11 steps on my path through loneliness

Here’s the thing: a lot of us are lonely.


Oh, maybe we don’t use the word lonely to describe what we’re feeling. Often that seems too risky, like we’re setting ourselves up to be judged by the dictionary definitions of it: companionless, desolate, bleak.

Instead we talk about the absence of (and yearning for) deep connection, belonging, community.

Bottom line: We’re lonely. I’m lonely sometimes. Many of my clients experience it. Maybe you do too?

It’s not too hard to understand why. We live in a weird connected-but-disconnected era that fosters loneliness in many people. (But not all, certainly.)

So lately I’ve been contemplating my own experiences of loneliness and have come to a surprising realization: I’m a lot less lonely than I was two years ago.

That sparked my curiosity. Why, I wondered, do I feel less lonely and more connected?

I decided to go back and shine a light on that, retracing my steps and unearthing some unexpected twists and turns on my own path through loneliness.

Here’s what I discovered. Here’s what’s different in my life now:

  • Weekly-ish phone conversations with my friend/colleague/soul sister; I can’t even put into words how much they mean to me.
  • Tending women’s creative wisdom circles: showing up, telling our stories, trusting the transformative power of relationship.
  • Creating in real space/real time community and realizing that this is a nutrient for me, like vitamin C.
  • Monthly book club gatherings. We began as strangers and turned into friends who break bread together and read a lot.
  • Monthly lunches with my brother. I reached out to him after we lost a family member; now, our once-distant relationship has blossomed and you can’t get us to stop talking.
  • More people who have refrigerator rights in my life (read about why this is important here).
  • Turning toward the truth that my work can be isolating; in doing so dropping into deep gratitude for the unique relationships I get to create with clients.
  • Learning that almost half of the brain’s cerebral cortex needs visual input and face time, and deciding to start feeding my hungry brain.
  • Remembering what Virginia Satir said: We need 4 hugs a day for survival, 8 hugs a day for maintenance, 12 hugs a day for growth.
  • Recognizing the transitional times in the day when I’m apt to feel lonely and using mindfulness practices to bridge the in-between spaces.
  • Stepping away from blogging and the online world for 15 months; returning with a stronger sense of what is lonely making for me and what is true connection.

And that’s my story of loneliness.

I haven’t banished it from my life but I do have a clearer sense about where I’m going next. At the start of every year I revisit my values, the things that truly matter to me. In the past I’ve often used those words I mentioned earlier to describe my values: Connection. Belonging. Community.

This year I’m tired of those words and I’m ready to unearth the true need beneath them: time and friendship.

Simply put, I want more time with friends. Or maybe, more friends with time.

To hang out. Laugh. Talk. Go out. Create. Cook a meal together.

To look, really look, into each other’s eyes. To linger in a hug.

I’m feeling pretty good about that, considering the fortune I pulled out of a cookie not two minutes ago.


Now it’s your turn. What’s your experience of loneliness?

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6 thoughts on “11 steps on my path through loneliness

  1. I’m kind of like you about wanting to closer to friends. I’ve lost a lot of my friends from my past — people moved, lives changed, etc. I’m in the process of getting close to new people who have similar interests. It’s a bit of a scary process as I tend to be very shy, but slowly I’m slowly learning to share myself and discover more about my new friends. It was my goal for last year and continues into this year.

    BTW I adore the heart at the opening of this post. I love the people’s faces inside the circle — It’s perfect for this post:~)

    • Congrats on taking that step, Sara. It’s such a vulnerable place to be in, sharing ourselves and bonding with people we don’t yet know very well. Sounds like you’ve found people that you are in sync with, and that’s so awesome. Thanks for your kind words on the heart. It was fun to make!

  2. It is strange but I end up feeling lonely among people. I’m a lot less lonely in my own company and I think it is due to the fact that I am much more connected to my true self than I used to be. Which means, in turn, that unless I’m in the presence of someone who really gets me and my journey, I feel alone among others. Hence the importance of a true and supportive community. I’ve found that online and with a few friends.

    • Doesn’t sound strange to me, Maryse. Sounds like you’ve gotten very discerning about the people with whom you can be real and authentic (and they with you). I too have been lonely being among people who don’t get me. *And* I’ve also had to look at the truth that I can sometimes be too quick to decide that people don’t get me or use it as an excuse to flee when relationships get messy. Clearly, I’m still a work in progress!

  3. Hi Patty!

    I continue to believe that although we are each on a different life path, yours and mine keep touching at various points to the point we sometimes walk together. This article speaks to me because I speak about this all the time! At an event about 7 months ago, I said that many people are lonely — despite all the social media. Some may be so busy filling their lives with busyness that they might not even recognize it. Not to mention the anti-depressants “pretend” antidote for lonliness.

    After college, I truly felt lonely. They kick us out into the world and it’s a different friendship ballgame. So, I struggled for quite awhile with my feelings of lonliness. Shopping to fill the void. After 40, I figured it out! I needed to reach out to people, take the first step. And since then, it’s gotten better and better. And now it’s fantastic.

    I speak to folks on the phone every day, see people every day. Laugh, investigate, brainstorm together.

    Life is good. We humans were not meant to compete with each other (my article this week!), we were meant to hang out with each other. They teach us to compete so we won’t bond and take back our lives and stop filling our days with stupid things that keep us shackled.

    Together, we can create a loving world filled with friendship and creativity for all!

    Thanks! G.

    • Oh, G, I’m so late in answering your comment but I love it! I adore the idea that our paths keep touching and we walk together sometimes. That truly makes my day. You’re such a great role model for living a zestful and connected life. xo

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