Simon James French

Thoughts on loneliness

Just thinking out loud here: I find it harder to create the same kinds of friendships I had years ago when I was living in Brighton. Back then I was friends with everyone and found it easy to create and retain fulfilling friendships.

Recently, I've been feeling that it's much harder to make good friends now that I'm back in London. Is it because this city is so big? On the surface that seems to make sense. But the more I think about it, I had plenty of good friends in Seoul when I lived there (hardly a small city). And in Malaysia I saw friends more often even though I was literally a 3-hour boatride away from them.

When I left Japan, I felt deeply lonely for the first time in my life. Even though back then I was surrounded by people, both figuratively and literally. I was living in a city of 14 million and owned a cafe which had a wealth of incredibly kind and loving regular customers. However, I still felt the pangs of loneliness and I often put it down to living in a culture so foreign to my own. I felt I wasn't able to fully integrate with the Japanese way.

However, here I am in my own culture, and still struggling to build deep connections with people.

It's a strange feeling that I don't fully understand though because I'm actually not sad about spending time alone, it's great to have time to focus on composing music, writing, slowly exploring the city at a glacial pace, biking around, visiting the library and nice coffee shops. But something definitely feels off.

Haruki Murakami writes, in his brilliant book What I Talk About When I Talk About Running:

I’m the kind of person who likes to be by himself. To put a finer point on it, I’m the type of person who doesn’t find it painful to be alone. I find spending an hour or two every day running alone, not speaking to anyone, as well as four or five hours alone at my desk, to be neither difficult nor boring. I’ve had this tendency ever since I was young, when, given a choice, I much preferred reading books on my own or concentrating on listening to music over being with someone else. I could always think of things to do by myself.

and I resonate deeply with that. I remember reading that and nodding along with each and every word. But then he goes on to say:

Sometimes, however, this sense of isolation, like acid spilling out of a bottle, can unconsciously eat away at a person’s heart and dissolve it. You could see it, too, as a kind of double-edged sword. It protects me, but at the same time steadily cuts away at me from the inside.

Ouch.. This is what it feels like from time to time. Sometimes I can ignore the acid, and keep the bottle sealed tightly. But without fail, it starts to leak.

Another brilliant writer, Olivia Laing, wrote in her gorgeous tome The Lonely City:

What does it feel like to be lonely? It feels like being hungry: like being hungry when everyone around you is readying for a feast. It feels shameful and alarming, and over time these feelings radiate outwards, making the lonely person increasingly isolated, increasingly estranged. It hurts, in the way that feelings do, and it also has physical consequences that take place invisibly, inside the closed compartments of the body. It advances, is what I’m trying to say, cold as ice and clear as glass, enclosing and engulfing.

Does anyone want to grab a beer?


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#Murakami #Olivia Laing #loneliness