Let’s Be Lonely Together
I'm really good at being single. No, I mean, really good. Like, expert level. I can arrive at parties alone, go to movies alone, even dine alone. Yes, I might be that weirdo at the restaurant eating all by myself. It doesn't bother me. In fact, I take just a little pleasure knowing that some of you, my fellow diners, are squirming in your seats on my behalf, so ashamed it is perceived to dine alone. I suppose the oddest thing I've ever done alone was my backwoods camping trip last year: 4 days in the mountains… yup... alone. Well, there was me and the cloud of worry that my mom sent along to keep watch over me.
But I admit that being lonely is not easy. Rather, I should say that being alone and not feeling lonely isn't easy. Feeling lonely is always easy!
There are so many opportunities to feel lonely these days. Even in a room full of people, there can be some who feel lonely, outcast, not as close as the others.
I just want to tell you that if you've ever felt this way, you're not alone. (I know, worst word-play ever!) So many people, myself included, have felt the pang of wanting to be closer to people. I've been surrounded by people and wondered just how close I would have to be to them in order not to feel some of my lonely pangs. Right next to them? Cuddled in their arms? Perhaps I'll just crawl right inside their clothing with them.
It's tough because so many factors these days promote lonely living:
* We move more frequently than ever before, and don't forge the long-term friendships we once did.
* Many of our after-work activities are home-based rather than community-based.
* Society has come to value independence much more than relying on community.
* Homes are built and used differently; we no longer hang out in front yards with our neighbours.
* Social Media highlights all of our and our friends' funnest moments, portraying an unrealistic expectation of life.
And I could go on. After all, I am an expert in the matter. I've had a lot of lonely dinners-for-one to think on it.
But the truth is that loneliness is a choice. There are steps we take and don't take every day that lead to loneliness. And that's good news.
It's good because that means that there are steps we can take every day that also lead to not feeling lonely.
The first step I might suggest is self-assessment. Sit down over dinner-for-one, and ask yourself, "Self, am I the kind of person I'd like to be around?" If the answer is already yes, then what the heck are you doing hiding your beautiful friendship away from the world? You owe me a dinner-for-two!
If the answer is no, then great. At least you know, and now that you know, you can start doing something about it. I'll admit, I was in this camp. I used to be very critical and bossy, and an attention-seeker to boot. (I know, charming!) Until I realized that even I was sick of me. (During one of my solo dinners, I had to throw a glass of water on myself. It was embarrassing and satisfying all at once).
I had to learn how to be someone I wanted to be around, and for me, that meant learning how to accept people, how to encourage them and how to share the spotlight with them, instead of judging and dominating. It was a skill I practiced, but now I can find something I like in everyone I meet. And I can say so to their face. That's the really difficult part! Because it's weird being nice to people. They think you want something from them, or that you're up to something. We're generally very distrustful. It's unnerving.
But yet, we don't question the love of an excited puppy bounding our way. People are like puppies. More than anything else, we all just want to be loved.
That's the crux of it all; we're all dying to feel less lonely. You and me and all of the other people in the room and in our lives are all wanting to be closer to one another. We just don't always know how, or we think we can't.
We might have been terrible at it in the past, or been hurt deeply. Even so, staying lonely is actually the more difficult of the two choices. Being friendly, putting yourself out there is much, much easier, more rewarding, more exciting, and more fun - it just seems harder - especially if we're not used to it.
But now you know the secret: everyone feels lonely. So let's be lonely together.
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