But do you really?
It is interesting how one’s craving for solitude can be another’s sense of loneliness.
Peace, solitude, loneliness, quietness, stillness, calm. All these descriptors may have different meanings depending who you ask.
Is it possible to have one without the other? No one wants to feel lonely. However, some crave solitude. To me, it seems to be that they correlate with different stages in life.
As you can imagine I see clients at all stages in life. A mom with a newborn who doesn’t seem to get a minute of alone time, yet feels lonely a lot of the time. Same with a spouse in an unhappy marriage. While another mom of three children under the age of 10, working from home during Covid, would cut off her right arm for solitude. But instead, you lock yourself in the bathroom in order to get 5 minutes of ‘solitude’. Another widowed client who spends 80% of her existence alone may experience a deep sense of loneliness. Finally, one of the saddest cases, a young child whose parents are dismissive, ‘too busy’ or physically not present in his life feels an extreme sense of abandonment.
The common thread here is that we want what we can’t have, in that moment. The mom of young children, wanting desperately to run away at times, craves peace and solitude, while the elderly or extremely young crave connection, touch, companionship.
With the exception of the young child (who naturally needs nurturing, a sense of belonging and importance), you as an adult, need to realize there are times you need to adapt. Rather than focusing on what you do not have in the moment, whether that be peace and quiet or the presence of another human being, try to remind yourself of what stage of life you are in – in the moment. But most importantly, use the power of the mind. You can ‘make’ loneliness lessen. How badly do you want connection?
If you are one of those individuals that finds yourself alone right now, whether that be as a product of spousal separation, death of a spouse, empty nest syndrome, or the end of the a relationship, try to accept this for what it is. It may be temporary, or it may not be temporary. If temporary, try to see it as an opportunity to sit and think. Sit and think you say? I think too much!!
I don’t mean rumination of thoughts, which is detrimental to your emotional health, I mean to just sit with your feelings. Some people call this meditation. You can call it whatever you want, but whatever you call it – it is good for your mind, heart and soul. No device, no music, just crickets. Sit with your feelings. And be okay with marinating in that. The more you do this, the more you should want to do this. See it as an emotional health pit stop in the journey of life. Maybe you will start crying. That is okay. It just means you needed that.
So, yes. Whether this alone time is temporary (in the case of a break-up for example) or not temporary (in the case of the elderly), then try to realize that you are in the driver’s seat. If you continue looking into the rear-view mirror, you are going to run off the road. In other words, stop focusing on the past and what you ‘did have’ and look ahead towards your new future. PLEASE do not say – I am too old, slow, crippled, etc. If we all had that type of mindset, I think we would all still be living in caves. I mentioned Terry Fox in my last post. Look at what you can accomplish once you put your mind to it. If you are creative, adventurous, and curious in life, you can never go wrong. Rather than focusing on ‘how alone you are’ realize it all begins with a conversation. It is up to you to connect.
“Rather than focusing on ‘how alone you are’ realize it all begins with a conversation. It is up to you to connect.”
As I write this during the Covid pandemic, I realize that for the elderly, it may not be as easy as it sounds due to mobility or safety issues. However, there is always the phone, video, promoting/arranging visits where/when possible. Adopting a victim mentality is something you do NOT want to do. When you keep your mind busy, (cleaning, cooking, purging, puzzles, painting, etc.) it is difficult to feel alone. Call it solitude and remember how you may have once craved this so badly!
And hey, I couldn’t write this post without mentioning Tinder, Bumble, and whatever dating app you may have been thinking of trying or have tried. If you feel the need to connect to another human, and you are asking me if you should use a dating app, the answer is a full blown ‘go for it’.
And yes, that means you too Grandpa. Polish up those loafers, grab that walker and get out there. For the ones that are a bit more spry and single, let’s face it…you no longer have the water cooler to provide you with that opportunity to spark up a conversation. God knows it is literally impossible to ‘bump into someone’ at your local grocery store to start a conversation, unless you want to be handcuffed and escorted out of the store! Clearly you failed to follow the physical distancing rules. Shame on you.
All joking aside. Respecting social physical distancing (hate the word social) is a real thing. How are you supposed to meet someone?? And honestly, I see these apps like your ‘one stop shop’. You can choose True Valueä or Giardiello – it’s up to you. You can also let this potential candidate know whether you like texting back and forth or instead speak by phone or in person. As I said in a previous post, just tell it like it is. Be specific in terms of what you want. Don’t pretend. And if it turns out to be a total disaster, it was 1.5 hours of your life? Big deal. I am sure it will make for a great topic of conversation the next time you get together with your friend, therapist or co-worker.
This post seems to be a lot about finding happiness doesn’t it? Is it easy for you to feel happy when you are alone? If not, maybe you should do that emotional pitstop as I mentioned earlier. Just sit with your feelings for a while. Close your eyes, and focus on your breath, and extend the exhale a little bit longer each time you breathe in. Let the thoughts come. What emotions do you feel? Why are those emotions there? Let them come in and let them go. Just like the white puffy clouds above, these thoughts will pass. Let the energy move through your body instead of allowing it to be stuck, as this will only bring you tension and inflammation. After all, it is only a thought. It is not real. And furthermore, you created that thought.
Doing this exercise is so important. Just sit and think. Think about what you do have right now. It is August 14, 2020. It looks like we are going to get some much-needed rain. The air smells amazing right now. Nature will drink this up and display it’s beauty even more so. Enjoy this moment.
If you are so lucky as to be at the lake, then this experience may be even more spiritual for you. If you are reading this in your apartment, you might have a small balcony to take in the fresh summer air. Then there are always our beautiful parks or a quiet country road to walk along. Nature is there for all of us. Be happy in this moment and have gratitude for everything you do have. Most importantly, you are always in the driver’s seat, so look out in front of you, and take that car wherever you want it to go. You will not be disappointed.
As they say, life is a highway. Okay – I know that it is tacky to include a link to Tom’s song here…but how can I not pay homage to this Manitoban! And he does do a great job with that harmonica…
The fact is when on this highway, there are lots of hills and valleys, sharp turns, roundabouts and roadblocks, but you will get to your destination. You will be alright.