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?
* * * * *