There’s something I miss about the simple intracations with other human beings. Don’t get me wrong – I haven’t been dragged into a seething pit of poor mental health. In fact, I’m quite enjoying the whole working from home experience.

Work hours fly by. I’m more productive. My physical and mental health feel like they’re in tip-top condition.

Now, I have to admit that this is all subjective. Send someone round to my house and let them spend a couple of hours with me and they might well decide that I’ve lost it. But that’s not the case as Yuri, my hamster will tell you. He hears me and he understands.

Joking aside, over the past year I’ve been more active than usual in exploring and challenging my beliefs and opinions. Which has been great in many ways. But there is a blackhole at the centre of my life, one that crushes all unfortunate enough to clip the swirling rim and be pulled down into the dark heart.

I miss people

Not simply seeing them. I mean, we can do that via Zoom, Skype, etc. And with the rolling back of lockdown, I get to see people every day. What’s missing is the intimacy that comes with up-close, personal conversations over a coffee. A handshake, maybe even a hug.

That’s what I miss.

And the sadness in my heart is hollow voice, tapping out a constant ryhthm.

I know that many people feel this way. For me, the effects are amplified by what can only be described as a, ‘less than optimal upbringing.’ During my teenage years I was insular, preferring my own company to that of others.

If anyone stepped uninivited into my closed world my reactions were extreme, to say the least.

Being sociable wasn’t an issue as I learned how to play the game. But that’s all it was – a game that I could connect with, and detach from, with ease. Those connections, those people and experiences, held little value beyond providing a period of entertainment for me.

Now, before I go on, I’d like to add that no sympathy is requested, or sought. Back in the day I was happy with my decision. After all, I really didn’t know any better.

And the voices that were my friends, that accompanied me until my late 30s, were welcome and familiar.

One day, a short time after my 38th birthday, I decided that not all was right in my life. For some of you, it’s pretty crazy to think that I’d spent so long assuming my actions and thoughts were ‘normal’, even though they were to me. It was at this point I decided to find a friend – a real one and not the voices that whispered their lies.

So I went out and met people. Real people

Before we move on, I’d first like to say this to all my friends I’ve met over the past 12 years (all five of you): you are all valued and I would fight for you, no matter what. And to J (I’m hiding his name, he’s a little shy), I want to say thank you for all your thoughts and advice over the years.

Getting back to those real people. Let me say that meeting them on terms that weren’t my own was hard. Many of those early connections were… stilted. I realised that dominating a conversation was not appropriate and many people shied away from my overbearing, self-centred attitude. A few – the ones who understood – ran with it and gave me the space to pour our words until I could talk no more. Trust me, I can talk a lot!

The first few years of engagement presented many challenges. I had to re-learn the art of give and take, to shift my suspicious mind from a mode of thinking in which there was an ambush waiting in every conversation. Most difficult of all was understanding how to read people.

Not so that I could second-guess them, or find a weak spot. No, I chose to explore emotions. Which seems crazy, but for much of my life I existed and communicated my thoughts and intent through a very narrow field of emotional language – anger and self-pity. I could laugh, but it was usually at the misfortunes of others.

Just writing those words makes me feel uneasy. Had I slid that low? Yes.

The good news is that, over time and with the help of an amazing person, I started to ‘feel’ again.

Now, if you’re any doubt as to the validity of that phrase, don’t me. Most of the worst experiences of my life were shrugged off. I understand that some people might think they need some of that attitude, to be able to accept that life can be crappy and move on. But please don’t wish to be in that place. You see, I simply didn’t care about pretty much anything beyond myself, which is a pit no person should ever find themselves slipping into.

A small, but caring group of people helped me find and understand my emotions.

The voices still chatter

In the early days of lockdown I would find thoughts lodging in my head. They might be trivial, or signifiicant. And then I’d start to ruminate until a deep sense of paranoia immeresed me.

Don’t worry. I’ve developed many to manage those voices and, to be honest, they’re not an issue anymore.

They’ll still chatter, attemting to pull me into their dark world, but I’ve got an ace up sleeve: lockdown is nearly over. We’re on the cusp of normal, or maybe a new normal, and that’s good news.

I’m looking forward to getting out there and renewing friendships and making contact with people in a way that seemed impossible for the last twelve months.

The voices will always be there, only muted and powerless.

What are you most looking forward to?

Meeting up at a cafe with friends? Finally being able to hug your grandparents? Maybe it’s something really simple like making a new connection, or acquaintance and being able to shake hands with them.

Let me know in the comments.

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