It is Saturday night and I am sitting on my bed, alone, with a laptop and tea for company. My partner is on the other side of the state working. My daughter is also at work, along with my car, and my son is watching sport on TV in the living room. I may as well be invisible to him - and I can’t stand the sound of sport. So, I have been relegated to my bedroom.
And, once again I am left wondering – confused – as to how I got to this place. And whether or not I like it. It was truly only yesterday that I was busy with the chaos of marriage and small children. It wouldn’t have occurred to me even four short years ago that I would today, at forty-two years young, be considering how to overcome the surge of loneliness that creeps up on me on nights, and days, like this.
Whilst I don’t live alone, there are a good many nights I spend alone for reasons similar to the above. The people around me are busy doing what they need to do and don’t need my support and guidance 24/7. And this is a good thing! It surely is. It means that I can do what I want to do without being on constant call. It means I can concentrate on my reading or my writing or whatever it is I’m doing without the annoying and sometimes mind-numbing interruptions.
So why the unrest and confusion in my head? Why do I feel happy and free as a bird one minute, and slightly redundant and useless the next? I know why. It’s because I’m not used to this change – this new life. It seemed to have crept up on me when I wasn’t looking, catching me breathtakingly unaware.
Change has never come easy to me. As an expectant 24-year-old I thought I knew exactly what life had in store for me the other side of pregnancy - I‘d read the books and therefore knew everything. Yet when motherhood hit with the force of a tsunami I was so shocked by the change to my existence – with the sheer reality of having a tiny being utterly dependent on me – that I soon found myself with postnatal depression, unable to cope.
And now it seems I’ve come almost full circle. Now I sometimes long for the days of having a tiny being dependent on me. I look at other women my age – or older - who still have little people dependent on them and I – at times and against my better judgement - feel jealous. Until I remind myself of one thing:
WE ALL GET TO THIS PLACE EVENTUALLY. Some earlier than others – but we all get here. We all eventually find ourselves at somewhat of a loose end, not knowing how to deal with the fact that the people who used to rely so heavily on us… now don’t rely heavily on us. Intellectually we know it is a good thing, but it still hurts.
I find being alone a strange thing – sometimes I hate it and sometimes I love it. In the not so good hatey moments I have learnt that in order to overcome the feeling of loneliness I need to do SOMETHING. And ‘something’ doesn’t include laying on the bed – or the couch – mindlessly scrolling through my phone. (This is actually a sure-fire way to increase loneliness in my opinion).
Now, I allow myself no more than 5-10 minutes of sorry scrolling before I make myself do something useful (even 5-10 minutes of mindful breathing or meditation is more useful than the same amount of time spent on mindless scrolling).
HERE ARE SOME THINGS I DO TO OVERCOME THE SURGE OF LONELINESS WHEN IT HITS:
I get out the movies and books:
I’ve relied on escapism as a form of entertainment for as long as I can remember (probably because I was a bored only child)! And what better way to escape loneliness and boredom than by immersing yourself in somebody else’s world? Even if it is a fictional world? I have shelves full of DVD’s and books (I’m a little old fashioned!) and one of my favourite things to do is to pull out a movie from the 80’s or 90’s – my heydays – and simply ESCAPE!
The same goes for books. When I’m in the mood, there is truly nothing better than laying in the bath with a cup of tea (or glass of wine) and a book. With phone - and associated distractions - well out of the way.
I do something either useful or creative:
If you’re anything like me you can get a little down on yourself when you feel you’re not using your time wisely. And then the loneliness increases and your capacity to deal with it decreases. Not fun. When I don’t feel like reading or watching something – when I’m a little wired up and feeling like I need to do something constructive to get out my funk and feel useful – I do one of two things. I make myself do something creative – usually writing as I’m doing now. Or, I fix something.
‘Fixing’ may be sorting out a cupboard, rearranging some shelves, or organising the piles of crap on my desk. The sense of satisfaction I get after utilising myself either creatively or usefully (or both) works beautifully in lifting my mood and easing the loneliness.
I make plans for at least ONE social outing in the next 1-2 days:
I find this an especially useful thing to do on those nights alone when I kinda sorta want to go out – but I’m too lazy to do anything about it. It’s a tricky thing because on nights such as this not only do I feel a little down - I feel guilty for feeling down and not getting out of my own way to do anything about it. It is a vicious cycle of sorts.
Calling or messaging a friend and making plans to go out for a drink or coffee or meal in the coming days helps A LOT. This may sound odd but psychologically it gets me off the hook – I don’t have to dress and leave the house and socialise at that moment – but I will have to tomorrow (or the next day). With this in mind I’m able to chill at home, dag out, and not feel guilty for doing so. Beautiful!
Is loneliness your friend or enemy? What do you do to overcome loneliness? Tell me in the comments.
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