I listened to a new podcast earlier this evening — 10 Things To Tell You by Laura Tremaine. The topic was loneliness and I immediately turned up the volume to hear what she had to say. You see, even though I’m happily married and have a great family and many friends, I am often lonely. She mentioned that this can often happen because of our context or life stage. For her it was when she was newly married, living in a new city and not working. For me it’s slowly developed over the last two years as I’ve been working through my infertility.
At first I purposely isolated myself from certain people. Friends who were pregnant, friends with young children — I just needed space. Overtime, however, that isolation became normal. It’s hard to make plans with couples or friends with children living at home. They need to plan ahead, but also, they can’t plan ahead. They need babysitters, but that can be a burden financially. They need to keep an eye on their phone, checking in with their spouse or sitter to make sure everything is okay at home. All of this is perfectly legitimate, but it’s hard when that isn’t my reality.
I’ve tried to be better about not isolating myself. I’ll reach out to friends and check in via text. We say that we want to see each other more. We talk about potential plans, but unless I initiate them, very rarely do the plans come to fruition. It’s hard. I want to be seen. I want someone to reach out to me, but often I’m the one doing the planning. And, my schedule is often busy between my activities and our plans as a couple, so that can get in the way too. It’s not just one-sided.
It doesn’t take long for me to find myself in my Enneagram Type 2 unhealthy place: “pride, self-deception, the tendency to become over-involved in the lives of others, and the tendency to manipulate others to get their own emotional needs met.” I get self-righteous about it, I start to play games with my relationships — I set up the last time, if she really wants to see me, she’ll send the next text. This is not fair to them, to me or to our relationship, but it happens.
Type 2s “fear that they are without value in themselves, and so they must be or do something extraordinary in order to win love and acceptance from others. In the average to unhealthy Levels, Twos present a false image of being completely generous and unselfish and of not wanting any kind of pay-off for themselves, when in fact, they can have enormous expectations and unacknowledged emotional needs.” (Hint: if you read an Enneagram description and you cringe and want to hide because it’s so true that you can hardly admit it to yourself, then you’ve found your number!) I don’t like this about myself, but it’s true. I find my value in being loved and accepted by others, so I go out of my way to make them love and accept me. And when I don’t get the over-the-top thank you or an acknowledgment of my attempt to get their love and acceptance, I do feel worthless to some degree.
This is hard to admit; it’s even harder to work through. I really have to pay attention to my intentions when I send someone a text or put a note in the mail. Am I doing this because I want something in return or is this a genuine gesture of love? When the intention is the first reason, I have to step back. I have to do a little more examining of my heart and figure out where this desire it coming from.
Part of my being is that I notice things — I notice bugs on the ground, I notice birds in the air and I notice people. I notice when their posts seem a little off on social media. I notice when they get quiet. I notice when they pop up in my mind and then I follow up with them just in case. I notice the way couples interact. I notice the way families treat each other. I guess in all my noticing, I want to be noticed too. And that’s not something I can force.
It’s interesting how I can talk about infertility and all that goes along with that fairly openly. It’s something that happened to me. It’s something that I can’t control. So, in some ways, I have a bit of distance from it. My personality, however, is a different story. Writing this feels very vulnerable, which means I’m feeling scared and anxious, but also so incredibly authentic. It’s not flattering to put my shortcomings on “paper” like this. I feel a bit like Harry when Snape could see into his thoughts, except I’m choosing to do this.
I’m working on this. I’m being open to new friendships — I’ve developed a friendship with someone over Instagram and we’re going to get together IRL to chat soon. I have another friend who lives several states away so we Facetime often and through our developing friendship I’m discovering how much we have in common and how much we need each other. I’m strengthening friendships that were put off to the side for awhile. I’m trying to figure out how to maintain friendships with people who don’t really have time for it — recognizing that for this season, I may have to initiate more and make the plans.
It’s hard though. I still find myself wanting people to reach out to me the way I reach out to them. I still think I need to do something to win their affection — as if this is a game of some kind?
I’m sitting here looking at my sleeping dogs. I’m sure they have their own things that are hard, but wouldn’t it be nice sometimes not to have a human brain? I’d love to sleep and play and be excited about everything. This human thing is hard work and I don’t want to do this work alone. So, I’ll stay open and I’ll keep noticing because I don’t know how to be any other way.