Grateful Lonely Part 1 of 2
I was pretty much a rock star in 5th grade…a cute, fun, sassy, curly blond, with blue eyes_the first one to wear a bra, and read Judy Blume (rites of passage for a preteen girl). I always had at least a handful of boys calling me on my personal white princess phone in my pink bedroom. I “went with” Brian for about a month, then moved on to Michael while having my eyes on Chandler. My girl squad consisted of 4 or 5 of us who had been together since 3rd grade and we ruled. We were a tight group during the week and on the weekends, staying up late at slumber parties.
My friends changed throughout the years but one thing remained the same: I always had a boyfriend (with whom I did the breaking up, when I was “done” with him) and I always had a squad.
It wasn’t until after I broke off my wedding in 2000* that I was introduced to loneliness. Up until that time, I was consistently around people. In college I had roommates and a boyfriend for 4 years, then I lived with my fiancé. The first night after the break up there was a thunderstorm. I felt afraid in my bed alone. I was 26 years old.
Que the sad violin music and get out the Kleenex now…or you may just want to read the following with a splash of bourbon. Perhaps this happens to all rock stars: you rise to the top just to crash and burn after a one hit wonder. Did I peak in 5th grade?!? How sad!
Not so. Friends, there is an upside to loneliness.
NY Times best selling author Gretchen Rubin recently delved into this subject on her Happier podcast. She describes different kinds of isolation (see list below). One thing is constant on the spectrum of alienation, every emotion is painful. And while each variety is different, it all hurts when boiled down.
· You feel different _your faith is different than your friends/you have a group but you are cast out
· No girl/guy friend group squad _no close circle of friends
· No intimate romantic partner/sweetheart_always going stag to events/weddings
· No time for “my kind” loneliness_either the friends have moved on by starting new chapters in their lives (babies/everyone going to grad school) or they don’t feel like making that extra step for more connection
· Untrustworthy friends_ “friends” that don’t have your back (so they’re not really friends)
· Empty nest loneliness_missing the quiet presence of just having someone in the house
Our holidays, celebrations and group culture comprise the fabric of our society. We need intimate bonds and deep connections. People go to great lengths (staying in abusive/wrong relationships) to not be isolated which is damaging.
There is a stigma that being lonely means something is wrong with you. You have to be brave to talk about the subject. The dichotomy is that while we need connection, personal interactions are less frequent these days. It is important to note that being alone is not the same as being lonely. While I have experienced all of the kinds mentioned, I get a lot of energy from alone time (being a “social introvert”) as many people do. Loneliness is a sad feeling of being without company and we are going to tackle it, try to understand, it and choose to be grateful for it in my next post!
Meanwhile, DO NOT settle for mediocre relationships (personally or professionally) just to fill a void. No companion trumps a Wrong, Abusive, or Mean companion. You can choose what brings you joy. Be grateful for the choice!
STAY TUNED FOR PART 2