I don’t have many friends! there I said it, it’s out there now for everyone to judge, to pity or to start considering me as a social pariah.
I have been on this planet for nearly half a century and I can count on one hand the friends that have stayed in my life or should I say are on my Facebook friends list. I have always wondered how/why people have thousands of friends on FB and my meagre following is only in double digits. So why am I so friendless as I haven’t been a recluse, I have always worked in front facing people orientated professions and I would consider myself to be of a friendly disposition?
I used to fall in love with individuals very easily, I don’t mean romantic love, I mean that I am in awe of them, I want to be around them and they become pivotal within my life. This could be as a result of my neurodiversity, but I think it is actually a result of my search for the one person who truly gets me, warts and all. For now I have decided that that person my soulmate is actually me and currently me is by far enough to deal with.
On reflection my approach to friendships over the years may of scared people off, been a wee bit overwhelming and is no doubt hard work for the person of my affection. From my point of view I have felt consumed by friendships, stressed by trying to be a good friend (attend or be on time to catch up dates, answer emails/texts timeously and sometimes I appear to drop off the face of the earth etc.) and to meet all of the social norms and expectations that friendships appear to entail.
My friends are like the seasons of my life; school friends, university friends, work colleagues and friends of my ex romantic partners. I tend to move on quickly onto my next season and as a result my previous friends tend to be compartmentalised safely into the past tense. I do lament that I did not stay in touch with past friends, but as they say it takes more that one person to Tango.
On the surface I am a bubbly, caring, outgoing and often a gregarious character especially if I can get my hands on a bottle or two of the old social lubricant (Soave is currently my social drugs of choice). Underneath my smiley persona I prefer my own company, love the peace and quiet of solitude and consider that I would rather stick my head in a pot of marmite than engage in small talk at social gatherings.
I dread holidays, were I have to talk with strangers in order to form the appropriate social bonds that demonstrate to society that I am enjoying myself……..as a direct result I will never ever go on a cruise. I would rather bury my nose in a book, duck behind a rack of postcards or quietly watch the waves crash onto the beach, than say Hi to Ned and Karen McMasters from Kirkcudbright.
Okay, I think as a result of writing this blog I understand why I am almost friendless. Oh dear!
We are told that we need our tribe, our community, our village to thrive and survive, that this is one of our most basic requirements of our lives. Humans do not like isolation, the lack of intimacy, the withdrawal of touch and companionship, in short we do not flourish within loneliness. Loneliness is not great for our mental health as it is connected to depression and lonely people are more likely to be less happy, less satisfied, and more pessimistic than there friend rich counterparts.
So am I lonely? Sometimes YES I am as I would like to enjoy daily interactions with a friend, but conversely sometimes NO I like being alone to rest. I am not lonely rather I am often alone. Should I develop more friendship …. Absolutely! ……will I make them??? I will try…..
In the famous Beatles song Eleanor Rigby the lyrics resonate
“All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?”
We all need to try to develop friendships, connections and use our precious time to support the eradication of loneliness whilst protecting the rights of those who wish to be alone.
‘All The Lonely People’ (no doubt based on the Beatles song) is an easy to read recent report by the Metal Health Foundation which suggests that we all should try to help tackle loneliness by;
• Not judging or stigmatising lonely people.
• Making community groups/clubs more welcoming and inclusive
• Talking about loneliness, sharing, listening and learning from people’s life stories.
To add my two penn'orth here are a few of my suggestions;
· Smile at others
· Say hello
· Ask people how they are
· Be interested and curious about people
· Make time for people
· Be kind to others
· Contribute only as much as is comfortable