I got lonely lunched.
With our schedules at the hospital, it is rare that my coworkers and I can eat together, but once in a blue moon, it can happen. We headed to the cafeteria. I brought my lunch and others needed to buy, so I headed in to get a table. I snagged a large table, capable of holding the 6 people who were planning to join me. I situated myself near a two tables of other friends who both graciously waved me over to join their table, but I politely deferred stating that others were coming to join me. So I sat guarding my find. Multiple people came attempting to snag chairs or tables from me and I had to shoo them away like pigeons. Repeatedly.
Our cafeteria is not always the most efficient and it seemed to be taking a while for my coworkers to get their food.
I was nearly done with my lunch. Checking my watch. Smiling weakly at the pigeon-people I’d shooed away, apologizing with my eyes and pleading, “Please don’t hate me. There really are people coming.”
Twenty-five minutes later, I felt pathetic. Like the middle schooler who wasn’t invited to join the cool table (even though I had been invited to eat with others!). I felt defensive. I felt conspicuous. I felt lonely.
Even though I love my coworkers and have good relationships with them and I trusted that they truly had been delayed in the food line, the loneliness crept up on me unexpectedly. I find that it is never the situations that I expect that stir my loneliness. I am always blindsided by those emotions. I was thankful that this “attack of loneliness” was short-lived, but it served to remind me that we were created to be in community. Our hearts desire to be accepted, to be known, to be loved, and to eat with others! Next time you are lonely lunched (or lonely anything!) look around and know someone else understands that feeling. Lonely lunching serves to drive me into relationships and community — and that is a good thing.