I went to a playgroup this morning with Rosie. It was our first time. It has been strange and interesting being on the outside of a group and watching how it functions. What seems to work and what doesn’t. What I was struck by this morning was the lack of welcome and introductions. I tried to introduce myself twice and either I wasn’t heard or I was ignored. I thought later that there is something to be said for formal introductions and ritualised behaviour. Although it seems overbearing and stuffy in our times at least back then everyone knew the steps. It made meeting new people easy. I think it can be daunting introducing yourself whether you are part of the group already or new to the group. Perhaps it is the faint prospect of rejection that can make it hard.
It was while I was standing outside with Rosie by myself that I really tuned into the loneliness that has been dogging my heels for days. Loneliness is a familiar face for many of us, perhaps all of us. But familiar is a deceptive decriptor because loneliness isn’t always very comfortable. In fact for me most of the time it isn’t.
My first brush with deep aching loneliness was when I was ten and we had moved towns. We moved from a smallish town to a bigger town and my new primary school was big. I remember lying on my bed listening to Cat Stevens ‘Miles from Nowhere’. It really resonated with how I was feeling. Even now I love this song. Especially these lyrics:
I love everything, so don’t it make you feel sad. Cause I’ll drink to you, my baby. I’ll think to that, I’ll think to that.
Miles from nowhere, not a soul in sight. Oh yeah but it’s alright.
I have my freedom. I can make my own rules. Oh yeah the ones that I choose.
Lord my body has been a good friend. But I won’t need it when I reach the end.
Back then my loneliness was intricately connected to my sense of self, my identity. I hadn’t really learnt who I was yet and all the things that created my boundaries and my identity had changed. It was only within my own family that I felt like the same person.
When I was in Year Ten I went to India by myself for four months. I went and lived in Bokaro Steel City and attended St Xavier’s where my father had taught for four years before he met my mother. We had been to India as a family when I was eleven so I had some inkling of what it would be like. However this time I went without my family. It was the loneliest I had ever felt. And I realised then that the labels we assign to ourselves or get given don’t mean anything. Neither do the physical trappings of our life, like where we live, the size of our house, our car, our relationship status and our job. For the first time I was somewhere and I was completely out of context. I discovered that I could be anyone. So what was really important? I’m still answering that question sometimes on a daily basis but I did discover that I have to walk my own path.
This morning was a reminder about walking my own path. It is highly unlikely that I will stumble across a ready-made group of people who all have similar ideals and ways of living to myself. Instead it will take time to meet real friends here in this new place. I am walking my own path. It is just mine. There will always be times of loneliness but perhaps this will allow me to stay true to myself.