Read a few articles lately on how this age of loneliness in which we live is killing us. Probably. The science seems to back it up (see here, here, and here, for instance).About that: I feel like my generation has this paradoxical simultaneous desire to find human connection and to be with people (duh) and also, we have an equally strong desire to not be inconvenienced by each other. Like. Ever. (I am definitely guilty of this).
If you have siblings or parents then you know that people are truly inconvenient, almost always. But the reward is so good. Nothing in this world beats true human connection (whatever that means to you - for me, it's often as simple as as good conversation).
One of the top five regrets of dying patients, as reported by palliative nurses, is that "I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends." That to me, when I first read it, was really sad and shocking - but I get how friendships dissolve. Life gets in the way. Families. Babies. Long distances.
I probably don’t have to tell anyone that if we live in the age of loneliness, we also live in the age of distraction. Our attention is limited yet at any given moment, it is being pulled in millions of small or large ways by our phones and other technologies. (Even at home, the infuriatingly loud TTC speakers blare in the back bedrooms of the apartment screaming: FIVE-HUNDRED SIX MAIN STREET STATION).
And then there’s that other thing: People can get a hold of us at any time.
I think it’s a normal reaction to feel annoyed at being inconvenienced, because this is our constant, accumulated experience of daily life.
So then I almost kind of get it, too. We reach out to people when we need them, and ignore them, when we don’t. It's almost a matter of survival, of finding our peace.
If we’re particularly tired, we flake. If we’re not, we text around until we find someone who’s up for something.
We pretend we were asleep. (Oh my God, I’m so sorry).
But if we are going to be less lonely, and if we can’t fix the bigger context in which loneliness has been able to thrive (single-family households, smaller families in general, American ideals about self-reliance, the urban sprawl, disconnectedness between generations, and our intent and singular focus on productivity, among others), we at least have to be able to envision a future in which we allow space for us to “bothered” by others.
It's in that sweet, painful place that friendship and love and family and connection exist. And it requires generosity of spirit, for sure. Face to face contact. An acknowledgement that there's more than one of us sitting at the table.
Google defines inconvenient as “trouble or difficulty caused to one’s personal requirements or comfort.”
Being less lonely also means that we will be more uncomfortable. This is not necessarily a bad thing - we know already, instinctively, in art, in fiction, that discomfort can be transformative and transcendent.
So then if the age of loneliness is killing us, I think, in part, we have our very selfish, very human desire to remain comfortable to blame.