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April 06, 2003: Hollow

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When things are happy and light and good, I don't mind the lack of friends so much. After all, there are Richard's friends, and there is my family, and there are acquaintances I have through work or church. When things are happy and I'm perfectly content with life, those all seem adequate. Yes it would be nice to have a best friend again, but most of the time I can fool myself into believing that this isn't such a big deal.

It's the rest of the time it really gets to me. Times like now when I would give almost anything to have someone I could call, just to meet for coffee and talk. Someone to whom I could vent and maybe even cry a little. Someone who would understand that I just needed someone to listen without jumping to conclusions; without judging.

I am lonely. And right now, it's worse than it's been in a long time. At least when I was on the road, I had that as the excuse - not being home means it's hard to cultivate friendships. But the truth of the matter is, even now that I *am* home, I still have nothing. And at times like these, when I feel as if I have been wound so tight I will soon snap, the loneliness is so big and huge and overwhelming that it physically hurts inside. It builds up inside me until I reach the point where it is all I can do not to burst into tears. And sometimes even all I can do isn't enough, and I end up crying anyway.

Today was one of those days. It's been a hard week for me. There's the underlying stress of being at a new job where the position isn't clearly defined and so it is even more critical than usual that I perform well. There is the fact that Richard has been sick - extremely sick - and I can do nothing but worry about him since he is far away. There is the fact that because of all of this stress, I am more sensitive than usual to comments made to me by those who are close to me. Something said that might perhaps have been meant in jest instead stings as if it is criticism, and lingers long after the words were spoken so that I turn them over and over in my head and analyze what they mean. This week especially, I have felt as if I have been walking on a very narrow tightrope with everyone around me - family, in-laws, and coworkers. With all of them, the line between what can be discussed and what cannot be uttered for fear of reprisal has gotten smaller and smaller What I cannot say becomes more important than what I can say, and what I cannot say instead builds up inside me and makes it all that much harder.

I went out with my older sister this afternoon, shopping for shoes since she called and invited me. I went because I thought perhaps it would do me good to get out of the house and doing something frivolous. I cried a little, in the car on the way to the mall, but I managed to get it together by the time I met her. It worked for a little while - long enough for us to find shoes and a few tops to buy, and wander through the children's department for my nephews. Near the end, however, she commented that I looked tired, and rather than collapse in a blubbering heap in the middle of a department store, I simply grabbed the excuse and agreed that yes, I was simply tired. I managed to make it to my car before the tears came again, and I cried on and off the entire way home.

I know that this latest bout of stress and sadness will pass and I will be back to my usual happy self soon enough. But the loneliness doesn't go away. No matter how hard I try to pretend that it doesn't matter, it's always there. I have never been the social butterfly type. I am awkward in new situations; uncomfortable with forced to make small talk with strangers. And I know that I have spent too much time in jobs that were too far from home, or involved too much travel for me to be able to do whatever it is I was supposed to do so I would have friends at my age.

What scares me, especially right now when I'm scraped raw and need a friend more than ever, is that this will never change. This is all there is now. I'm past the age where friendships happen. This is it. And this hurts.

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