By JC Clapham
I’ve necessarily pushed people away over the past five years. Self-preservation was my goal, and the sense of being a broken burden that a major depressive feels only compounded that.
But now I’m through the other side and experiencing some great joys, much optimism and kicking quite a few goals, I find myself with very few close cheerleaders. Not just to cheer me on, mind you, but I also want to cheer on others. Celebrate the achievements they have, and smile like a goose as we high five each other and fist pump the air.
Perhaps I should clarify: my champion mother and my darling children are all proud of me, and tell me so. I’m so grateful to have them and hear their words of praise and encouragement. But… it’s not a day-to-day thing. One’s parents and children, especially school-aged children, can’t be the primary source of encouragement and back-slapping. It isn’t fair on them, or me.
It is surely a sardonic irony that with long-wanted-and-worked-hard-for peace and happiness has also come the greatest loneliness: the absence of a partner, of very close friends, to experience that same pride and joy and relief and exhilaration with you.
Picture this… you’re shooting the lights out and achieving things that have long been on your dreams list. You’re still alive, and not just surviving, but thriving. Thriving! Big goals and little goals alike are being checked off. You smile significantly more than you cry. And the momentum of this good fortune is exhilarating.
You jump up and throw your head back, prance around the stands at the swimming pool of life, fist-pumping and shouting and you even dare to grab the guard rail and holler and dance (but not dry-hump the air, because that’s creepy). But it’s just you. There’s no one else in the stands with you. No TV cameras beaming your pride to a global audience of billions, meme-makers at the ready.
It’s just you. Proud and happy and grinning like a Cheshire cat. All on your lonesome, because as a cat you’ve been a bit moody and picky and arseholey at times. Sure, it’s because you needed to lock yourself away and do the work to process and accept your heavy past, but there you are, feeling alone and a bit unloved. And it dampens your happiness. Not to the point of cancelling it out, but enough to see you feeling sad and down.
I’ve taken some great steps during these past eighteen months. Despite the heavy gloom of a changed world and it’s many impediments to personal growth and connection, I’ve managed to get to know more people through the work I do, and I’ve joined a terrific collective of good men, The Men’s Table, and am building supportive connections and friendships through that.
Once a month a group of fellas get together – restrictions permitting, of course, with Zoom as a back-up if we can’t meet in person. We have a meal together, and take turns sharing whatever’s on our mind, whatever might be going on for us at that point in time. We listen respectfully to each other, offering the support of being there without judgement, without stepping in to fix. We’re there for each other and draw strength from being heard, and that camaraderie environments like this foster. It’s a beautiful thing, and I’m very grateful to my tablemates for being good men, good humans, and having my back.
A couple of months ago I shared with this group my feelings of loneliness amidst some success. And they all got it, and shared their own feelings on various things with me and each other, and I went home that evening feeling validated and acknowledged. I can’t thank these good men enough.
My imagination and sense of romanticism don’t help me out much, if I’m honest.
Most evenings I sit in my reading chair with a book and a cup of tea or zero alcohol wine, or on the couch with one or both of my greyhounds next to me, and I have these stark moments and pangs of just wanting to smile at someone, and feel their smile back, and snuggle up and feel that warmth and appreciation.
I’m trying to focus on what I do have – and I have so much to be grateful for and appreciative of – and I don’t feel a sense of being incomplete, as such.
Meeting someone I can love and be loved by would be a wonderful addition to my rich-in-many-ways life. It would be the icing on a very good cake, not part of the cake itself. Cake tastes better when shared, and I’m tired of only having one plate on my table. But I’ll keep baking, and enjoying what I have.
Perhaps one day I’ll be able to grab a second plate to offer a good person a slice or several. And we’ll sip tea and eat delicious things, satiated and smiling, happy in the moment, and delighted for, in, and by each other.