Why do we echo with feelings of loneliness?
Is this part of the human condition that we seek something, need something outside of ourselves to feel complete? It’s common to hear, this tale of loneliness from people in all walks of life. Maybe the loneliness comes with us as we progress into life. I remember being a very lonely child, where Brian is more settled in his memories of baseball and brothers. We were both popular in high school, went to college, married early. Both those relationships bombed through broken trust and worse communication, even after children came into the picture. We were once again…lonely, until we met more than a decade ago and formed this fun life that we call our own. We’re both talented, educated professionals.
So……what is the common factor, not just for us but for the millions of people who search “being lonely” on Google every month, worldwide?
I use my family as an example a lot. Today is not an exception. Like many of the stories I hear, Brian and I have something in common in our upbringing with the codependency we learned from dysfunctional family life. Brian’s father was addicted to alcohol, as was mine. Brian’s parents divorced and raised the children equitably. Mine were uber ugly to one another, but, this is preferable to the ice kingdom I would have grown up in otherwise. I hear the horror stories from the other, older kids. Both of us learned low self esteem and codependent care-taking early on. So who exactly are we missing?
Loneliness doesn’t mean that you’re alone.
It means that you have a need.
We haven’t learned to love the person inside of us.
We’re expressing the grief of the person that we could have been minus the situations that we couldn’t control in our younger years. It’s time to learn to make friends and be close….to you.
Loneliness is most often about an unmet need for intimacy. For early childhood abuse individuals, we have learned how to build walls instead of bridges, even against our own self knowledge. How do you learn to like yourself? First, begin by recognizing that you’re worthwhile and that there is something unique and perfect about you. Go ahead, give it a try. Write a thirty second introduction to the world telling your imaginary audience what you’re happy about with you, what your dreams are, where you’re at with…you. Put it away for later.
Begin by improving your social skills. Starting and maintaining relationships are hard for some folks. Even those that appear to be extroverts (including me) are serious introverts that feel awkward in social situations. Do you lack the “interpersonal skills required to create and maintain relationships?” Are you able to engage in conversation, show interest, be invested in the right people for you? Part of this has to include being okay with things like silence ~ Brian and I can sit in total silence for extended periods of time, reading, watching golf…okay, I’m usually napping, but without constant chatter. My favorite? Walks in the back yard when the babe has gone to sleep, holding hands and hearing the sounds of the night under our acre of trees. I now make myself go to networking events, and I talk to people and greet them with enthusiasm. I am a big puddle of love, learning new boundaries in my own personal life.
Social networks and support. Let’s face it, we’re all dealing with some tough times. Is the lady next door one who survived cancer well? Mine is, and she’s still with us, going strong. Have you actually talked to your pastor like a friend (and fellow failed human) this week? Do you know that church clergy are some of the loneliest people on the planet? Truth. What kind of friendships do you have? Are you invested in people that care for you in return? In truth, I have very few friends. To me, a friend is the person that may be pissed when you call them at 3 am, but they’re still on the other end of the phone. Same goes for you when they call. Sometimes, you can push that too far. I screwed up a friendship with my former tell-the-truth-in-love harda$$ pastor friend, Derek……and I mean horribly. Still, when it came down to it, my compadre did that one thing that he really didn’t want to to – he stepped into a relationship and spoke up in my absence, taking out someone that seriously needed to go away. Support networks have to be able to stand the weight of you/them acting like a raging idiot. Our paths went separate ways not to long after that, all tattered by the drama of the previous year…and that is okay. Other relationships like the one with my hubster Brian, my soul sis D, my daughter Shea all improved in leaps and bounds. There is value in everything if you allow there to be. The loneliness that was once raging in the middle of the night, the pain that grips in the terror of its mental moment, the idiot soup….some friendships don’t withstand what we throw at them. Some get stronger when the fertilizer hits the fan. It’s in truth that which you need to know – some people stay forever, some are just a brief bright light that fade. Being willing to invest yourself in your social network of real human beings that you can see and touch is highly important. A note here: internet friendships are nice, but it doesn’t take place of midnight margaritas or a great cup of coffee with someone that can listen to you talk and vice versa.
Be happy. No, I’m not channeling Bobby Farrin, but the concept of “don’t worry, be happy” has a LOT of merit. People who are negative and expect the worst normally find themselves becoming a self fulfilling prophecy. As I have learned to live outside of loneliness, I’ve learned that it’s the quality of the questions that I ask and how I respond to them that dictates how satisfied I feel. Chronic loneliness makes us cranky, sensitive to rejection and hostility. You assume the worst in people.
Get out and about. There is one thing that you can do that will change your life: volunteer. Help someone else. Join a club, plant in a community garden, visit with shut in people. Get off your butt, stop feeling so blue and do something with the 1,440 minutes that make up this day of your life. Meet other people, open a craft stall at a local farmer’s market, and offer to help paint a fence…something. Be counted outside the four walls that shelter you.
Learn Who You Are. Yep, the truth be told, as soon as we learn to like ourselves, we will no longer be uncomfortable when alone. Loneliness fades away when you are able to say “I like me” and give yourself a big hug, pick yourself up off the floor and head out to help someone else. It will also hold you in good stead in a broken heart is in your future…you cannot erode a person with self confidence to a crying mass of goo on the floor.
Relax. Chill. Really. When we are at ease with ourselves, we don’t just feel better internally. We look more confident, carry ourselves with pride and grace, and other people will begin to find us engaging to be with. You become the magnet that draws attention, positive attention, which you can sustain by simply being yourself. How do we learn to like ourselves, to relax? “It’s easy: be good; do good, and you will feel good. Pray, love, eat clean food and drink clean water. Sleep at night.”
After that, pull your highlight introduction back out and read it out loud. How can your positives mesh with what you dream of? Light an incense, feel your spiritual energy come to life and pray that God will show you the steps through the meadow to the other side. Notice the details of life along the way, and you might never feel lonely again.
Peace, grace and love.