Loneliness

What does that word conjure up for you? One definition has it as a “feeling of disconnectedness or isolation.” It doesn’t necessarily mean that we are physically alone. We can feel lonely in the middle of a crowd. I frequently feel lonely, despite living with family. What about you?

Loneliness is probably one of the most dangerous conditions of our time. The statistics on loneliness are alarming. I highly recommend reading The Facts on Loneliness as found on the Campaign to End Loneliness website. It might surprise you.

Part of the problem, I think, is that we have forgotten that human beings are pack animals. We were never designed to live individually, locked away in boxes, separate from one another. We were always designed to live in community. Yet individualism is rampant in our society. We are under the illusion that we have to go it alone, not need anyone else, move out of the family home as soon as possible, and we even mock those who in later years are still living with their parents, as if it is a sign of weakness. Yet the reality is, for the vast majority of people, they are likely to be happier living with others than all by themselves.

The pandemic hasn’t helped. So many were locked down in solitude. Think about it like this, solitary confinement within a prison is a punishment precisely because it plays havoc with your brain. Yet for so many during the last two years, they have been subjected to such a confinement and through no fault of their own.

There is also another kind of loneliness, and that is the feeling that we are different to everyone around us. I can relate to that. A common trait of being adopted seems to be the feeling that we are different, that we don’t quite fit in and belong. In my case, I have also found it hard being an intellectual without many other intellectuals in my life, a collector of information, a brainstormer of ideas. But I am also a contradiction. On the one hand, I love Disney and Harry Potter, and watching trashy TV shows, and on the other hand I love high brow debates, being part of a spiritual community, and mentally challenging literature. Where is my tribe in the midst of all of that? Oh, and I’m also an empath.

So in this day and age of increasing isolation and solitude, what do we do when we want to connect with others, when we yearn to feel part of something bigger than ourselves? How do we overcome the feelings of quiet desperation, the sense that we are alone?

One way I have tried to do this is by doing things I enjoy and hoping others will enjoy them too. This has worked for a while. For example, I spent four years being very active on the genealogy website, WikiTree. This was a fantastic community for me to join as it combined my love of genealogy with my desire to meet interesting and intelligent people from around the globe.

I have also participated in the gaming community, both on Steam and elsewhere. This too gave me the opportunity to meet people globally, and to share with them a mutual interest.

Perhaps the hardest time of day for me is at night, when the rest of the world seems to be sleeping. I am sure I am not the only one. I have decided to set up a Discord server for those who feel the same way. It is going to be a safe place in which people can simply come and hang out and talk about anything. There may only be one or two of us at first, but perhaps the word will spread and reach the other lonely people from around the world so that together we can become part of something bigger than ourselves, so that we can finally find our tribe.

Join me today in the Loneliness Hub and let’s start stamping out loneliness one person at a time.

Everybody Needs Good Neighbours

 

neighborhood

In my childhood I lived in a wonderful road where everyone knew each other. Children used to gather after school to hang out, build camps, run races and generally have fun. The older kids looked after the younger ones and so long as we we didn’t leave the street and were back by tea time our parents weren’t the least bit concerned.

It wasn’t just the children I befriended. Across the road from me lived a fascinating lady who had been a missionary overseas. Even as a teenager I would look forward to my visits with her over cups of tea and slightly stale biscuits as she recounted her adventures from around the globe.

Next door the Finnegans always had a plaster for us if we grazed our knees, and Mr O’Leary at number nine let us climb in his trees and build tree houses. No one needed a CRB check to speak to us. We were neighbours, the next best thing to family, a community that did life together, that laughed, cried and grew together.

Nowadays being a neighbour, and part of a community, is much more challenging. People build higher and higher fences and walls around their homes, any adult befriending a child that is not their own is automatically looked on with suspicion, and you’d probably be hesitant to hand out plasters or serve cake in case of allergic reactions and court cases.

But all is not lost. It is still possible to be a good neighbour today and a community of strangers can become a community of friends. Here are some of the things I have seen happening in my street recently:

  1. Christmas cards

    There is no better way to find out who lives in your street than to send them Christmas cards. “To all at number 10, wishing you a very Merry Christmas from Olivia McCabe at number 28” lets them know you are there, thinking of them, and gives them the opportunity to send a card back introducing themselves to you in turn.

  2. Neighbourhood Watch

    If there is a Neighbourhood Watch group in your road then think about joining it, if not then why not start one? You will get updates from your local police about what to watch out for in your area, and you will have the chance to get to know more of your neighbours. This is also a perfect opportunity for neighbours to keep an eye on each other’s houses whilst people are away on holiday.

  3. Parking

    If parking is limited in your area be as courteous as you can be about where you park. Our neighbours let us know when they are going to be away and offer their driveways as extra parking when people need it. People aren’t in the least bit territorial about their patch of tarmac and as a result it all feels very relaxed and friendly.

  4. Bins!

    Also know as garbage or trash cans. In England we have wheelie bins. In my part of Hertfordshire we are big on recycling and have four different colour bins. After a recent Christmas party where over sixty guests descended on our house (including a lot of our neighbours) we were left with a lot of recycling. One couple who had been away over Christmas and New Year and not used their bins offered us extra space. Now how’s that for good neighbours?

  5. The Sick and Bereaved

    One of the things I absolutely loved about my time living in the southern States of America is how communities rally together when people are sick or bereaved. You only have to sneeze and cartons of home-made chicken soup land on your doorstep. If you are bereaved then you don’t need to shop for food for months. A steady stream of people come to your door to offer their condolences and always bring mountains of food with them.

    This is a habit I have brought with me back to England and it is slowly catching on. One neighbour recently had her appendix out and she was inundated with some delicious soups and breads on her return. When my other neighbour’s wife died suddenly the whole street set up a rota to cook for the bereaved husband for a month. He is now the first person to take food round to people who are struggling, usually in the form of his excellent chocolate pie.

  6. The Lonely

    We all know that there is a huge difference between people living in solitude and people who are lonely. Young mums may be surrounded by a big family and still be lonely, where as an elderly woman living on her own may be perfectly content. That being said it’s always good to find out which of your neighbours are living alone and check up on them once in a while.

    The key thing in all of this is relationship building. No two people are the same and you can’t have a one size fits all approach to building community with your neighbours. You just need to get creative in getting to know them as individuals. When you have done that you can invite them to barbecues in your back garden, call on them for a lift to the airport in the dead of night, and be there for them when they lose someone precious to them. After all, aren’t we designed to be part of something bigger than ourselves?

    Are you a good neighbour? What have others done to be a good neighbour to you?

    Have a good one,

    Liv x

Building Community

Before becoming a writer, the work I did involved a great deal of moving. I rarely lived in one place for more than three years. Being the new girl all the time has made it particularly challenging to find authentic community. Over the years I’ve picked up a few tidbits to share with all you lonesome doves out there.

       1. It takes time

time

Probably not what you wanted to hear. But it’s true. They say it takes up to two years in a new place to really be able to call it home. I wouldn’t go so far as to put a time limit on it, but it definitely takes time. The people you meet when you first arrive may not end up being friends for life. The people who come late to the party may be the ones who are with you until the end. There’s no rush in building authentic community. It needs a lot of careful nurturing.

2. It takes effort

pushing-stone-uphill

If you’re lucky like me two houses ago, you will find a friendly and attentive neighbour who will call on you and invite you round for cups of tea, but in this day and age when neighbourliness is harder to find it’s better to go to people rather than wait for them to come to you. Yes, that means leaving the house! But the biggest question is where…

3. Scope out the territory

scope-out-territory
Now, when I first come to a new place I scope the territory. I visit every coffee shop I can find, I join the library, I see if there is a community magazine, Facebook group or website. I see what the place has to offer. As I’m a Christian I also visit every church. I make it very clear to people that I’m just visiting so no pressure is put on me. All I’m doing at this point is information gathering (and drinking lots of cups of coffee!!!)

4. Plan of action

action-plan

I then look at how much free time I have and when. I decide which of the things on offer I would like to join. I also see if there is anything I would like to do that is no currently happening where I am living. When I first moved to Shenley there was no Knit and Natter group. Then another lady in the village had the bright idea of advertising one and then went by herself to the tea rooms and knitted every week on a Monday morning. After three weeks another lady joined her; a couple of weeks later I came along. Since then the group has grown to almost twenty of us. They are a such a special, loving and caring group. I am so thankful for the first lady who was bold enough to sit by herself knitting all that time. What new community group might you start? It could literally be anything…

5. Build connections

build-connections

All these groups don’t need to be mutually exclusive. For example, a lot of the ladies from the Knit and Natter group have now joined the W.I.; some ladies from my church now come to Knit and Natter, and a group of people from a number of different other groups I belong to are about to start a Mah Jong group. I love people and finding out what they are good at and what they are interested in. Introducing them to others with similar interests and watching community grow is thrilling to me. Who do you know that you could connect with others?

6. Review Your Progress

review-your-progress

In the beginning it’s very easy to join everything on offer just so that you have something to do. It’s always good to have a six month review of your life and commitments so that if you need to take something off your plate that you no longer enjoy in order to make room for something new you can. After a while you can do this annually. When I join something or commit to doing a role I say to people that it is for a year. That way if I don’t renew it the following year I have given them plenty of time to find an alternative.

7. Celebrate!

celebrate

I now have an annual party to which I invite people from all my groups. It’s a great way to celebrate a fantastic year and to help people mingle. Weddings bells have even rung as a result of these events!

So here’s to a very Happy New Year to you all. May it be a year of connections, community and celebration!

Take care,

Liv