A few months ago, I heard this story on Invisibilia. I’ve listened to a lot of podcasts but none like this before. None where the story returned to my mind, days and weeks later. Wondering about what the meaning is – Who do you let in?
In our society, it’s not hard to tell we have a problem. There’s a big issue of connection. The epidemic of loneliness. The lack of connection is everywhere. In this day and age, we’re lonely. And it’s starting to affect us more than we could have ever thought.
Everyone feels this sense of isolation. Half of America feels lonely. We feel like social connections we make aren’t meaningful. Many people live alone now. As Baby Boomers get older, many of them had less children and more divorces, so some of them are alone. Gen Z and millennials are rated most highly for loneliness. This feeling of the need to connect, it’s when you want to talk to someone but you scroll through your contact list, and there’s no one to talk to.
Back to this story. Abby Wendell narrates this story. She meets an older man, Doc, at a concert, and he tried to talk to her, but she felt uncomfortable as a woman who was there alone. Through meeting Doc, she realizes she hasn’t connected with anyone in awhile. Her boyfriend is working abroad, and the world can feel gray when the one you love isn’t by your side. The issue was that she closed herself off entirely. She didn’t want to get hurt, so it was best to not form any connections at all. Everyone was threatening and scary.
So who do we let in?
In a world where the news shows us criminals and terrorists and murderers, who can we trust? Who can we trust enough to let in?
The dangers of loneliness are all too real. It affects us physically. Social isolation and loneliness can lead to high blood pressure, heart disease, obesity, a weakened immune system, anxiety, depression, cognitive decline, Alzheimer’s disease, and even death.
Loneliness is killing us.
Loneliness is real and its effects are more pressing than we are currently led to believe. Social media is multiplying its effects by making everyone else seem like they’re having the best time of their lives all the time with all their amazing friends. Loneliness is a problem and they are two ways to solve it.
We can choose to move about the world in two different ways. Fear or love. We can choose to harden ourselves. To resist our desire for companionship and fold into ourselves. Or we can let the fear go and allow someone in.
Fear is valid. Fear is often said to be False Evidence Appearing Real, but I don’t care what anyone says, it’s valid. In this world where it seems like everyone has a crazy neighbor and a few towns away, there’s always another shooting, there’s always another tragedy, it’s made it hard to believe in safety. I can’t even imagine how the victims of those tragedies live as their sense of trusting in their safety is gone. When the world seems like it’s on fire, it’s scary to try and let someone in.
Fear is 100% self-protection. That I believe to be true. But it also stifles the very thing that’s needed for happiness. In this era of human history, most (not all) have our basic needs met. There is this desire to climb the corporate ladder or acquire the latest and greatest. But what we truly have a deep desire for is to be known. To be seen and heard, completely and fully. To be understood by another human and accepted. And that desire cannot be met in fear.
So who do you let in?
There isn’t any foolproof way to decide who is worth letting in. There is no machinery (yet) designed for determining someone’s trustworthiness or their sense of loyalty to their community. Frankly, all we can do is hope. Hope for the right person to come along and take a chance.
We can take a look at the humans around us. Accept their flaws. See their imperfections for what they are. Take note of their strengths and their quirks. Be the one willing to love unconditionally.
We have to open ourselves up to the people life is sending our way. To be the person who reaches out. Be the person that smiles at strangers as you walk to work. Be the person who talks to someone in line at the coffee. Be the person who shares a little more.
Reach out to others. Make this world a little less scary than it seems. Let someone in.
What podcasts have you been listening to lately? Anything on vulnerability and being open to others?