The Party Crasher
If Inside Out had a character named Loneliness she would looks something like the 1000 pound woman from that awful TLC special, but somehow still she would still have horribly bony, pointy elbows that she’s constantly jamming into your kidneys. She would act moody and unpredictable, lumbering in and taking up all the available real estate right in the center of your brain, right when you’re feeling happy and content and free. Loneliness is especially rude because, although she reminds you of emptiness and void, she takes up so much space. She’s a very real presence constantly reminding you that she’s moved in and she’s not going to vacate the premises until she’s wrecked the place a bit. In spite of this, she’s not inherently cruel. She’s more melancholy than malicious; but, she is huge and moving around when you take up so much space involves some collateral damage. It’s like trying to fit a very large sofa through a very narrow hallway- pictures are probably going to fall and shatter their frames, the walls will most likely get bumped, and the paint will almost certainly scratch. Damage is inevitable, but still the couch must go through the hallway in order to get where it belongs. Loneliness takes a toll even when she’s just passing through.
No one ever invites Loneliness to the party, but she shows up anyways, sometimes. She waits until things really get going, when, to borrow from Pixar, Joy and Sadness and Anger and Disgust and Fear seem to have found just the right balance and everyone’s getting along, and she rolls up in her used, slime colored Toyota Prius (because for all her size, she’s one sneaky, silent bitch) and parks right in the middle of the festivities. Everyone at the party has enough room to move about and laugh and mingle comfortably until Loneliness pulls up and settles in with her vacuous melancholy, poking and prodding her way to the center of the room. She crowds everyone else out. It doesn’t take long to realize she’s brought nothing with her. She showed up empty handed, because she’s also a freeloading asshole. It’s not long before Sadness reluctantly offers her a drink, because Sadness is a sucker and always feels like she has to keep Loneliness company when she comes around. Everyone else at the party fades into the background when Loneliness shows up; not because they want to, but because there’s no room for them at the moment. They’re good sports so they hang around and awkwardly wait for Loneliness to get bored and go home so they can get back to the bonfires and laughter, but they’re quiet while she’s around. There’s not much to say, because Loneliness, as you can imagine, isn’t the greatest conversationalist. She doesn’t have a lot to offer, she simply shows up to suck the energy out of the place for a while and then go crash someone else’s party.
That’s the deal with Loneliness. She’s incredibly disloyal. She shows up and takes up space and demands attention she has no intent to share or return, but she’s just as quick to abandon ship and crash a party down the street. Don’t expect to hear about that, though. No one really talks about the times she comes around, we just bear it until she leaves and we can go back to business as usual. We are often secretly distracted by the enormous presence of her yet we never let on she’s even entered the building, let alone that her poop green Prius sits idling in the middle of the living room. We go on pretending that Happiness or Anger or any of the other more socially acceptable emotions are running things, and hope no one notices that Loneliness is actually very much in charge. We post pictures of our perfect lives on Instagram, and when people ask us how we’re doing our voices raise an octave and we offer a cheery, “Great! So, so good!”, and we hashtag how blessed we are and how good God is but, secretly, we’re waiting. We’re waiting for her to get bored and move on to her next stop so we can say something we really mean, again, without the well intended but often condescending, “You should…”, “Why don’t you…”, and “But you seem so…” platitudes that often get tossed about when someone actually admits that Loneliness dropped by, again.
We cope. We pay close attention when Joy speaks up if Loneliness is in the room, because we really do want to hear what Joy has to say. We like her. We prefer her. She sounds like Amy Poehler, which reminds us of all the times we’ve laughed until we cried and boldly said whatever was on our minds. We really like Joy, but sometimes the silence of Loneliness feels louder and heavier than anything else and it takes a while to hear things normally again. It’s like trying to listen underwater: You’re really not going to hear the words clearly until your ears clear the surface.
If Loneliness is currently crashing your party, I think the most helpful thing I can say here is, “Mine, too.” That’s about the scariest thing to admit, but if this blog has taught me anything it’s that saying the scary thing out loud (or typing it) makes it not so scary, anymore. When you shine a light in a dark room, more often than not, you’ll see there are other people in the room with you. And that, my friends, is how you get Loneliness to leave. Turn the light on her. She hates it. She wants to be the center of attention, and that can only happen when we’re unaware of just how not alone we are. She wants us to wait in the dark, afraid to move for fear of bumping into her and risking a bony elbow to the kidney. She knows that we when shine the light on her, we’ll see that Joy and all her friends never actually left, they’ve just been hidden in the shadows for a while.
Get rid of the shadows. Turn on the light. We’re waiting for you!