THE CANYON: FINDINGS

The content of this post was originally shared on my Instagram on February 14th 2019. Here it is all together for easy reading - I hope it helps! Love, Freddy

It is Valentine’s Day, and also the anniversary of the Parkland shooting that I still don’t know how to talk about, and also 1 year + 1 day since I first led a round of #TheCanyon. A cool thing about devising is that every piece changes your life a little bit, but doing this little loneliness survey has really transformed me in a ways I never dreamed a piece could. It’s interesting to see today what’s changed (3 of the 4 people who were a big part of Canyon #1 are no longer in my life, including the person who literally helped me run the first round) and what hasn’t so much (all the happy couple V day posts still make me happy and sad at the same time). So to honor and celebrate all the changes and not-changes and this weird half-reclaimed holiday, I want for the first time to share some “findings” from a year of studying and changing from loneliness. I hope they help.

1. Everyone is lonely. That person you’re thinking of who can’t possibly be lonely? Them too. *Everyone.*

2. No one can ever be 100% not lonely, but you can actually do a lot to change your baseline level of loneliness. Surprisingly, making yourself ask roomfuls of people questions about loneliness every month for a year is a super effective way to do this.

3. If you don’t want to talk about it, you should probably talk about it.

4. Being in certain types or having certain amounts of relationships will not make you less lonely. Taking the time to determine your needs, wants, and boundaries for all of your relationships will help you feel less lonely.

 5. A scary thing about figuring out what you actually want or need from your relationships is that you may learn current relationships you are in are not meeting those wants and needs, and are actually causing you to feel more lonely. This sucks! It sucks and the only good way to deal with it is to end the relationship and begin that grieving process as soon as you humanely can. Don’t linger, it’ll just make it worse. End it. You deserve to be in relationships that support you in the ways you want and need to be supported.

6. There are so many cliches about learning to love yourself before you can love others, but the real tea is that it’s reaaallly hard to be in any kind of relationship to others unless you are actively in relationship to yourself. Your relationship to yourself is your #1 relationship, if only because you are *literally always around*. You can’t not be in relationship to yourself, so you might as well take care of and love yourself, yeah? It won’t always be fun (no relationship is always fun), but it’ll sure beat whatever else you’re doing right now! 

7. Compare and despair? Don’t do it! Projecting onto your current relationships instead of acknowledging that work needs to be done before those relationships can be the best they can be? Don’t do it!! Especially when it comes to your relationship to yourself!!!

8. It is difficult, but it’s possible. Do it.

9. Something Liz said to me a little while ago that still resonates with me a LOT: Assume people are going to be the way they are for the rest of time. So if you’re in or considering a relationship with someone whose got a red flag or 5, don’t assume your love is going to change that (as so many of us are so socialized to do). Assume they’re gonna be that way FOREVER. Don’t like that now? Gtfo. 

10. I know it probably doesn’t feel like it, but I promise you are doing a lot better than you think you’re doing. 

11. More people are terrified of the extent to which they can hurt other people than you think. 

12. Generally speaking, healing one area of your life will only heal that area of your life, so be patient and only try to work on one thing at a time so you don’t drive yourself completely insane. (They said anxiously from their messy couch at 3 in the morning. 😬)

13. We’re taught that good romantic relationships are one size fits all mandatory fulfillment machines, which is bullshit, so take the time to ask yourself if a romantic relationship or ships is something you’re *actually interested in* at this time. I went into The Canyon thinking being in a good romantic relationship would make me so much happier (which again Not A Thing see #4), but have since come to realize that, actually, I’m really happy with the balance of alone and people time I have in my life right now, and don’t want to mess with that by adding a whole romance to the mix, at least for the time being. Still going to have crushes on everyone though hahaha yay. (This seems as good a time as any to say that I’ve also realized I’m DTF with ... pretty much all of my friends?!? Y’all are just so great and fun and fun to look at okay! If you ever wanna make out seriously lmk, but no worries if not, I promise this is now the one thing I’m suuuuuper chill about. cool Happy Valentine’s Day thanks bye!! 😅😁)

14. The Canyon seems smaller the longer you hike out of it, up and up. You just have to keep going. Rest, and then keep going. 

15. Loneliness is an important human emotion everyone has to deal with, but it is so important to acknowledge that we also live inside social structures that set us up to be more lonely. Capitalism benefits when we are scared and isolated, and it’s a lot easier to scare and isolate people when literally everything is set up to benefit people who are in certain kinds of relationships in certain ways, and when a lot of the “benefits” of being in those relationships (mutual loving touch, companionship, company, etc.) are actually core experiences every single human being needs to survive and feel happy. Just as it’s key to work with a social model of disability, we must also work with a social model of loneliness, and take responsibility for each other’s well-being by ending this toxic terrifying gatekeeping around who gets to be loved and taken care of and how. EVERYONE DESERVES TO BE LOVED AND TAKEN CARE OF. Most of the forms of love and care that we’re taught can only be applied in romantic relationships can AND SHOULD be applied to our entire communities all the time (with consent and communication ofc ofc). This is something that’s juUust beginning to make waves in some governments/institutions (Parliament’s on fire rn but the UK still managed to appoint a Minister of Loneliness last year), and if we can like get through it as a species in the next few decades, I totally believe we can begin to make social services that specifically combat loneliness commonplace (my current daydream is a phone number you can call 24/7 if you need help with a task or just don’t want to be alone for a little bit - yay neighborly companionship!). In the meantime, the only ways we can combat these systems individually is to REACH OUT to people and offer support as well and often as we can, and to ACTIVELY CHOOSE to be in the kinds of relationships we are in and how. The relationships don’t define how we work, WE define TOGETHER how the relationships work, all of them, all the time. Isn’t that exciting? We have the power to define how we are in relationship to each other and to ourselves. I think it is a very beautiful power! And it’s one you can access whenever you want, and whenever you’re ready. All you have to do is decide. 

Happy Valentine’s Day everyone. I love you! Gnight! 💚🌱