Now that we’re well on our way to developing a healthy and self-affirming relationship with our constant companion and “new” best friend – OURSELVES – implementing the second strategic step in our battle to rid our (and others’) lives of loneliness should be relatively easy: Learning to embrace, rather than lament, the time we spend by ourselves (with ourselves). Simply put, we have to be careful not to confuse loneliness with the fact that we, like most of our fellow Earth-occupiers, often find ourselves outside the physical or “electronic” company of others. There IS a difference and it’s very important that we understand that distinction if we are to avoid stepping into the quick sand of despair that can often accompany confusing the two.
As I mentioned in yesterday’s post (“Learning To Be Your Own Best Friend”), it’s an objective and irrefutable fact that, whether you currently are in a relationship with someone or not, most of your day will be spent by (and with) yourself. Obviously, that’s equally (if not even more likely to be) true if you happen to be single at the moment. However, that doesn’t mean you’re “alone” and it certainly doesn’t have to lead to the common misperception that if you aren’t in the company of a friend (or some other “random” human being) or being bombarded by text messages every waking moment of your day you’re destined for loneliness.
To the contrary, the truth is there are a number of people in the world – your world – who love and care about you, who are (or, if offered the chance, would be) there to support you, who value you, who want you to be healthy, happy and successful – people who, on a moment’s notice, would drop what they’re doing if they learned that you needed them at your side. The fact those people aren’t at your side at a particular moment in time or, perhaps, haven’t been present or “checked-in” for an extended period of time because of geography, circumstance, your or their “life stuff,” relational neglect (which all of us are guilty of at one time or another). etc. doesn’t mean they don’t care or that they want you to be alone.
If you don’t believe those people exist in your life, take a piece of paper and going back 10 years if you’re in your 20′s and 30′s (20 if you’re in your 40′s and 50′s) jot down the names of everyone who you believe cares or cared about you during that time period. There likely will be a few dozen people on that list – or more. If there aren’t ask a parent or a friend who has known you that long to help, because you’re likely not being objective in surveying the landscape of your life. Once you’ve collected the names, try and find current contact information for each of them – an e-mail address or phone number will suffice – and use the opportunity your information gathering initiative affords to just say “hi” and let them know how and what you’re doing. When the list is finished, keep it handy as a “reminder” that though you may be by yourself, you’re not alone.
Finally, rather than lamenting the time you have to yourself, embrace it and use the time wisely. It’s a great opportunity to reflect, in a positive way, on where you are and where you want to go in life. It’s a chance to organize your thoughts, your calendar and your living space. It’s a chance to relationship build (with yourself and via e-mail or phone call with someone you may have fallen out of touch with or been meaning to reach out to – someone who you sense might be in need of a kind word or a friendly voice. Maybe it’s a time to catch up on some much needed rest, to watch or go see a movie you’ve been wanting to see or to simply “chill” on the coach with your dog and the music you enjoy. Maybe it’s a time to write, to get caught up on world events, to paint, to play or take a walk. Maybe it’s all of these things – and more.
But what intermittent “alone time” is not, even on a Friday or Saturday night when you may be convinced that “everyone” else in the world is out doing something fun with someone, is a sign that you are all alone in the world, because you’re not – I promise!