Frozen in Loneliness Without People

Sometimes I feel so lonely that I feel frozen. Are we meant to feel this way sometimes? Is it just a part of living? Is it a part of learning that the only person we really have to depend on is ourselves?

I miss having people. I remember when I didn’t have a husband I felt terribly lonely. I remember thinking that having a husband would make everything better. My husband is my best friend. But that doesn’t take away the loneliness.

I’ve had friends in grade school and university who were like sisters to me. You know, the kinds of friends you barely part with? While in university, there was one friend I’d spend hours every day on the phone with after spending hours every day with her on campus. Her father, God rest his blessed soul, used to joke about how much we talked with each other. “When one of you goes to the toilet she calls the other to tell her about it!” he’d jest. It wasn’t far from the truth. I don’t even know where that friend is in the world today. I’m not even sure she’d want to know me now that I’ve taken off my hijab. But I miss her dearly. After university we all sort of went our different ways. A few girls in our group of friends travelled abroad. We all started families. Some of us managed to keep in touch with each other. But I haven’t heard from most of my university friends in years.

I’ve made lots of new friends throughout my working life. I’ve made lots of really really good friends throughout my working life. But then life does that thing where you don’t get to see them that often and there’s just this huge empty gap sometimes that only gets filled when you’re back into their vicinity again. I’ve made friends during all the activities I’ve involved myself in as well. My diving buddies are the ones who have stuck around the most.

But all my real friends, all my close friends are in Egypt or somewhere else in the world. And I’m in the UK.

I feel like the little child that has gone to his mommy, complaining that he can’t make friends in preschool. I feel like I need to go to my mommy to teach me how to make friends all over again.

I’m involved in several activities where I live in the UK. And I’m involving myself in more. But I haven’t managed to make a single real friendship through any of them. That fact really hit home for me today when I was at the gym. Many of the women there have been very nice to me, asking how things are with me from time to time. I do the same. One in particular has always chatted with me. I went into the changing room to find her face was red and tears were in her eyes. She was whispering with another friend who she’s known for years. When I saw her, I was naturally concerned and asked her if she was all right. She told me she wasn’t but that she really didn’t feel like talking about it. I understood. Of course I understood.

But I was suddenly reminded, for the second time this week, that I don’t have that kind of friend here in the UK. I don’t have the kind of friend who comes to me to tell me stuff. I don’t have the kind of friend who I go to to tell stuff. I have no one to call to invite out for a cup of tea or to go watch the movies with or to complain to about other friends.

I’m feeling incredibly sorry for myself. And to be frank, I’m tired of people giving me advice on what I need to do to make friends. And I really don’t want invites from people I don’t know suggesting we go out to get to know each other, although I do appreciate the sentiment.

I just really miss having people. I miss feeling like I mean something to people.

I’m trying to convince myself that this is just one of those lessons we need to learn in life. Sometimes we just don’t have people. And we need to be able to cope nevertheless. I know that I’m very fortunate. I have a loving husband. I have a loving family, although none of them lives anywhere near me. I do have lots and lots of loving friends, who also just happen not to live anywhere near me. There are people who have absolutely no one in their lives. And many of them have somehow found a way to cope. So I should be able to cope too.

I keep thinking that a day will come that I will be dying and no matter how many people might be surrounding me at the time, I will be doing it all alone. Whether I’m ready to deal with that when the time comes or not, it’s going to happen. So I might as well teach myself how to be able to do something like that with a kind of inner peace. So maybe life is teaching me a lesson. Maybe life is showing me that no matter how hard and lonely it gets, you can still keep going. Because I do. I’ll shed a few tears, of course. I might even snort, have snot running down my upper lip and turn red in the face. But then I’ll get up and go back to doing my work, cleaning the house, getting dinner made, going out for a run, training at the gym for my next challenge, or planning for my next adventure.

I’ve been working hard for many years on my physical strength. Maybe loneliness is just one of life’s lessons so we can work on our emotional strength.




  1. Oh dear Nadia this makes me so sad. I’m lucky that I don’t think that I’ve ever felt real loneliness and quite like my own company but I’m also so happy to have Penny as my life companion.

    If your university friend was really that close a friend she would not care that you have given up the hijab; you would discuss it and either agree or agree to differ but a real friend would not let it stand in the way of friendship. You should try to find her, it would be a challenge and you never know she may have given hers up too. You could also try and contact your other classmates. Late last year I was contacted by an old classmate I hadn’t heard from for nearly 50 years; my old class from school (Class of 1959!) were trying to arrange our first reunion and of those still living they contacted all but six and all round the world. They met in London, sadly while I was in India, and it was so successful it looks like it will become a biennial event. The guy who first contacted me only lives about 45 minutes from me so we plan to meet for a pint soon. You see, it can be done, maybe try it?

    Good Luck

  2. Nadia, I can’t tell you how much this upsets me. You have been such an inspiration, particularly when you were cycling solo across Europe.

    I am an only child, and learned early to enjoy my own company. Add to that, my family moved a lot during my formative years. I made friends, but never stayed in touch as I moved around. When I had kids, I made a concerted effort to stay in one place. I may have over done it. I have lived in the same house now for 35 years. But again, during this time, I have not made close friends. A lot of neighbours, a lot of business associates, but no real friends. Recently, I have begun to reach out to old friends, and distant family. I still own a family cottage where I spent my childhood summers and have reconnected with many of the people back there. It has helped me a lot, and it was easier to do than I expected.

    I tell you this because I have discovered that by reconnecting, I have found something within myself. Something that validates my life, and puts it into perspective.

    Good luck, and if you ever want to talk more, just reach out.

  3. Oh Richard and Pedalworks, you are both so kind. I really do appreciate my own company. I always have. That’s why it was fine for me to go and cycle across Europe on my own. I’ve travelled solo a lot. I enjoy going out on my own to the movies and for a meal as well. I have no problems whatsoever doing any of that. Like you, Pedalworks, much of my life has been one move after another. The longest I’ve ever stayed anywhere was my time in Cairo; and that’s some 25 years. I have reconnected with some university friends and lots of grade school friends. That is the wonder of social media. It’s been great being able to catch up with them all. But what I really need right now is a real life friend in real life Leeds, where I live right now. I have lots of friends all over the world but not a single one where I actually live. And that’s what I’m finding tremendously difficult, especially since the only family member I have with me here is my husband. But there really is not much that can be done about it but adapt.

  4. Nadia, this echoes a lot. I too had a friend that my Mom would call, in Hindi, the two-hour one – because of our long phone calls. 🙂 She still remains a good friend, and we could still talk for 2 hours or more. I miss her.
    I too feel really lonely at times and I need people around – I wasn’t an only child and never got used to the idea of living alone, and still I’m happier with a roommate than not. I too think having a boyfriend / partner / husband will remove this loneliness, but I did have a suspicion it would not. But I think it does go some way towards relieving it. I remember talking to an author once and she said having her partner (another author) in another room helped. They were both writing – going through their own lonely process together.
    I don’t know if you managed to meet my cousin in Leeds.
    Anyhow, I am thankful you wrote this post. It puts into words what I’ve been feeling (for a while now – even in India which doesn’t feel like home). I’ll be visiting Cairo for 3 weeks and i’m really really happy – although again, not sure I could live there. And I don’t understand people who are satisfied with their own company, and their own self is enough we kalam… I’ve never been that type. Nothing wrong with them, or with me – just been a different experience for me – this life.
    Sending you love ❤ :*

  5. Dear Nadia,
    Don’t think of it as loneliness, think of it as time for you to get to know yourself better, to become a better friend to yourself. It’s not just about enjoying your own company, it’s also about learning more about yourself particularly when you’re feeling down. It could be a good opportunity to ask yourself all the difficult questions about those things most of us don’t really want to deal with. It’s a good time for some serious reflection without any distractions. I think it’s great you’re writing in your blog, but maybe it’s a good idea to have a private journal that no one else sees but you in which you write all your most private thoughts, even the very dark ones. It could also be a good time to take up an artistic pursuit of some sort, maybe try to write a novel, or start painting. This might sound a bit cliched but embrace your loneliness and turn into something beautiful 🙂 I think all of us go through periods of loneliness at some point in our lives, and it is important to learn to cope with it.

  6. I had forgotten that you have left Egypt. I thought of you today – and tweeted – as I remembered Egypt’s pain (and Palestine’s, which I can never forget, since I am a Jew) while thinking of Egypt. Of course, it is not countries, but people. But that is not entirely true, either. Countries are made up of people – and places, and geography and culture. I am on a train, to Gatwick, on my way to Netherlands to ‘celebrate’ the 15th Anniversary of the Earth Charter. If, today, I can celebrate at all, it is Laudato Si.

    And people like you….

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