have you ever felt lonely?
when was the last time you felt lonely?
I heard today that 46% of Americans feel lonely.
To be honest, I had googled “loneliness” because it is something I deal with and learning is how I deal with most things.
A conversation that had gone awry with a friend, tiredness and being behind at work all amplified my long rooted loneliness.
It doesn’t matter if you are busy, surrounded by friends and family, famous, young, old, altruistic, selfish, wise, unwise, on social media or not, wealthy, poor, well-traveled or home-bodyish, loneliness may visit you.
And when it does, it will try to convince you that you do not matter. That people don’t want to hang out with you and any number of other terrible lies.
When loneliness tries to derail you and your courage, fight it.
Because I keep learning that sometimes what we’ve been told or feel is not necessarily reality.
That feelings are great, but sometimes they are a swamp full of crocodiles, venomous snakes and brackish poison.
Sometimes thoughts are the same. And this two-punch of bullying thoughts and feelings is powerful and can feel like a terrible weight on an asthmatic’s chest. But there is something like hope that we can introduce to the swamp to begin to clear the water.
The hope and the pivot
The reality is often more mundane than that people despise us. Some people do find us annoying. Some people welcome our exit. But most people don’t. They either welcome us or don’t log our comings and goings. They are busy with their own stuff of life.
They, too, may walk about with brackish whispers that too easily convince them they are unwanted. Or they don’t. But many of us do.
In fact, there are some folks who are talking about it publicly. I bumbled over a TED talk by Jonny Sun recently where he spoke about “You are not alone in your loneliness.” He even has an online presence with a healthy dose of hand-drawn comics, kindness and aha!s for the lonely among us.
Jonny is the originator of the ideal dog walking service you might have heard of “where a dog shows up at ur door and u have to get out of the house and go for a walk!”
When loneliness seeps under the door, we don’t have to try to outrun it, outwork it, distract ourselves with scrolling through Facebook or Twitter, or even listen to an endless library of audiobooks.
We can brace ourselves and let the feelings wash over us. And then ask ourselves questions like, “is this reality or is it exhaustion or fear?” If it is not reality, then maybe a nap or call to a pal might help. Or a walk with the pup or friend. Even sitting in a public place with a book … or heading to the park with bubbles and a bubble-eating pup.
Recently, I read this on instagram (I think), “My therapist made a life changing statement during therapy today. ‘You don’t have to feel hopeful about the future, it’s enough to just be curious about what is coming.’ I can’t even describe how eye-opening that one sentence was.” @Belle_Rope
Stay curious. I can do that.
And if you can’t yet, I can offer to help. Loan you some of my five-year-old-like curiosity or bubbles. The stuff that compels me to bend low over the sidewalk and look at a beautiful rock in the old cement or to watch the sun shimmer through the sprinkler. Or encourage you to reach out to pals who might feel lonely and overwhelmed, too.
Loneliness may always be that black dog in your shadow, but I am learning to ask logical questions, look for facts even in this area of my heart and mind, ask for help and stay curious so that giant black dog looks more like a grumpy goofy pug each day. Less like the Godzilla-sized behemoth that used to sit in a wheel-less wagon tethered to my leg and life.
It has taken a long while to get to this point, but it was only a few years ago that I broke up with the assumption that my feelings and thoughts were 100% accurate and incontrovertible.
And now, I am even more curious.
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How do you deal with loneliness?
What do you do to sort out truth and looming lies you’ve believed?
Any pitfalls to avoid when dealing with loneliness? I think of a few, but I’d love to hear from you.
And to be honest, I’ve been so ashamed of being lonely for so long, that it became unnecessarily giant in my life. Instead of recognizing loneliness and appreciating solitude, I spent a lot of time filling my moments with activity, sound, pursuit and go-Go-GO!
Now, peace is spreading even to this part of my life. And I am so grateful. It’s been worth the work I’ve put in. Thank you to the peeps who have been there with me. Let’s stay curious.