What Harry Potter teaches about loneliness – A blog about a podcast about a book
I love the Harry Potter series. I love to read. I love Hermione being a badass. I love magic. I love the JK Rowling story. I read each book as they came out back in the day. Then I discovered Jim Dale, one of the two best narrators in the history of audiobooks. I listened to all of the books and loved them all over again. I read the first book out loud with The Boy when he was in 4th grade in an effort to try to engage him in reading. We powered through, then let’s just say the wheels fell off when he realized we were going to do all seven. We quit. I cried.
Now I have found the podcast “Harry Potter and the Sacred Text“. Sure it has been out for three years, but I have never been known as an early adopter. When I was a teenager, I never jumped on a trend until it was out of style and impossible to find in a store. Harry and the gang don’t mind though, they are still there for me. I borrowed the first couple books from my sister and got started.
The gist of the podcast is that each episode is based on a chapter of the book. Each week they have a theme that they use to provide a context for the discussion of the characters and their shenanigans.
It’s the English class you didn’t know you missed and the meaningful conversations you didn’t know you craved.Harry Potter and the Sacred Text Podcast
I am loving it so much I had to bring it to my blog for a few reasons.
- I really want everyone who remotely was interested in Harry Potter to know this podcast is out there.
- Sometimes I don’t know what to write about and the themes of the chapters are inspiring me.
- May I be so bold as to suggest that we need to talk about some of these themes more.
This will be a bit of a meta – series. It is a blog series about a podcast about a book series. I am not going to do a post for each chapter, just the ones that resonate. And let me tell you – chapter two was a roundhouse kick to the head it resonated so much.
Loneliness: The Vanishing Glass (Book 1, Chapter 2)
Chapter two is about loneliness. No no no – stay with me. I know many of us are not comfortable hearing about loneliness. I know many of us are not comfortable being lonely. Yet ironically we are all lonely at different times of life. But avoiding or stuffing feelings is not something that sustainable for those who strive for good mental health.
Lonely in a group
Casper, one of the podcast hosts, tells a story in this episode about going to boarding school and not fitting in. Then the episode delves into the loneliness of different characters. Harry’s loneliness is obvious. His interaction with the snake being the first connection he probably made – at age 11 – feels incredibly sad. But then they continue to talk about the Dursley’s loneliness. They only have 2 people to lean on to keep Harry when they go to the zoo. Sure their loneliness is partially self-inflicted and fear based, but the loneliness is still valid.
There have been times in my life where I have felt lonely in a crowd as well.
- A varsity college athlete who lived on the honors floor of the dorm.
- A grad student on janitor and maintenance crews.
- An introvert at the party.
- The person all in their feelings in a group of friends that wanted to keep it on the surface.
Lonely in relationships
The conversation about the loneliness Petunia may have felt really touched a nerve with me. The podcast talks about the morning of Dudley’s birthday when he counts his gifts. The discussion is around the fact that Petunia put in all of this energy leading up to Dudley’s birthday – planning, shopping, wrapping and hiding the gifts to make his day special. Then the morning of – BAM, not good enough. Only 36 gifts. How lonely Petunia must have felt with her family at this moment.
I have been lonely in relationships as well. This specific example of a gift giving holiday was a really hard transition for me when I became a step-mother. When I grew up the four of us took turns opening Christmas gifts slowly. Ohhhing and ahhing over each, opening it and showing it off. My first Christmas as a step-mother, the kids had just turned five and seven. Christmas morning came and they tore through all their presents and stocking stuffers in less than five minutes and were upset about what they did not get. Tears were shed – mine! It seems as though no one cared about the Christmas I wanted, they just charged forward to what they wanted.
What I did about it
Spoiler alert – Harry does not stay with the Dursleys much longer. He gets out and goes to Hogwarts to be with other wizards. But the Dursleys continue to stay where they are, physically and emotionally. As we all know – if you always do what you always did, you always get what you always got. This has been true in my life as well. Here is how I am working to manage feelings of loneliness
- Feeling my feelings
Turns out that when you shove down feelings. They will either squirt out in weird ways (I cried one morning because the turtleneck I ordered online felt gross and smelled like plastic) or unproductive ways (wall punches, anyone?). But when I take a minute to feel my feelings, they moderate and are manageable. If I come home from a terrible day at work and get in comfortable clothes, play fetch with Lucille, and breathe, I am much more able to handle “second shift.”
When I cry for a minute or two about something I am sad about, I tell Bixby, “I am just sad right now and need a minute. I know there is nothing I can do to fix this, I didn’t cause it. I am just sad about it.” Tears clear after a moment and we move on.
2. Managing my expectations
Let’s consider the above example of Christmas Gone Wild. Not once in the time leading up to the holiday season did I describe to my husband and kids what Christmas morning was like for me growing up. I did not share my expectation. This is certainly not to say that if I did, they would have bowed to my requests. I mean seriously – THEY WERE FIVE AND SEVEN. I had not been around five and seven year olds with a stack of gifts. They. Lose. Their. Minds.
What I do know is that if Bixby and I had talked about this, we could have managed expectations better – I would have been able to prepare for the wrapping paper tsunami.
3. Choosing my tribe
This one is really hard. Partly because it is just hard to make friends as a grown up. By default we go to lunch with coworkers or start a walking group with others from our church because of proximity. Over the last 5 years or so, this has become less and less acceptable to me. I do not want to be friends with women who disparage their husbands just because we have a job in common. I have no interest in being in a book club with women who only “joke” about how they disappoint their family constantly.
I want more. Let’s talk about being gutted watching a movie because it brought up stuff we are wrestling with. I want a tribe of women in my life who don’t find it funny to feel like a failure all the time – or cover up feelings of failure with self-deprecating remarks.
Let me tell you – it is hard to find these people. I think many of us want to be authentic, but it is scary. It feels a little like stepping off a known path – will there be solid ground underneath? Maybe not – what would it be like if there wasn’t solid ground and you did fall? It could hurt, be embarrassing, set you back.
But I would like to suggest that while we are on the ground after our fall, we will see a different perspective. We will find different material to build the next right step. Being willing to be lonely could lead to authenticity. That authenticity may just bring the tribe we want and need.
When was the last time you felt lonely? Do you try to stifle that? What would it be like to sit with your feelings – even if just for 60 seconds?