Loneliness is like a flesh-eating virus; instead of eating away our skin, it devours our lives.
It eclipses our gratitude, making it impossible to see or manifest blessings. It chips away at our health, giving us a host of psychosomatic symptoms like insomnia, fatigue, headaches, stomach aches, digestive issues, and back pain. It can take over our lives turning a meal for one or a movie outing into another thing that highlights just how alone we truly are. It’s the fear that stalks us, creeping up on us when we least expect it.
I’ve been there.
To be honest, I’m an introvert who prefers my own company. But the truth is that loneliness has also always been there, a constant companion in my life. I’m one of those odd people who is extremely shy when I’m not comfortable
I find it nearly impossible to start a conversation with someone outside of a work setting. But I go from introverted and shy to extremely outgoing once I warm up. Making friends can be difficult, and so loneliness often becomes the friend I make instead. Surviving a divorce and a subsequent relationship’s ending has also left me with some residual loneliness.
But, there’s no need for our time alone to be lonely. I’m not saying we should pretend that we’re fine when we’re not. When loneliness presents, sometimes we just need to sit with it and hold its hand. We need to have a good cry or allow ourselves to wallow a bit, but we don’t need to stay in this state of perpetual wallowing and feeling sorry for ourselves. It should be a temporary rest stop on our trip to somewhere better.
Being alone can be awesome. It can mean freedom and possibilities. Being alone can be our preferred state, a choice we’re making. Right now, I’m taking a dating sabbatical because I need it. Sure, I could hop on a dating site and arrange a date or a hookup without a problem. In fact, I could find myself juggling multiple contenders. But I’m just not interested in doing that right now. Instead, I’m focusing on the life that I want. I’m taking time for my career, which I love, and I’m also indulging in a few interests of my own.
I’m learning Italian just for fun, and I’m working my way through an enormous reading list of books I find enjoyable. I’m binge-watching season four of “Grace and Frankie” because I adore it, and I’m about to run my first half marathon followed by a mindful triathlon of running, yoga, and meditation. I’m enjoying taking myself out on dates and spending quality time with my two children. It doesn’t feel lonely; it feels empowering.
The truth is, I can survive just fine without a partner. I’m resourceful, determined, and optimistic. And, I’ve learned that being alone only means being lonely if we choose it.
This isn’t to sit in judgment on those who genuinely feel lonely. When we’re sitting in that place, for however long we feel it, that’s perfectly acceptable. Perhaps we’ve never done so well with our alone time. Maybe we prefer sharing our energy with another person and feeling loved. But sometimes that loneliness stems from not meeting our own needs. Sometimes we’re waiting for someone else to complete us or fill us up rather than addressing those needs ourselves. It can even be a form of avoidance that we wait for someone else to make our lives what we want.
It’s hard to work on our own issues and to delve into our pain, especially when the roots of it may lie deep in our childhood and past experiences. I get that. It takes effort and persistence to eradicate loneliness, particularly when it’s become our companion. We’ve made friends with it in a way that won’t allow us to let it go, even when we know we need to in order to be happy.
So how do we transition from a place of feeling genuinely lonely to enjoying our time alone?
We learn to count our blessings. It may sound trite, but it’s tough to feel lonely when we’re filled up with our own gratitude. We can count the small things (sole control of the remote and entertainment options, an entire bed to ourselves) as well as the large things (endless possibilities, availability for a twin flame kind of love, time to focus on the lives we want to live).
We can use this time to get to know ourselves. We can look closer at our priorities, eliminating things from our lives that no longer serve a higher purpose. We can investigate our own interests. Have we always wanted to learn about art? Now’s the time! Have we secretly yearned to scuba dive or learn to fly a plane? It’s time to get started. We can use our alone time to really figure ourselves out.
And, when figuring ourselves out, it’s important we also investigate the things that we don’t love about ourselves—the shadow side. The behaviors that haven’t served us well. The things we say to and believe about ourselves that make us feel worse rather than better. This is time for us to work through our own issues and to embrace self-love, self-care, and body positivity.
Then we need to make a plan to enjoy our alone time while it’s here. Very likely, we’ll find ourselves in a relationship one day. We may miss that alone time once our time is being shared with someone else. So we can try not to take this time for granted. It really is a blessing, even though it often doesn’t feel like one. It’s an opportunity, even when it feels more like a challenge.
We can be alone and avoid falling into the trap that loneliness sets out for us. We’re strong, fierce, and resilient people, and it’s time we reminded ourselves of that.
Author: Crystal Jackson
Editor: Lieselle Davidson
Copy Editor: Sara Kärpänen