project of Kristina Chimbaraite
Living in Sofia and juggling with designing and implementing non-formal education activities, working on cultural projects and trying to find some time for my hobbies.
What do you feel or imagine when you hear the word ‘loneliness’?
Of course, isolation as a word is what comes first to my mind. And also, because I am very kinaesthetic, it is something physical that comes to my mind. It's a contraction... and barriers, physical barriers - walls. And yeah, isolation of sound, isolation in space, like a force.
You described this feeling in general. But do you have something visual, a picture that you personally connect with loneliness?
When you were asking, I of course visualised some things in my head. I imagined being in a valley, a field with nothing around me. And besides that... I don't know if there is some concrete situation.
What comes to my mind for the second time, but I rejected it twice because I don't see the connection, is being alone in the forest. This is more connected to fear than loneliness actually but at the same time it is the feeling of isolation… that's weird, normally I don't see the forest as a place being connected to loneliness. But yeah… Also, this concept of people living alone in the forest separated from the world maybe reminds me of this. But I myself… because the images I see are still more connected to the life of other people or images I saw somewhere and I am not sure if there is a place where I feel actually lonely.
It’s okay, doesn’t have to be... I interviewed several people and for everybody it’s different, for example, for someone it was a song which he associated with loneliness. And that is very interesting. So yeah, it doesn’t have to be, I was just wondering how you perceive it, is it just a feeling or something visual.
It's like a sound, like a voice. It's me and nothing else. The lack of human connection. For example, the moments when I would feel lonely are the moments when there was no one around and I think for me, the moments of loneliness are when there's no communication, no connection.
"the feeling is like a vacuum and I am inside but what was the reason leading to that..."
Okay, let’s go back to personal experience. Could you share first or the most memorable moment, event or series of events when you realised: this is loneliness. And how did it feel?
I remember this feeling but I still can’t connect it with a concrete situation. The feeling is like a vacuum and I am inside but what was the reason leading to that... I think, maybe it’s a little bit difficult not just because of the barriers between me and the memory, but also because I am one of the lucky ones who didn’t experience loneliness very often. Yes, I definitely have negative emotions like fear or frustration and so on, but normally... after I found out what I really want to do in life some years ago, I felt much more connected with the world. At the same time, I felt lonely in being alone, in this feeling of being alone, when worrying about being sick. I wasn’t diagnosed with any illness but there were at least two cases when there was some chance that I was being sick. Before knowing the result, if it was true or not, I was just alone with my situation. Because it’s very much connected to myself and nobody else. And no matter how many people were around me or in what position I was, this is something I was facing alone. And no one could be fully together with me or could change something. It was an unchangeable situation. And this loneliness mixed with other emotions. It cannot exist isolated. But I guess, maybe this were moments when I felt alone the most. Maybe not for long, but long enough for me to remember.
Do you think this feeling is more caused by external situations? Because in my case it was me who isolated myself from the others. So how do you feel, how is it for you?
Normally it comes from the outside. I think it has happened to me that I was isolating myself and for some reason, I closed myself. Normally it didn't last for a long time. Because of course, being alone and being lonely are two different things. I don't praise it a lot, this feeling of loneliness, or just maybe there are other things I call it. I don't say loneliness, maybe I call loneliness with other words because it's really not so easy to remember and to connect with the word loneliness. Of course, there were moments when I felt alone or rejected maybe because loneliness is kind of connected to that as well for me. Maybe not understood or I felt like I didn't belong. For example, when I was an EVS volunteer in Germany I also had some moments, especially in the beginning when we didn't have many friends. Because Potsdam maybe isn't the easiest place to make friends. And yes, I don't know, for some reason I didn't have a lot of contacts and I didn't meet people, I felt mostly uncomfortable. Maybe there were moments when I was feeling isolated. I continue connecting this word, isolation, with loneliness. For me, it's very much connected. So yeah, that would be the time I felt lonely. I felt like I was in the right place but it wasn’t comfortable all the time.
"I don't praise it a lot, this feeling of loneliness, or just maybe there are other things I call it. I don't say loneliness, maybe I call loneliness with other words"
Do you consciously separate the feelings of being alone and feeling lonely? Like the good and the negative emotion. Or did it come naturally?
Yeah, I like to spend time alone but with other people around. It's not always like that, sometimes I also like to stay at home completely by myself. Sometimes I go to different workshops, or actually, I go to a lot of workshops alone because not many people share my interests. I mean, it's very difficult to make someone come to a clown workshop. The other reason is that sometimes I just want to be alone because I am working in the social field, so there are always other people, for whom I am responsible. To listen to them, give direction, help or anything. So I often try to go alone, it gives me time for myself and I don't have to take responsibility for others. The other one, the loneliness, is very different from that. It's definitely not anything like what I described just now. I think there is a time where I enjoy being alone and then there is a time where I don't enjoy being alone.
Do you still go to this state of loneliness or is it now a non-existing thing in your life? Or if you still have this, do you have something that helps you to get out of it faster?
Yes. I still have these moments, I think they will accompany me until the end of my life. I think it's impossible to avoid them, no matter what I do to get to know myself better, to get self-care strategies or whatever… and yes, I developed strategies. I have a really nice support system now. The best advice I can give myself and to anybody is that there is no recipe. Every person has a very, very unique support system, and also I can recommend things that work for me but I am not sure how it would work for other people. What helps me now is to reconnect with my body. I think it's a super important thing. Also, we experience all kinds of negative emotions. And fortunately, there are many things you can do in order to overcome them. People who are very experienced in leading different dance practices or other physical activities can help. Besides that, there are so many things that can be done connected to joy. Because loneliness can also be the loss of the ability to feel joy in life maybe. So what I do, I try out new things. Fortunately, I am very curious, so I try different things and that way I have at least two, three new things which I really enjoy doing. And they take me in this flow, in the state of satisfaction and joy. Another thing I discovered is the power of writing, which works for everybody I believe. There are so many ways of doing it. So there is this woman, Marie Andrew, who started to draw every day, very simple drawings with watercolors. And I tried many different things and discovered the way she is doing it… I am doing it my way of course but it works for me. And I do lists, a list like "My favourite things about this city" or something. These are not complicated lists. And they still give the person who makes them a chance to discover a lot and make it very personal. It's a really nice thing to do that helps me a lot when I am experiencing negative emotions including loneliness because all of the others they give joy, pleasure but this gives words. And words reorganise your problem in a way and the world starts feeling more comfortable.
"another thing I discovered is the power of writing, which works for everybody I believe, there are so many ways of doing it"
Is there something else you want to say about loneliness?
I realize, that especially teenagers experience loneliness in a very strong way. I am from a generation where we had only limited access to a computer… I think they live a very different life than I do. Loneliness and other emotions are something they don't speak about a lot. But I think they should. That is why we talk about this… People who suffer from loneliness for a longer time they don’t realise it, they just get used to it or don’t speak up. This topic is definitely something that needs to be spoken about much more. And also because of the people who surround the one who feels lonely. Normally, what I hear from other people is "Oh, just stop with that. Be stronger." But the thing is that it's not something you have under control. I also think therapy is something helpful to do. Especially for people who don't feel comfortable or are afraid of what the ones around them will think. So, yeah, people who experience loneliness should be supported by others by being invited to share without fear. And yes, even go to therapy which is nothing to be ashamed or afraid of. I am a person who was going to therapy because it's something very healthy to do.
I have to say, I am still exploring this topic and I don’t know where it is going to lead me. I think I also had a very general idea about loneliness and now the more I think about it, the more I realise every person experiences it in a very different way. The core seems to be the same but the process people go through is very different.
"normally, what I hear from other people is "oh, just stop with that. be stronger."
But the thing is that it's not something you have under control"
You are also working on a project focusing on loneliness. But you work in a team, so you had to come up with this topic together. How were you personally involved in choosing this topic?
Okay, this is a whole new story. We work on this project since June 2018. I work with three other women. We have been in a big group of people, maybe 20 to 30 people. This is where we met. One had to find partners to work with on a certain project and we could choose anything. We decided to come together and work on the topic of rituals. I come from a family where we don’t follow a lot of traditions. And it’s a small family. But in my neighbourhood there were mostly big families where one would know all his first, second, third cousins... they are a huge group who keep in touch, meet, celebrate. So always observing this lifestyle from a distance I wanted to focus on this topic. So the whole idea came from there. Then we realised it is very metaphorical and hard to work with because we didn't have a really concrete idea for it. We spent one night traveling by train from Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk in Ukraine where we were thinking a lot about it. And at some point we started writing several words down that came to our minds. And then we decided to work on this topic because it is already there. Everybody from the team felt connected to the word and idea of loneliness. That is why we just decided on it because it is something everybody relates to. And also because we wanted to explore how people living in isolation would be experiencing it. So that’s how our journey started, a beautiful process of making an experiment.