“Our ancestors were not bigger than the animals they took down most of the time or faster than the animals they took down most of the time, but they were much better at banding together into groups and cooperating. This was our superpower as a species We banded together. Just like bees ought to live in a hive - we ought to live in a tribe. But we are the first humans – ever - to disband our tribes. And it is making us feel awful, but it doesn’t have to be this way.”
This is what journalist, Johann Hari, had to say in his 2019 Ted Talk regarding his research on unhappiness and loneliness. Although I am not an expert in the field of psychology, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to see the writing on the wall. The feeling of isolation has become such an issue in today’s western societies that the U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy called loneliness a “growing health epidemic” and in 2018, Britain appointed a Minister of Loneliness to help combat their own “epidemic”.
There have been moments in my own life when I have been without a tribe and Hari is right, it felt awful. But, for the most part, I have always landed among a group of people who I could always call my own – a group where I can ban together with others to face challenges bigger than I could manage alone. One friend of long ago once said that she had finally found her “boogie woogie tribe” referring to those of us in her group. Since then, I have borrowed her phrase when I find myself among a relaxed group of friends where my loud laughter and personality quirks are accepted as endearing attributes.
There are many complicated reasons why there is an increase in loneliness and since I do not have the credentials to identify them, I can’t offer professional solutions. I can, however, share a bit of what I have learned from my own experiences at having walked through the land of isolation.
One contributing factor to my own past self-imposed seclusion was the result of holding myself to unrealistic standards - feeling as if I didn’t quite measure up or was not “perfect” enough to quite fit in. But eventually, I grew a little wiser and realized I’m just like everyone else. I’m not the only one who carries imperfections. As another friend told me just the other day, “We are all just bozos on the bus.”
I recently came across an article written by author, Elizabeth Lesser. She had this to say about the expression, ‘bozos on the bus’:
“I have co-opted the phrase and I use it to begin my workshops, because I believe that we are all bozos on the bus, contrary to the self-assured image we work so hard to present to each other on a daily basis. We are all half-baked experiments-mistake-prone beings, born without an instruction book into a complex world. None of us are models of perfect behavior: We have all betrayed and been betrayed; we've been known to be egotistical, unreliable, lethargic, and stingy; and each one of us has, at times, awakened in the middle of the night worrying about everything from money to kids to terrorism to wrinkled skin and receding hairlines”
So, if you are lonely and isolated because you don’t quite feel you measure up, remember Lesser’s words of wisdom. And if there are other reasons for your loneliness, and you are capable of getting out of the house, perhaps a few of the following guidelines can help you get over that hump and find the tribe you so deserve:
*Hang out with like-minded people by joining a club or taking a class to develop a hobby.
*Try volunteering as it connects you with the community around you. There are so many organizations that need volunteers, you are bound to find something you enjoy.
*Participate in your favorite sport.
*Write down your thoughts to process your emotions and get a clearer idea where your head is.
*And, of course, there is no shame in reaching out for professional or pastoral help.
Just remember, we are all bozos on the bus and, if loneliness is where you are now, perhaps small steps will eventually lead you to your perfect boogie woogie tribe of half-baked-mistake-prone bozos.