“We are made for community.”
That’s one phrase I have heard and read countless of times, stating that we all have a need to love, to belong, to be loved and known by a person or a people, and the fear of not having this has an adverse effect on us.
In 2015, Bryan Kramer wrote that “[t]he need for community is baked into the human psyche, and we crave it.” Kramer further explained that “[h]umans are actually hardwired to participate in communities because they offer a sense of connection, empathy and mutuality.” It becomes safe to say people crave and also need community for their wellbeing. I mean, who really wants to be lonely?
So, in 2019 I wrote: “They’ve all found home, I’m still searching.” At that time, that statement felt so shameful to admit because it seemed like everyone had found a niche, a community, or just had something “happening” for them, and somewhere they could call “home”, but I hadn’t. I felt alone, the one left out like the last sip of tea not taken at the bottom of a mug – too in-between for pleasure or satisfaction. A day later I took the post down from my Instagram because how could I be the only one who hadn’t figured this community thing out yet?
Three months into the year came my birthday, and after sharing some sugar crested doughnuts with my birthday mate earlier in the day, I would find myself curled in a fetal position late at night in bed crying. Crying for what? I can’t even say. I had never felt as lonely as I felt that day. Have it in mind that a birthday is a day in the year where the celebrant gets shown so much more love than they have seen the whole year. With texts, calls, status updates, and pictures rolling out from everywhere. So, why was I feeling so lonely?
Come September 2019 and I had had enough. I googled, “can a person kill himself and still make it to heaven?”
As a believer in heaven and hell, I didn’t want to pass from one hell right into another. With this series of mental tortures here on earth, one hell was enough.
I sat that day swiping through pages of searches and all I could find were admonishments to not kill, and how killing oneself was a “mortal sin”, and a whole lot of apocalyptic stuff piled together to scare people off suicide. None of them encouraged me, none gave me hope, all had signs showing me a bump-free ride to hell. One phrase kept reappearing, “Talk to someone”. How could I, as a believer, admit to other believers that I’m thinking of suicide as an option? Wouldn’t they question my belief? Wouldn’t they say I had strayed from the truth and use my name as an example of “wrong living” during sermons?
I was on Twitter later that evening and I saw a thread from a lady with the caption, “suicidal thoughts? Reach out”. Finally a stranger with an answer. I emailed her with my question hoping to get an answer, and I got one. Another express ticket to hell. Apparently, there is no avoiding it when suicide is involved.
It was time to choose my hell.
“Find your tribe, find your community and love them hard,” you would often hear Pastor Jesse chanting most Sundays. I am trying, pastor, I honestly am. I remember in 2018, I had a thing called a ‘Call and Text’ timetable where I wrote down names of at least 3 people to call or text per week. Since love is one of the threads that bind us as a community and the threads that bind us are all intentional, then love is too. I was trying. Dorothy (I might have changed a name or two, or not), a fellowship member once replied to one of my texts asking how she was doing with “Why do you send so many texts? Do you expect something to be wrong with me?”
I was trying.
A month before Christmas I had a conversation with Victor, the Tech guy from Kaduna state whose twin brother is teaching me how to make suits. He said I had become cold and distant. He spoke about how I needed to try vulnerability and try to be more open – people keep telling me what I need to try. I took up his advice and spoke with my neighbor while he adjusted his long beard and tied it with a band as we sat watching Netflix. I calmly re-explained how some of his attitudes toward me constantly felt like a slap in the face. I could have sworn we were friends and it was okay to “open up” as Victor had earlier said. But what I got was, “I don’t think I can speak to you the same after this.”
In 2017, I let my engineering lodge mate, Emma kiss me, hoping to find community somewhere between our lips. His kiss was like I had a suction pipe inserted into my mouth. For some reason that only he knew, I found him sucking, pulling, and dragging in what I think was an attempt to drain me of my life source, which would have been bliss, but you see, when two lonely souls collide, oftentimes disaster isn’t far from the picture.
I tried more than once to plant love, but it only sprouted weeds.
As Claire, a fellow admin from a camp I attended two summers ago would ask, “are you in love, or are you just lonely?”
I remember texting the man that’s supposed to be my lover – supposed to be because I had imagined us together countless times, though in my defense we were already a whole year into our relationship in my head. I told him that I think it’s about time we fell in love. He replied with the universal saying, one that had been translated countless times into diverse languages, a reply that’s always incomplete. Whenever you hear the reply, “I am not ready to be in a relationship,” go ahead and rightfully add the missing words “with you” at the end. I still shared with him the collage I had made for his birthday, consisting of old pictures of him I dug up from Facebook and sprinkled in Tori Kelly’s “Paper Hearts”. After all, I didn’t make it for myself.
I once stumbled onto a tweet by the rapper Lecrae where he stated that suicide doesn’t stop the pain, it transfers it to everyone who loves you.
Apparently, everyone has a say or two about suicide. So great was the urge I had to drop my own two cents under that tweet, but I try as much as possible to avoid internet banter. Engaging in an argument online, especially on Twitter, has no end once you start. It keeps going on and on till you find yourself arguing about other things, forgetting the initial reason for the argument.
I like to think suicide is like striking a balance, and that the saying is about loving your neighbor “as yourself” not “more than yourself”.
More times than not, I see death as rest, self-love. As Brooke Fraser’s “Brutal Romance” would attest, the romance between death and love is brutal, but romance nonetheless.
My birthday mate, the musician, had me standing in his mini-studio while I whisper half a dozen times into a microphone, “Be kind to yourself”. Isn’t death an act of kindness too, Monlee?
My friend, the one who loves to cook, fell in love with me. I couldn’t love him back. I was afraid to break another broken person.
Fear is a thread I find strongly binding in me. Fear of hell, fear of a broken love, fear of being lonely, fear of wanting what I cannot have, lack of community. Tessa Sulimowicz once said, “I think fear is beautiful. The fact that we are able to experience the overwhelming feeling of being afraid is simply amazing.” I honestly don’t agree with that because I don’t think fear is beautiful. As much as fear of hell is keeping me alive, fear of loneliness is tugging me towards the grave. It’s a battle I don’t want to be a part of, yet I am center stage.
It’s 3:48 am, with my thoughts on the roll I find myself unable to sleep. I bring out the broom in a quest to clean my room, maybe I get to clean my mind too. Why do I feel like a parcel of loneliness has been sent to me without a return address?
Bell Hooks once said in her Love Trilogy that “many of us seek community solely to escape the fear of being alone.” If this isn’t me at the moment, then I don’t know who I am.
Why do I always find myself going for things I cannot have?
Am I simply suffering from a form of self-delusion, the same form Sue Townsend suffered from in her book, Public Confessions of a Middle-aged Woman, or am I just lonely?