We both feel lonely sometimes. It feels like shit to be lonely. There, we said it.
Until recently, we didn’t recognize that we were feeling lonely. Or maybe we just weren’t labeling the emotion properly. We were possibly, probably, most likely, mistaking loneliness for something else. Possibly, probably, most likely sadness, boredom or maybe, if we’re being truthful, lack of fulfillment. Gulp. In any case, none of it felt good. So instead of recognizing what we were feeling, and god forbid, just feeling it, we decided to ‘do’ something. Actually, Laura decided to do something.
August 2, 2018, Laura began a LARD group text. Oh yes, that’s for real, we’re in a group text called LARD. Laura – Angie – Robyn – Dawn. An acronym that means fat from the abdomen of a pig, and although completely weird, the name has stuck.
L: anyone want to sign up for a knitting class this fall?
D: yes! yes! yes!
R: i’m so in! but full disclosure, I have knitted before
R: have u guys?
R: should we sign up for beginner or intermediate?
L: show off
D: guys, I think this may be my sport!
A: um, wait, are you guys serious?
A: we’re going to knit?
A: what are we, 80?
A: I mean, I know laura and robyn are old
A: but come on, knitting?!
A: ok, I’m in
So, we signed up for an 8-week session and began to knit, every Friday at 12:30pm. We arrived at Wool & Grace, a beautifully curated knitting shop in our small corner of the world, for our first class. They equipped us with 2 wooden sticks and some blah gray beginner yarn to start our fingerless glove project. We equipped ourselves with water, coffee, a little insecurity and plenty of enthusiasm. We sat at the newbie table and Alex, our patient and kind teacher, taught us how to knit and purl. We sucked. And while we’ve read that knitting has many benefits – it alleviates symptoms of anxiety, reduces stress, combats depression – we weren’t feeling it. Since it was only our first class, and we’re not that impatient (well, we are, but we’ll pretend we’re not, in this case), we gave in and enjoyed it our way – by laughing and cursing. A lot. To our surprise, the other knitters slowly moved to another table, yet one woman remained, and we may have accidentally ignored her until 1:45pm. That’s when Laura, the one who notices things, noticed her and introduced us all. Thank you, Laura. And hi, Sherri, nice to meet you.
That night our LARD group text thread lit up:
A: that was way too much fun for knitting
D: michael just asked why i was so exhausted
L: did u admit that knitting sucked the life out of us?
R: well, i nominate laura as LARD of the day for welcoming our classmate, Shannon
L: um, her name is Sherri
D: ha! well, what do you think Sherri’s saying about us tonight?
A: the redhead is nice, the rest are assholes
We continue to attend knitting class every Friday. We move from fingerless gloves to hats. Along the way, we realize there’s a room full of interesting women who begin to share their stories. One day, in particular, our new friend Sherri reveals something seemingly simple – her family dinners suck. She admits it’s mostly because her youngest son is painfully disruptive and she’s anxious because they’re going to his first therapy session that night. She admits she’s feeling like a lousy parent and is worried that the therapist may uncover that she really is a lousy parent.
And just like that, with a little honesty and vulnerability, the flood gates open. The entire place is thrilled to stop talking about how unseasonably warm it is for November and move on to something more meaningful. “Wait, what? I guarantee my family dinners are worse than yours. Does your son lay down while eating dinner and your husband yells at him to sit up? Like 50 times every night?” “No, but does your daughter stare at you with disgust while you chew, waiting for the longest 12 minutes of her life to be over so she can go back to her room and stay there all night?” Sherri’s simple admission lifts the veil of perfection we all seem to be wearing. Without even realizing it, she gave us the gentle push we all needed to open up and reveal more about our own lives. The more openly we talked, the less alone we felt.
We sign up for another session of knitting and then another, even though we aren’t very good at it. It feels good learning about Sherri and her life, and Alex and her life, and Lori and Sheila and Patty and their lives, and more about each other and our own lives. Seems The Red Tent women really were on to something. We like having a place to go. We like our unconventional version of group therapy. We like that we can take off our ‘I only like coffee and 3 friends’ attitude for a few hours. It feels good to connect. As the week continues, the connection wears off and then it strikes us that we (really) don’t like to feel alone.
Why? Because it feels shameful and pathetic to admit we’re lonely.
So why isn’t it ok to let ourselves feel lonely sometimes? Maybe it’s because lonely is a loaded word that often feels more like: insecure, unsatisfied, entitled, meh. Or the fact that there are many kinds of loneliness and they all feel the opposite of good: being all alone, feeling lonely surrounded by those we love, feeling lonely longing for something that we don’t even know exists.
So, if we’re telling the hard truth then it looks like this. Sometimes we’re lonely. Pure and simple. Sometimes we’re lonely at night with our families while they’re all on their devices. Sometimes we’re lonely in the middle of the day while walking our dogs. Sometimes we’re just lonely for no reason at all.
We’ve learned that knitting helps. So does mahjong. So does working. So does engaging in a political campaign. So does tennis and bridge and book club. And reading and watching the news and listening to podcasts. But what would happen if we simply accepted and acknowledged that we just feel lonely sometimes, despite our best efforts?
What if we decide that instead of feeling shameful and pathetic, we’re ok with admitting we’re lonely. What would happen then? Because maybe, just maybe, if we let ourselves sit in it and not judge it, and not judge ourselves for feeling it, we’d be ok with it.
It’s just loneliness after all.