“I am always alone.” The words appeared in my inbox yesterday. It’s a short statement, but one that I mulled over all night. Thank you, dear one, for trusting me with your contemplation…and do you know that it was not the only time I heard that yesterday? I’m not going to start out by assuring you that you’re not alone – you feel this way, so let’s validate that and talk it through. Why, I wonder? I wonder if we took a poll of the hundreds of people who come to this site, those in your work or school place, in your family even…how many people feel lonely? Two terms so close together, but with different meanings.
Alone and lonely.
I am not sure exactly which one you are referring to, “always alone.” I’ll mix the two together if that suits, and perhaps you will find something within here that will help. I’ve been deeply lonely; I’ve also been utterly alone, e.g. with no one to turn to. As a single 19 year old parent, the choices in my life were such that there was a time I teetered on the brink of homelessness. I don’t know how old you are, so in reference, I am 44. I’ve battled clinical depression most of my life. Depression and feelings of intense loneliness tend to go hand in hand, so if you haven’t talked to a therapist or medical person, please do so. It’s not an admission of failure or being crazy, but an emotionally mature way to bring a higher quality of life to your life.
Faith and Loneliness.
How is it that if you’re a devout follower of any of the world religions that you still can feel so alone? Does that make you a “non believer” or a person without enough faith? No, it makes you a human with real questions and a need for a higher power. Mother Theresa writes of periods in her life where her faith was shaking to it’s core; she had her doubts. We are designed as social beings; you need touch and communication. Isolation long term is not healthy, and spiritually will compel you to loneliness. My soul knows that there is something infinite and more than this physical life that we lead. Do you know your faith? Are you practicing the presence of faith? Loneliness has abated as I’ve grown in my spiritual life, spending a lot of time in meditation and actively seeking to understand myself. Although I am a follower of the Way of Christ, I have studied many types of world faith and see so much value in so many of their practices.
Remember that loneliness doesn’t have a particular look. It was rumored that Marilyn Monroe was achingly lonely, even when the world was worshiping her image. You’d probably never know that I am feeling lonely when you look at me; I am one of those “put together” females…and still, I am lonely in a crowd. How can that happen?
1. Lack of trust. I was a graduate student until a few weeks ago, having earned a Masters in Divinity from a really tough, committed school. In the three grueling years of study, I found that in every community lunch, every social time that I encountered outside of class, the strong introversion of my real personality broke into cold sweats. It terrified me to be in a crowd of peers, an odd thing as anyone who is acquainted with me would tell you I am no-holds-barred extrovert. There is a difference in public and private persona, aren’t there? It’s a lack of trust on my part to allow the real Alison to be on display around the people. There was a reason: I was relentlessly terrorized in both elementary and middle school by relativity cruel children. By high school I learned to mask and protect myself; the extrovert was born. Underneath, however, was a person that trusted no one, had few real friends and lived in constant chaos.
All grown up now I can interact with a group without feeling like that greasy headed poor girl with smelly clothes. It’s a choice that I make cognitively these days, and you may need to as well. Ask yourself where you would find a group of like minded people that you would share common interests with? Preferably something that contributes to life. You might volunteer with a hospital, or at a retirement community. Check with local civic organizations that do what you like – Farmer’s Markets, art showings, music festivals. There are committees that set up and tear down, and each of them are full of committed people who might be potential friends.
2. Be open. Having mentioned that lack of trust is my numbero uno in being left solo, being open is a strange bedfellow as number two. If you’re open to other people, doesn’t that open you up to being hurt? Yep. Will you get hurt? If you’re in a relationship with a human being, you are going to get hurt sooner or later. Be wise ~ anything that looks to good to be true, probably is so go slowly. The other caution: a person that shares your pain will share their pain. It’s a mistake for one sinking ship to latch onto another…you’re still both going down. Trust your internal instincts no matter how your heart pitter-patters.
3. Become. You are a human, a social creature, someone put on the face of the earth to love, live and laugh. I think of several friends that I have here in Rushville that come to mind, people who are in their late forties and even fifties that have moved home to live with older parents, usually with a failed marriage or career life behind them. Some are in ill health, some have weight challenges, some are recovering from addictions. All are people that I care a lot about – most have asked me this question of yours to my face. Here is my best “advice” if that is what one would call it. You have to love yourself.
Forgive your mistakes of the past, and let yourself be filled with grace. Get to know what Christ thinks is so great about you, and I assure you that it is in there. I’m great at making banana bread, and I listen really well. People like to talk to me because I want to hear their story. I have a great smile, and I honestly beleive in happy endings, so I am usually pretty upbeat. I notice life, from the squirrels outside my window to the turn of the seasons and the beauty of family interacting. All of this is pretty neat huh? It took me forever to realize that I have all these great qualities because I spent all of my time feeling worthless. That was a lie. I am worthwhile and so are you. Now that I know I am worthwhile, it shows and people respond to that self confidence. I have a reason to be confident. I am Alison…the only one of her kind. You’re one of a kind, too.
If you’re in a relationship where you always feel alone, ask this question of yourself. Is the person that you’re with toxic? Do they put you down to make themselves feel better or to justify their behavior? A former friend once said to the world (and all of our mutual friends via Twitter) that he was happy “we’d gone our separate ways because I was a psychotic mess and not worth wasting his life on.” That told me more than I needed to know, foremost that he had no respect for himself, or for me. Ironically, I’ve been through so much clinical testing from school, and the military that there is no way a “psychotic” could slip through undetected. But in that moment, I felt more alone and betrayed than I had since childhood. Here is the trick ~ forgiving what hurts us. Yea, it still hurts me if I think about looking at those words on the screen, knowing him like I do, even more that he lied to me about why they were there. If I really love him, then it’s forgiven. Why? He’s human too. He is in the process of becoming, and so are you. Here is the tough part: Forgiven from a distance. In this instance, I have to step away and am no longer part of his life for my own sake and sanity. I’m not that good at it, but I think that I’ve learned my lesson.
Becoming is a messy, lonely business. What changes need to be made in your life? Are you considering a move, new job, a physical challenge or change, a new relationship? Are you satisfied with who you are? Can you sit down and write a list of ten great things someone would find in you? What would a friend say, if you can’t think of anything on your own. You know, we don’t have to look like JLo, have all the money in the world or be famous. Being really loved…that is worth a lifetime. You deserve that, you really do.
The real term for becoming is “self actualization” which easily defined is the part of life where you become conscious of what you are incompetent at and chose to change it to competency. To become, you take a deep look inside and see what is bugging you, drag it out into the open and beat it’s butt into your new reality. I am more than my past, a unique creature that is worthwhile and loved of God. No memory is going to hold me for one more second, and that includes the superdoozies. I opened the can of worms this year, that final push of facing all my own demons, doing the hard work of overcoming. That dealt with childhood sexual abuse, family of origin issues, getting married way to young, and a stunted understanding of adult relationships. What are the things that you need to deal with to become unshackled from the past? You cannot move forward carrying the weight of yesterday. Allow yourself a new day, a new beginning. A positive, passionate voice will not stand alone very long.
Needless to say, this past year has been the big challenge for me. As I am becoming, there have been some “breaking sounds” in my friendships, which are few and far between. Does forgiveness mean relationship? No. I lost a good friend to my own misbehavior, and the loneliness echoed all around me for a few days after that. Derek, who is a substantial and terrific person, walked away from our friendship becasue I was outwardly processing to much pain; he was catching the brunt of the storm. Becoming himself he made a wise decision to love me from a distance. 🙂 That is a nice way to say I acted like an idiot and he justifiably stepped out. Other friends like my BBF Donna stand in the muck and the mire with me because it is who they are. I would wish that everyone in the world had a Donna and a Brian in their lives, but I realize that I’m really blessed to have two people that would give their lives – and live their lives – for and with me.
4. Positive life, positive results. I know a woman who makes me cringe every time I hear her voice. She is the most pessimistic, complainant person in the known universe. Really. Being around her can cause a person to break out in hives, to plug their ears with superglue. Ugh. I know it’s not nice to ask, but are you that negative type of person? Take a stock of what you talk about. Know something about current events, some trivial piece of history, read a great book. Then, go where the people are and hang out. People to avoid being: the know it all, the person who isn’t listening but already forming their response; the person that is all about themselves; the wallflower that won’t contribute to the conversation, and the person that lists endless faults. Be able to accept a compliment. Talk to yourself in the positive, and expect positive results. If you have a different outcome, chalk it up to life learning and go forward. Am I terrified to make new friends now that I’ve been heartbroken over others? No…..and yes. I am taking my own advice and being a little more cautious. You need real people that care about you in your life; not people who just use and vanish.
If I’ve learned anything from my years of loneliness is I know that in it, I am never alone. I give myself permission to have blue days, and I am often totally alone at home…but yes, I know that my beloved husband and daughter will he back shortly. It wasn’t always that way. Given that I have some really weird health complications it’s often that I find myself having to choose to be happy in spite of being in control of all my muscles, or my nerves causing intense pain. All of these are choices, all of these are realities. People will come and go; you will meet loves that you lose; you may marry just to find that the person of your youth is not the person of your adulthood; you may find that you rise like a Phoenix from the ashes of this tough time. It’s all up to you, where you go from here and how you live life.
Here are some things to think about…
Am I eating a proper diet, drinking clean water and getting some exercise?
What have I done to care for my self lately, like a facial, a at home spa day, a new to you outfit?
What do I do to laugh?
What kind of people do I want to meet, and why?
What new interests can I cultivate (I love the Indianapolis Museum of Art…it’s free and it’s just wonderful).
What can I write in my development journal?
How can I change something – today – to encourage myself?
I will leave you with the most important thing that I know, the reason that I am alive today. I am incredibly grateful. I practice an attitude of total gratefulness every day; it’s hard to upset me for this reason. I live in joy…being grateful.
I am grateful for my life, grateful for Brian who is my love and hero; I am grateful for the hurricane who made me realize how precious life is, grateful for the people who have loved and left, grateful for the ones that love me today and will forever. I am grateful for my children, grateful for the town that I live in, grateful for my home. I am incredibly grateful for the things that I see every day, to be able to help, to write you this very moment. I am grateful for you. Who am I grateful to? I say “the Divine” however your language describes the creator God, there you go. The world is amazing if you look around. I lose myself in the beauty of the smokey mountains, the peaceful rivers. Be grateful for your life, and compassionate toward people. Truly grateful. You will find in time, that you’re not doing it alone.
Blessings, life and peace to you.