Loneliness has many faces. It can be a self-defining moment of strength, or it can place you into a dark hole of depression. At one time or another, we have all experienced a bit of loneliness. Regardless of how we may have found ourselves there, it can at times be good to sit with those feelings and sort through them. You may know someone that enjoys their “aloneness” and can’t understand why it is you don’t. The reality is, they may have also experienced a time in their life when they were lonely and didn’t like the feeling either.
My start was a simple one. I went from living at home with my mom and dad to moving in with my boyfriend, getting married and having kids. As I think back, there wasn’t much time to feel lonely in the early years. I was craving peace and quiet. Then I divorced and for the first time in my life, I was living by myself and I truly understood how it felt to be alone. At first it felt good. I had no one to worry about, report to, cook or clean up after. That soon changed. As time went by and my girls didn’t call or come by as much (didn’t care about me?) and my friends had their families and obligations, that’s when I started to feel resentful of my freedom. Don’t get me wrong, I was busy all the while. I worked full time and taught several classes a week. My days were filled with activities but when the day was over and I went home to an empty house, with no one to share my day, I didn’t like it. There was no one to hug when I was sad, or even to exist in the same room and help to fill that void. I began to overthink. Complaining was useless and accomplished nothing. My girls only thought I needed to enjoy my time alone and learn to embrace it. Some of my friends didn’t understand because they had not gotten to that point in their lives yet. They listened and tried to comfort me, giving words of advice. Those that had been through it told me it would get better. I realized in the end this was a process that each and everyone of us needed to deal with on our own.
Recently, I had a conversation with a close friend who admitted to me she finally understood what I was feeling. For the last several years, when I would tell her of my feelings, she said she couldn’t understand why I was so lonely. She knew my schedule and that some days I barely had time to sleep. This particular day I called her to check in and see how she was doing. I knew she was going through a rough patch. Knowing how much it means to get a call from a friend I reached out. This was the day before Mother’s day and plans with her own mother had fallen through. Her husband and daughter were off visiting his mother and so she found herself alone for the entire day. At first she thought her day might be salvaged with her mom, so she stayed hopeful. But then as the day wore on things changed. Her family stayed not only for lunch but dinner too. She began then to get lonely and depressed. She could no longer see the beauty of a day alone to do as she pleased, but rather it became a horrible day completely by herself. She resented her freedom. She wanted me to know that my call meant the world to her and that she now understood how I felt being alone. She knew her time by herself was short and soon her family would return and that the feeling she had would be gone. But me, I would still be alone nights and on the weekends. She deciding then to make a better effort to check on me, reach out and just say hi. It was a good reminder that no matter what you are going through there is usually someone else going through something similar or a bit worse.