We are all so lonely

I wake with these words floating before me: I feel so alone. How odd, I think, I don’t feel alone. What does this message mean – and who is it for? Mom? Dad? My husband, still asleep? One of my children?

No. I hear.

I get out of bed with a vague sense of guilt, as if I’m letting someone down. But who? Was there someone to whom I was meant to deliver this message?

Who is it for?

A few hours later,  while working on the last chapter of my book, a bear of a thing – a manifesto about choice and suffering and prayer – I remember that early morning message and instantly, I know.

It’s for you – and it’s for me. It’s for everyone we know. In fact, I realized, the whole world is calling. We all feel so alone.

I don’t know how to write about this. I am not a clinician, not a research scientist. I am a writer – an intuitive. I see what I see and try to name it.

What I see it this: Though our world has never been so interconnected; we have never, individually, felt more isolated.

I have two columns to write this week and a father to visit in a nursing home. An hour in the other direction, my mother sits trapped by her own infirmities in her home. I’ve already missed yoga. I have two kids in college. I am overwhelmed with work – trying to finish a book (which may turn out to be two books.)

This blog, which is supposed to be a refuge, a haven where I come to meet myself – and you, is starting to feel like another responsibility. I am resisting that – trying to keep it clean. To keep it clear of that nonsense I get into when I feel pulled upon and put upon.

And forget about keeping the house clean.

Here’s the thing: We expect too much of ourselves – and of life. We expect ourselves to multitask, to be always available by cell phone, email, instant message, and text. We expect ourselves to be able to work so hard, and then, at the end of our too long days, we expect ourselves to play – which, as it turns out, the way we do it, is just more work.

We have hobbies to do, health clubs to get to and supplements to take. We have Joneses to keep up with and celebrities to gossip about and American Idol to watch.

Lately, I have been observing an interesting trend. People I admire – bloggers, teachers, authors, friends – who’ve been saying, “Nope. Not gonna do this anymore.”

They are taking time away – literally or symbolically – from the whirling, racing pace. They are turning away from social media. When they do it, I feel this little piece of my heart raise its hand and say: Me too.

I need a break – a big break – from all of this.

Don’t get me wrong. I love Twitter. I love Facebook (kinda.) But there is an insidious pull here, what blogger Bindu Wiles called, a ‘sucking quality,” that takes me in directions I don’t want to go.

Instead of constantly checking portals for feedback, I could be sitting with my dad, talking about God the way he likes to do. I could be sitting with Mom, making her coffee and getting her a sweater because when the heat goes up and then down, her frail body gets the shivers.

Lately, I’ve been wondering: What would my grandmother, stirring chicken soup, have said about the way that I rush out of the house in the morning leaving last night’s dishes in the sink? What would my grandfather, a Hebrew scholar, make of the way that I hurry through research, put off interviews, fall asleep with a book about the soul in my hands every single night? And what of my grandmother, a literary bookseller – what would she have made of this e-book I’m composing out of light?

I’ve been thinking about the way that our modern plagues – clutter disorder, cutting, addiction and eating disorders – are calls; they are psycho-spiritual cries for help; and, each is a mirror of other, deeper ills. Paradoxically, though each is an attempt to fill our emptiness, it is just more emptiness, and winds up isolating us even more – from society, from our families and friends, from ourselves.

  • Our excess clutter is a symbol of our spiritual and literal homelessness – we hoard because we are terrified. We sense our inner pennilessness, our disconnection from the center of ourselves (home), and our existential emptiness.
  • Our cutting telegraphs our desperate attempt to FEEL. We cut through our skin and seeing the blood, we feel relief. I am alive. I am in a body. I can bleed.  We cut through our numbness, our alienation, our desperation to feel our bodies, our very lives.
  • Our obesity shows us our yawing hunger, as our grocery superstores expand faster than our waistbands, aisle after aisle of empty processed food products, what I call ‘consumable clutter,’ we are starving for real nourishment. Real food for the body, yes, but also, starving for food for the mind, the heart, and the soul.

This emptiness is too wide and deep for anyone to fill alone. 

These symptom of our disconnection with the soul are shadows – empty calories, empty entertainments, empty sensations. Our airwaves and classrooms are equally soulless – have you opened a textbook lately? they are mind-numbingly dull – offering nothing that can help us reconnect, understand or make meaning.

At the same time, we are bombarding ourselves with stimulation until, in a kind of collective autism, we shut down, rocking.

Rocking.

As our world feels increasingly out of control, we spin cocoons of protection – staying inside or retreating inside to worlds of fantasy and, increasingly violent imagery.  From inside of these cocoons of our own making, we look out, desperate with longing: we want to FEEL our lives and to FILL those lives with meaning.

To me, the greatest problem our world faces today is powerlessness- the feeling of being frozen and unable to act. I believe this powerlessness arises from two sources:

1) Too much information.
– about things that have nothing to do with us
– that we cannot do anything about

2) Increasing fear of ‘out there’
– which leads to our increased isolation.

This fear is encouraged by a media that seems to want to frighten us, and pelts us daily with stories of murder, rape, abuse, violence. But if the only window onto the world that we use is that box of light around which all of the furniture of our living room is arranged, the world will soon come to seem like a very scary place.

So I look through other windows. This is what I do. This is why those bloggers and other healthy people – people with a strong sense of what they need (and their right to have it) sometimes say, No.

They turn off the TV. They unplug from the internet. Knowing that the only way out of this loneliness is to turn and look it right in the eye.

They take their cameras out of doors and snap pictures of the snow settling on a blue bicycle, their breakfast tea steaming beside a nice blueberry scone.

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Showing 45 comments
  • Tino
    Reply

    I teared up a little reading this, I ache and long for connection, I can relate to how all of this feels. I have been through some tough readjustments in my life that have left me feeling alone, twisting in the wind so this really resonated with me. Thank you for writing this post, it’s nice to know that we are all hungering for meaning and connection.

    • Amy
      Reply

      I’m so glad this post resonated for you – and I thank you for your honest and touching comment. There is such a longing in the world for this kind of connection. So glad you stopped by.

  • Sofie
    Reply

    I’m so happy to read this. I am glad to know that I am far from alone in my need to disconnect from the Internet so that I can connect with my heart. That said, I discovered your writing through social media and I am deeply grateful for that. I have made so many important connections and discoveries through the Internet, there is such an abundance here, but perhaps it should be approached like any feast: respectfully and mindful of your purpose and needs. This means that I may not be able to keep up with the blogs that I cherish (like this one) but I can always return to them when it is the right time for me and discover gems at just the right moment (like today!). I am learning that there really is time for everything that matters – the tricky part is discriminating between what really matters, and what does not.

  • Bart
    Reply

    This is a great thought
    1) Too much information.
    – about things that have nothing to do with us
    – that we cannot do anything about

    and I’ve turned off the TV & a lot of the news

    but at times I get comments that I’m out of it because I never heard of some story that is “so important” but has nothing to do with my life. I just want to look a woman in the eye an kiss her!

  • Bobbye Middendorf
    Reply

    Thank you Amy! What a beautiful discussion, naming the dis-eases of our times with candor and compassion: loneliness, fear, disorders of every kind, and disconnection from ourselves, our souls, our Source, and nature… And a beautiful series of responses from the great souls in your circle.

    You are right: We are not meant to do it alone. The sacred circle — written, virtual, or face to face — is potentially our salvation. But it is coming to the many iterations of circle with a mindfulness, with our conscious intent, and a kindliness to ourselves as well as our companions on the journey. We are stewards of our resources, and seeing colleagues signing off from the social fray for awhile can be a real inspiration. Part of it is learning to open our hearts in the moment for the ones who are our closest Beloveds, and to also trust that the moments of connections with our other, more distant companions and colleagues will unfold in perfection, even if we’re not umbilically tethered to our digital communities.

    It’s time for the virtual equivalent of the hand-lettered sign in the shop window: Gone Fishin’

    Sending you warm hugs from Chicago as we await our winter storm. XXOO
    Bobbye Middendorf
    The Write Synergies Guru

  • Judy
    Reply

    Amy, my dear, you’ve done it again. You have a way of taking the learning deeper, that brings us to a place where we can hear it, without judgement. You and your gifts are so needed at this time.

    Blessings,
    Judy

    • Amy
      Reply

      Judy! How lovely to find you here. Thank you for your comment. 🙂

  • Cindy
    Reply

    Yes! I have been pulling away from social media since last June, not completely disconnecting, but, distancing myself, to take a closer look at my immediate surroundings and choosing to spend more time travelling my own path, stopping to smell the flowers, so to speak. I hadn’t really understood why and certainly have felt a few pangs of guilt along the way for doing it!

    I feel like you’ve written this post just for me, to remind me that it is okay to be where I am right now and that, maybe, this path I am currently on is indeed the direction I should take right now. Thanks, Amy.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Hi Cindy! (Waving) Thank you for this comment. I DID write it just for you – and for me. I’m taking myself on another retreat this weekend – this one with a group. Can’t wait.

  • Tracie
    Reply

    I have come to the place where I can recognize in myself the moment when I need to pull back from the social media and turn some of that attention inward….and outward to my family, to the world that surrounds me physically.

    Sometimes I don’t listen to myself in that moment, and I do feel that loneliness and the longing.

    The times I do listen, and I unplug and step away, I feel refreshed and more whole. I’m able to look at my email inbox and not feel overwhelmed to the point of powerlessness, but instead I can enjoy the emails from friends and respond to the business ones without anxiety.

    • Amy
      Reply

      I did something like this this weekend. I unplugged and put away the desktop computer in my home office and didn’t go online from home at all. I avoided Twitter and Facebook dropping by only once or twice the whole two day cycle. It was like waking up from a dream – which told me that I have been WAY too plugged in.

  • jo miller
    Reply

    Dearest Amy,

    You really are on to something ~ Life was not meant to be this hard,this frantic ~ filled with such angst. We can’t keep spinning looking for the next best thing.
    I am very glad that you wrote this. It takes courage to admit and move to the next step.
    Put this on your back burner ~ surrender & release. Keep your faith. finish up your book. 🙂 take a break from something I know that you will ask your Angels to guide you…It has been a busy year for you & baby you have done a fantastic job.
    Ask for help where you can…cuddle & laugh with your Dad…read more Anne Tyler to your Mom.
    It is okay You are beautiful,generous,witty,kind,caring & supportive ~ give back to you for a while.
    Plan a madcap adventure Ha!
    right now your angels ( some of them) are here with me & they are so full of peace & love…I see a beautiful quilt small patterned-gorgeous tones of blues,soft,soft yellows and deep violet/dusty rose hues.
    Open up your arms to receive them, they are on their way home.

    Love gratitude

    • Amy
      Reply

      Wow. What a beautiful and loving pep talk. I feel so seen, so deeply acknowledged by you. (As I always do.) Blessings and thank you. 🙂 Blowing a kiss on the way to the bath…

  • Allison Nazarian
    Reply

    This so resonates with me. On a few levels. First, I have been writing recently about my first year of being single after divorce and I keep coming back to the idea that we are all, each and every one of us, fundamentally alone. Not in a sad, lonely way (though that is what happens for some people) but in a factual, practical way — there is but one person you are guaranteed to be with from the day you are born until the day you die. Many people fill every waking moment with noise of different kinds — twitter being just one of them.

    That works for some, not so much for others. For me, it gets to be too much. I use it as a crutch or to drown out what my insides are trying to tell me at a particular time. Just this weekend, I decided to take twitter off my phone. And I have felt and operated quite differently in the few days since. Many of us, especially writers like us, crave and need our thoughts and our alone time and our quiet time. When we don’t have the access to it that we need, we feel it in every imaginable way and I suspect that is where your message this morning was coming from. By the way, I’d like some more messages, can you send ’em my way?!
    xoxo

    • Amy Miyamoto (@LotusAmy)
      Reply

      Allison, this phenomenon is very familiar to me as well. What I am finding (for me) is that it is about making the conscious shift in my awareness to my state of BEINGNESS. And anchoring in what state of BEING I want to be showing up with in the world. And from that place allowing the centered (freedom vs. fear) state of being to inform the decisions about the who, what, when, where, why, and how of the technologies I choose to engage with. All in the effort to support my more conscious way of being. I know for me – my first year spent deeply in the social media world although fun, exciting, and impactful from the large network it created was not spent from this fully centered conscious place where my intentional beingness was guiding all of my interactive decisions. This is a huge key I have been aligning over the last several months. Thanks for showing up to share your voice! 😉

      • Amy
        Reply

        🙂 What she said.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Yes. Yes. “Many of us, especially writers like us, crave and need our thoughts and our alone time and our quiet time.” #Like

      • Allison Nazarian
        Reply

        Was reading your Amy + Amy comments and had this thought about meeting some really awesome women every month (quarter?) and just writing in some really cool place together. #thatisall

  • Amy Miyamoto (@LotusAmy)
    Reply

    Amy – the intuitive wisdom that you share here and the vibration you are picking up on is profound. I have been seeing it, hearing it, and feeling this similar thing for some time now. I agree with everything you shared and I so appreciate your willingness to get it out from the belly onto paper. The one other point that was gnawing at me as I read was that these dynamcis mixed with an increased collective awakening (especially in women right now) from numbness that reaches back eons. These dynamics combining together for me has made determining exactly where to devote my energy and focus just that much more complex. Thank you for your voice!

    • Amy
      Reply

      Yes, the collective awakening… yes. I feel that, too. And the huge rising of the Divine Feminine in the world. And how that is shaking the foundations of male-dominated systems, structures and psyche-forms (illusions) to the foundations. Which, though, unsettling makes me wanna hoot – Heya!

  • Michael Douglas Jones
    Reply

    I am that Jones that everyone has to keep up with, and I am getting so tired, trying to keep up this charade. We are on the same street, in the same town, living in the same universe. The Jones house is not better; it is defined by the street, the town, the universe. If you would like to keep up with Jones, simply be unafraid, as I am; look out your real window at me, looking out my window at you. A simple wave will suffice. We are that.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Oh, love – what a beautiful response. Here I am, waving. Come out of the castle. We have a cup of tea waiting for you. (I would be happy to come into the castle, too.) 🙂

  • noel
    Reply

    Yes. I lost five hours to social media last Saturday and feel as though I have nothing to show for it. It’s been sticking in my mind because that, along with a work project I devoted my Sunday night to, I felt totally burned out when Monday arrived. I love social media, but it can be very dangerous ground for type a, overachiever, workoholics. My antidote is nature; an escape from the glowing screen to something God made.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Nature is my antidote, as well – and how often I pretend I do not see her there, waiting, splayed open all over the place as I pull out the driveway.

  • Garrett
    Reply

    Beautiful, heart-wrenching post, Amy. I feel myself getting sucked in too, even as I am grateful for thoughtful, positive writers such as yourself introduced to me through this medium. Not to overload you more, but I listened to a wonderful interview with Gwen Bell about how she took a month off from online, about getting centered and focused, you may already know it, it’s at this link: http://bit.ly/fYq8PQ titled Cultivating Digital Beginner’s Mind (not that I’ve really put it into practice yet myself, but I’ve been trying to set aside time for silence and meditation each day.) Thank you for writing.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Thank you for this link. Not overloaded – grateful to know about it. I love Gwen Bell and will go there when the time is right. (Learning to respect the rhythm in this, too. I click on links when I have time and mind to savor what lies at the end of them.)

  • Salty
    Reply

    Yes.

    And no, not preachy. I feel all of this deep down, too. There is always more out there…at the moment I am feeling the “I’m following 8,576,435,543 blogs and can’t keep up and I keep finding more more MORE! And instead of them being a great release and inspiration…I start to feel burdened. And I’m not even the one writing the blogs! But really the blog issue is just a tiny spec of the “too much” in my life…too much food, too much obligation, and the rest.

    Thank you for your post…just being aware of this is a beautiful start to doing something about it.

  • kelly
    Reply

    yes. this past month, i am there, right there in that place you describe. and it is new for me, I started my blogs one year ago, and then later joined twitter and facebook. I took two days last weekend away and it helped. But I think I may need more, or different at least. you are so good.

  • Shery
    Reply

    Amy, you have named something and described something that SO MANY of us are feeling (including me, can’t you tell?)
    Too much input. Too many expectations of ourselves. Running too fast.
    STOP!
    Thank you, Amy

    • Amy
      Reply

      Well, it’s stop AND also, it’s go, isn’t it? We are all having to learn to integrate all of this into our lives. And that’s shaking us up.

  • VeraR
    Reply

    Amy, Excellent post. Thanks for your insights… and no…. not preachy at all! Unfortunately, the social media we use has helped us keep in touch, too. Wouldn’t be reconnecting without it. It takes balance. Vera Rulon

    • Amy
      Reply

      Balance. Yes. Yes.

  • Diana Antholis
    Reply

    Amy, I have good and bad days with social media. Some days I am so thankful for it but some can make me feel incredibly lonely. I unplugged for four days over the weekend once and it felt fabulous. My goal is to stay off of it on weekends as much as I can. Sometimes, you just have to say NO.
    🙂
    Diana

    • Amy
      Reply

      I like this – it’s another kind of rhythm. On three days. Off four days. This is what I seek, I think – a rhythm that works with my own.

  • Richard A Marti jr
    Reply

    I have discovered that our feeling alone is an illusion. We are really connected at a very deep human earthy level. It is our lifestyles that are busy and full of bustle that creates the illusion of disconnect. When we can be quiet and listen carefully we can reconnect, with ourselves our loved ones, our world and the spirit of all life. I can feel you through your work and your kindred spirit. You are on the right path. Keep up the beautiful sharing. It is cherished! And keep shining your light removing the illusion.

    • Amy
      Reply

      And of course it’s all illusion – all but that connection, that source code buried deep inside that’s always glowing, pulsing. Yes.

  • Marjory
    Reply

    Amy,
    Right on. Love this:
    “from inside of these cocoons of our own making, we look out, desperate with longing: To FEEL our lives and to FILL those lives with meaning.”
    We crave meaning, soul to soul connection, desperately.

  • Liz
    Reply

    mmmm…yes. you’re saying what needs to be said aloud. lately the connections i have made over twitter have been helping me more than I’m willing to admit, but i also know i need to step away at times. good thing i’m forced to often, with work, and well, life. reminders like this one are important. loving you…

    • Amy
      Reply

      loving you right back – and here is one of the great things about social media. That I could love you, though we haven’t met. 🙂

  • Julie Daley
    Reply

    Beautiful, dear. Not preachy at all.
    I am going to let your wisdom seep into my pores and sit with it. I can feel something rise up out of my body, something that wants to be said in response, but I will sit with it first.
    Thank you, as always, for your words of heart.
    xo
    Julie

  • Karen Sharp
    Reply

    Ohhh.

    Yes.

    Me too, with a fear that catches on the edge of panicky tears inside me.
    But…! but…!!!
    I don’t know what my fear is so afraid of.

    A deeper part of me is saying, real quiet,
    ….me too.

    thank you.

    • Amy
      Reply

      Yes, you too. 🙂

  • Lisa
    Reply

    I didn’t think that post sounded preachy at all. I think you’re spot on about everything.

    Hugs.

    • Amy
      Reply

      xxoo 🙂

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