy!

  3. Hmm. Your blog got me pondering. I’m not sure I’ve “fretted” about much recently. I have at times in the past, but don’t know that I would fulfill the definition of “fretful”.

    I will state that one thing sometimes on my mind lately has been that I’ve not been as self-motivated as I once was. I have a great full-time job, and two good paying part-time gigs to occupy my other off hours, but even at the great opps for extra pay I struggle to get working. If anything, I’d say that’s the closest to fretting about anything….but it’s pretty low pressure.

    I should aim to be grateful I have all this time and opportunity to make some extra coin……but I’ll procrastinate some more and be grateful tomorrow.

    On reflecting on loneliness, what does it “feel” like? I’m not making fun, rather I’n not sure it’s something I distinctly feel.

    I find I reenergize when I’m alone, and I spend a lot of time by myself. I have lots of close friends, and see only my brother regularly. Aside from some other dating here and there, I probably only have human contact a couple nights a week/weekend, and I’m cool with that.

    1. “On reflecting on loneliness, what does it “feel” like? I’m not making fun, rather I’n not sure it’s something I distinctly feel.”

      Interesting, I’ve been wondering if there has ever been someone who has never felt alone? “No!” I tell myself – maybe found him!

      So … what does loneliness feel like? does “disconnected” resonate? Painful, empty, an urge to connect with someone else. The sense that by sharing an experience with another person would make that experience that much more meaningful – or even meaningful at all. A need for validation — even validation that you exist.

      Anyone else want to chime in here?

      1. “The sense that by sharing an experience with another person would make that experience that much more meaningful – or even meaningful at all. ”

        For me, this part of the comment resonates the most. There is really nothing like a shared laugh, experience, or even a problem with someone one is close to that can feel all “relationshippy”, rather than doing similarly by oneself.

        I, thankfully, don’t have a recollection of feeling lonely in the last decade, or so. Probably dealt with it some I’m sure, but not for a prolonged time period to where it is distinctly recalled. However, as stated I generally am OK being by myself.

        I do like to interact with people. And I often seek my friends, many of whom I’ve known for a couple decades. Still, I feel connected to them when I’m with them, and then get a slight “social fatigue” after a lot of time socializing (probably because I’m usually acting the extrovert at work and socially, but I tend to be a bit introverted). I wouldn’t want to be by myself endlessly I guess, like living on an desert island, but I think I might fare better than others.

  4. I LOVE this!

    My FWF problems are legion. I have to much work and I’m not sure how I and my writers are going to get it all done. My 125-year-old eight-bedroom house in suburban Philadelphia is constantly falling apart someplace and costing me money. My boyfriend doesn’t pay enough attention to me during the week and our sex life is not as hot as it used to be. My kids always want me to take them somewhere and do something with them.

    Gratitudes:

    I am grateful for my work, my business, my clients and the money that I make. I am grateful that my writers and my assistant make it possible for me to take on more work.

    I am grateful that I have a house I love. In fact I am just plain grateful that I have a house at all.

    I am grateful for my BF, his love, attention and commitment to me. I am grateful that he came to dinner with me and my kids last night.

    I am grateful for four fantastic teenagers who give me few problems and a lot of joy

    Yes, sometimes I am lonely too. I do feel like it’s all I can do to get through the day. I do worry that when the kids are gone, I will have no circle of friends and no one to talk to. But I can change that if I want.

    I am grateful

    1. Oh, man. I live in a 70-year-old, two-bedroom house, and it always needs some kinda fixing up. I can only imagine the fun work a 125-year-old, eight-bedroom home can provide. Now I’m grateful for my house. LOL. Thanks for the perspective!

      Sounds like you can still be lonely in a house full of people – not that such is news to me. So, loneliness seems a state of mind that, yes, you can change if you want.

      And one other grateful thought for the future as your children leave the nest: If they are able to go out in the world and live on their own, have their own successes, keep a job, not give you a lot of drama for decades etc., then you should certainly be a grateful mom! They will be gone because you helped shape them into responsible adults (and they should also be grateful for that as well.) The loneliness you may have to fight as they leave is a sign of your job being done very well.

      1. ” So, loneliness seems a state of mind that, yes, you can change if you want.” – to a degree yes, but also people need people, human contact, affirmation, community, on and on. If your life is truly void of that, loneliness ensues.

        1. “people need people, human contact, ….”

          True. I don’t mean to sound like I don’t like being around people. I do get out, hang out, etc. Many of my close friends I’ve known for a couple decades as well. I suppose my life at this point isn’t void enough of such contact for me to feel loneliness to any great depth. I suppose if I walk “The Green Mile”, and outlive all my friends and family that I would, if not sooner, get a taste of loneliness at that point in my life.

    2. Thank you Meg! I have to say these gratitude expressions really touch me. I try to express this kind of gratitude daily in my own life, and know how powerful it can be. Hope you join us again this Friday, Meg.

  5. “Or do I throw up boundaries to protect my lonely heart. I imagine so.”

    I all-too-frequently second-guess myself about whether it’s my fault that I’m feeling lonely. Do I isolate myself because I’m scared or anxious? (Wondering about that makes me even more anxious about it…I hate vicious circles. :-) ) I’m all too ready to blame myself for feeling bad. I’ve recently been thinking/worrying about this in the context of my current relationship. The only way out seems to be to act or speak up (owning my story, as Brene Brown says), rather than to think to much about it.

    As for loneliness, last night, my salsa class was canceled at the last minute, and I decided it was too late to cancel the babysitter. I ended up driving around my old suburban stomping grounds, feeling sad and somewhat depressed as I drove through the dying mall I used to frequent as a teenager and getting a little solace from making a few cheap purchases at Home Goods. Finally, I forced myself to go to a Monday night salsa social at a local restaurant, even though I was afraid I would be the only one there on her own (and fearing it would be all 20-somethings). It turned out to be a lot of fun, at least half of the people were there on their own, and the age range was fine. And I didn’t feel lonely anymore.

    So…I feel grateful for:
    –the fact that I can afford a babysitter, a car, and minor purchases at Home Goods
    –the fact that I can afford to raise my kids on my own, and spend a good amount of time with them (as opposed to all those migrant worker moms here in the US on their own)
    –the fact that I live in a peaceful, relatively prosperous area (as opposed to a poor, violence-ridden country) and can go out on my own as a single woman
    –the fact that I can pursue my interests, outside of kids and work
    –the fact that I have the time and space to ruminate on these issues

    Thanks, Emma, for this weekly discussion!

  6. Ummm….I meant driving PAST the dying mall. No, I didn’t drive my car through any shopping malls. :-)

  7. To Eve and everyone else who participated in #FWF: I am getting choked up over here in Queens. I so, so appreciate your vulnerability in sharing your worries and pain, and so empowered by hearing your gratitude. @Eve, this one got me, because it so reflects my own situation and gratitude, especially as I live in a neighborhood with many immigrants and I often wonder about these women: “–the fact that I can afford to raise my kids on my own, and spend a good amount of time with them (as opposed to all those migrant worker moms here in the US on their own)”

    Also – I so love dancing and have not done so in years. I aim to rectify this!!! xxoo to all of you!

  8. Thanks, Emma! Yes, when I read about migrant worker moms, I definitely tear up. So sad. On the flip side, my male hairdresser was sent here from Vietnam when he was 8, and he didn’t see his mom for 10 years. He’s done well for himself and has since brought her over here, but…wow. It’s hard to imagine, and it really makes me feel grateful for what we have here.

    1. ” I ended up driving around my old suburban stomping grounds, feeling sad and somewhat depressed as I drove through the dying mall I used to frequent as a teenager ”

      Eve, I used to, and still kinda do, feel the same way about my own stomping grounds from 20+ years ago. Some of that stomping was during some of the best times of my life…that point where I had some responsibility, yet still some naivete and freedom. Not that my life is bad, I have similarly grieved those times as well.

      One favorite mall gradually lost stores and closed when I was in my mid-30s. That bothered me because I remembered trips there with my dad particularly. Now the mall was refurbed into a business park, so I’m thankful it at least created jobs for folks in the area rather than remain a hollow building.

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