Harnessing Loneliness to Build Community


I’m sitting here in the coffee shop, not knowing what to write but feeling the call to write. On my walk down here I came out of the house hoping to lift the brain fog from sleeping in… apparently 8 a.m. is sleeping in now. The air is wet and heavy for December. Green grass is confusing as the air feels more like spring than winter. Squirrels jumping around happily. Water drops suspended on berries and twigs. 

I recently moved to St. Louis Park and since, I have been mourning community. This little coffee shop gives me that feeling of belonging. I come here and I am familiar with some of the workers already, there is a woman sitting next to me knitting. She reminds me of my Nana. A small child is jumping and coloring, giggling in play interacting with all of us while the warmth from my mint mocha warms my belly up. 

I crave settings like this, I love having people around, the chaos of conversation filling the space in the air. Steaming milk screaming for the Barista’s attention. The smell of coffee filling my senses bringing with it memories of home.

The break Through

As I went to bed last night, I had a thought, like a little breakthrough.. A heave sense of loneliness has been plaguing my life. It has been the epitome of my current inward struggle. If you follow me on social media you probably have sensed something off or just a little quieter than I used to be.

So as I was going to bed last night- reflecting on my time in this city so far, I realized… I had only been here for 2 1/2 months and already I have done and met so many people and really instead of sitting in the loneliness as a feeling or defining it as a struggle what I should really work on is shifting my mindset.

The Action

So I sat up, opened up my nightstand drawer and took out my journal. I wrote down all of the ways I have been building community so far.

  1. I started to attend Sales & Marketing Executives luncheons where we listen to presentations on sales and marketing methods while networking with other like-minded professionals. 
  2. I was invited too and welcomed with open arms the Optimist Club. Here we meet to listen to presentations and share in a creed of cultivating optimism in our communities. “Promise Yourself- To be so strong that nothing can disturb your peace of mind. To talk health, happiness, and prosperity to every person you meet…” A passage of the Optimist Creed that we aim to embody. 
  3. Church has been a new source of community that offers a well of connection and outreach for the community. I feel extra blessed in this one. My Nana would take me to her church when I would visit over the last 5 years and I really enjoyed the minister. Turns out she transferred up to St. Paul and it’s only a hop skip and a jump away. I feel like I know her from an extension of my family tree and attending the church is more personal this way.
  4. Pub Theology is also another group that meets once a week for young adults in Minneapolis. We meet downtown in a brewery by the sculpture garden on the third Wednesday of every month to interpret scripture and what it means to us as we chat over beer and pizza. 
  5. This is more of a random experience and isn’t really something that I have sought out but since moving to the Metro, I have run into unexpected people from my past and ironically even people from places I used to live. It’s such a small world and remembering that fact, seeing those friendly faces tells me that I am not alone. I’m never really truly alone.

Fast Forward

So I think moving forward when I feel the crushing weight of loneliness I’m going to recognize that feeling for what it is but instead of the wallow, I will mold it into something different. I’m making a new commitment to myself and you are the reading witness. When the lonely comes, instead of fighting it, I will harness it into the pursuit of interestingness. 

The Pursuit

What does the pursuit of interestingness mean? It means to be curious in life. To have goals but to focus more on the process rather than finding perfection. The pursuit of interestingness is a continual engagement of things that I like to do. When I imagine myself completely submerged in the flow of interestingness I am sitting on the grass with books strewn around me in the middle of a greenhouse. It’s a beautiful blend of the most commonly found items in my apartment. Interestingness is more than just achieving the societal norms of marriage, children, promotion, retirement. It’s the ups and the downs and the risks and the complete succumbing to the paralyzing fear of walking into rooms of strangers, of showing up for your first adult dance class, it’s booking that solo trip to Costa Rica.

A magical Encounter

OKAY. So as I’m writing this, magic happened. The women I described in the beginning who were knitting. They were getting up to leave and I asked them if they lived here in St. Louis Park. This sparked the next 30 minutes of conversation, storytelling, numbers exchanging and walla- new coffee knitting group is formed. I couldn’t even make this up if I wanted to. I learned that ten years ago these two friends met at this very same coffee shop, one after a divorce who gave herself the gift of coffee and that is where these two met. Over the years their coffee group grew into a most exotic crowd of yogi’s, designers, specialists and have since dwindled back down to the two of them as the others went off on their own adventures. 

I learned bits of wisdom after I shared what I was writing about with them. Sometimes during these conversations I wish I could remember every word and commit it to memory but instead I remember feelings and summaries. So here is my take away from the coffee sages. This feeling that I’m feeling right now, isn’t just for twenty somethings. It will be with you your whole life, whether with someone or not. However; when you can learn to tackle it and apply it to people and situations, it will help arm you with a skill that can carry you through the world with grace. I learned that I have just moved into a very green and garden savvy community and come spring armed with my new friends here, I will be introduced to Master Gardeners and community outreaches that fit right in line with my passion. 

The Takeaway

Right here in this little corner as I am writing about community, community ended up finding me and putting itself right into my heart. My spirit is filled up with getting to know another strong woman who has struggled with some of the same exact feelings that I am right now. Serendipitously, she has the same goals as me. We both crave to meet people and fill our lives with passion. People who are movers, who care about the environment, who walk and exist in nature, to have intellectually stimulating conversations about what is happening around us in this life and to live with purpose. 

These interactions, these experiences with “strangers”, this is what I have been missing- but was it ever really gone?

All of this was sparked by a soft smile and inquisitive question back with curiosity and love in my heart. The world responded as a reflection of my inward motives and manifested a new friendship, plans for the future with knitting and gardening. A seed has been planted in my newly forming community outreach.

This is remarkable and I am so incredibly grateful. 

As I leave you with these thoughts for the day, I want to make this message clear. As you read this passage it was very much a personal account of my last two months. But no matter where you are, in any community, at any stage of life. You can still pursue real person to person connection by submerging yourself into meetings that work with your career, by entering and becoming involved with your faith-based environments, and by placing yourself in busy places- but with this, if you really truly want to connect you will need to be able to make eye contact, have love in your heart for your neighbor and be willing to ask a question. Only by listening and by truly being present will the doors to the heart to heart be unlocked.

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