“It’s beginning to look (a bit) like Christmas”: It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / […]
In this increasingly ‘connected’ world, loneliness can be an uncomfortable admission. When faced with images and stories of all the fun things other people are doing (or seem to be), particularly via online media, the ache that we are missing out can be all too acute especially as the winter season approaches.
For some who work in office based jobs, the end of the year may mean office closures over the festive season. Most of us welcome time off work to rest, relax, recuperate, and to spend time with family and friends, and maybe even to travel. However, for some people, this time of year is like a looming dark cloud, bringing with it a downpour of loneliness and isolation.
Maybe it is the case that you don’t have anyone to go home to, which is fine if at least you have other social contacts. But maybe you are far from home, or don’t even have friends or family, and the most social interaction you usually have is from colleagues at work. But when you’re not at work, you’re on your own. I live alone, and personally I find time alone very refreshing – I’m the type of person who thrives from a lot of solitude, but perhaps I am able to do so because I know that my family is just a phone call away, and I have a wide network of close friends. For others, a lack of relationships or an abundance of shallow and surface relationships can leave them feeling very empty, isolated and alone, even in a room full of people.
Loneliness can come to anyone at any stage of life, and for a variety of different reasons, as unique as each individual is. However, some people in society, such as the elderly, or young office workers far from home in a busy and unfriendly city environment, or people working overseas, or those who are bereaved, struggle to make social connections or feel like outsiders in some way might be more vulnerable to loneliness. Everyone feels lonely from time to time, but when it becomes debilitating and consuming, that’s when it can be dangerous, therefore we all need to look out for each other, even for those who on the surface seem ‘gregarious’ but who underneath don’t have any real deep connections or relationships to turn to. The season may also be particularly lonely for those who are perhaps single and longing for companionship while faced with lots of social invitations for couples, or for those facing family stresses, and maybe even separation or divorce.
There’s no easy or quick fix solution, but it’s important not to try to go through a period of loneliness alone, because when we are not in a good place, the isolation that would otherwise be a fruitful and enjoyable solitude can turn into a negative and unhealthy place to be.
Whether you are facing a deep loneliness that leaves you feeling vulnerable mentally and emotionally, or whether you are mostly fine but have the occasional ‘pang’ of loneliness during those dark wintery nights, you don’t have to face it alone.
What can you do?
- Reach out to friends and family if you have them. If you don’t feel comfortable talking about how you feel, at least just reach out and talk – about anything – keep the lines of communication open, phone or meet up for a chat, and enjoy being in the company of people who know and love you, even if you are not yet ready or willing to share your deepest thoughts and feelings about what you are experiencing.
- Perhaps you don’t feel that you have anyone to turn to. In that case, it can be a good idea to reach out to charitable organisations that exist to help people in such situations. During times of my deepest depression and post traumatic stress, even though I have family and friends who I can phone to talk to, I didn’t always feel that I could. I carried the burden of not wanting to be a constant source of worry to the people who cared about me, and also being mindful of the sheer impracticalities of phoning or reaching out to someone while I was in distress in the middle of the night when they would be sleeping. So I found solace in calling helplines like Samaritans in the UK, and it did help to have someone to talk to in that time of distress. Thankfully I don’t feel the need to do that now, but I would encourage anyone and everyone to reach out to the people who have been trained to help those in need, and find some solace there. It may not be ideal, I know first hand how it feels when you’re in that position, but it can be such a life line, and even if you don’t need a life line as such, it can still be a source of comfort, solace and just the right thing at the right time to help you on your way.
- Find ways of being in situations that don’t make you feel socially anxious, but in which you can have even a small degree of social interaction. You might like to visit a library, join a group, or go to a coffee shop or a museum, or volunteer to help other people. All of these provide opportunities to engage with other people, even if just on an initial and surface level. It may not take your loneliness away, but it will remind you that you are connected to people, to society and even those simple interactions can have a positive effect, even if only in the short term, on our mental health.
- If you really can’t face any of the above, maybe you might find it worthwhile talking to your doctor. And for those times when you are just on your own and struggling with loneliness, you could perhaps seek out positive articles, videos and blog posts from people who share what has helped them in similar situations and life experiences. Be careful not to go down the route, however, of indulging in emotionally burdensome, negative or draining content – seek out those with messages of courage, hope, inspiration, and positivity who can point you towards positive changes and ways of coping. And remember although the winter is here for the time being, things will change, and spring will soon be on its way.
Mind games, in a positive sense, of course! 🙂
Those long, cold, dark winter nights can be particularly challenging if we struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), depression and low mood. They also might just get us down generally, as with less opportunity to stay busy outside, we may find ourselves in a bit of a mental and emotional ‘slump’ or fugue, as we are sometimes forced to stay away from our regular activities, and as such the ‘winter blues’ might get a hold of us.
We all too easily can become passive consumers of information, spending hour upon hour in front of the TV for example, and our minds can suffer for it. Without positive distractions and mental stimulation where we are actively involved rather than passively consuming, we also may fall into a state of rumination which can negatively impact our mental health.
One thing we can do, especially if we find that we are spending those long, cold, dark winter nights on our own is to actively engage our minds, train our brains and keep mentally fit and active. You could read, study, engage in new or old hobbies, for example and I will come to these in turn later. However, a fun and relaxing way to keep mentally fit is to play ‘mind games’ – no, not the kind of negative mind games in relating to other people – but games that will challenge you mentally.
These could be, for example, card games on the computer, word challenges, puzzles, board games or chess if you have company, riddles and such like. Something which you actively need to think about and engage in. Never underestimate the importance of looking after your mental health, and remember that there are fun ways that you can do this too!
What about you? What would your ‘go to’ mental health activity be?
“It’s beginning to look (a bit) like Christmas”:
It may only be the beginning of November, but soon we will be made more aware of the festive and holiday season approaching. If you live in America there is ‘Thanksgiving’ in November, and among other Western countries you may be approaching Christmas, New Year and / or other faith-based or holiday celebrations.
The most wonderful time of the year?
It certainly can be ‘The most wonderful time of the year’. But if we’re all honest with ourselves, we know that it isn’t always the case. Sometimes the most wonderful time of the year can serve to highlight the pain and difficulties of life all the more starkly because of the sharp contrast with how we feel things ought to be.
Reflections and moving forwards:
This year I’m looking forward to and trusting God for a happy, Peaceful and healthy Christmas with family and friends and as a Christian, celebrating my Wonderful Saviour. However, Christmases haven’t always been bright for me. I won’t go into details but there has been light and shade over the years, and it hasn’t always been easy. A few years ago, I was at the point where I just had to open up to my family about how bad I was feeling – and I faced the guilt of telling them, on Christmas day that I was having suicidal feelings. I felt like I had spoilt things, but they were so loving towards me and to cut a long story short it was the beginning of some very difficult steps for me to get professional help with severe clinical depression, and to be diagnosed with complex PTSD, and Generalised Anxiety Disorder. The joureny over the next few years proved to be very tough, but with perseverance I got help, support and am here feeling much better and more purposeful today. Without God moving in my life to hold me and support me and move me forward one painful step at a time, I wouldn’t have got to where I am, so I am very much looking forward to a blessed festive season after some not so good times.
Where do you find yourself?
Perhaps you find yourself looking joyfully ahead. However, I know that many of you are probably having to just put on a brave face and you are feeling pretty low about things, or maybe you do have happy times ahead but you feel stressed about the effort and organisation that will fall to you in making them happen.
Take a moment to reflect upon how you feel and what your thoughts are knowing that this time of year is approaching once more. Give yourself time to feel and to think what you think and to ask yourself what changes you can make to make things better for yourself and for others.
Burdens come in many forms:
We can learn to look at our challenges as opportunities, however, for the most part hard times are just that – hard times, and we somehow have to struggle through them. You might be facing anxiety, family problems, depression, bereavement which may be particularly poignant at this time of year, separation, loneliness, ill-health, loss of some sort, poverty, homelessness, broken relationships and friendships, isolation or a whole host of other pressures and painful things.
Maybe you have more than one of these things weighing you down.
What can you do?
From what I have learned in my life, my encouragement to you would be to start getting into the mindset of preparing yourself to ‘cope’ if need be, right now. That way you will have some time before things get really ‘in your face’ about how happy you should be and before you are unable to avoid the constant stream of conversations, advertisements and shop window displays.
Have a plan:
- Start now, in early November, with some set-aside times of self-reflection. While the month is still pretty quiet (in terms of societal pressures as I realise that you may have a lot going on in your own life right now), find a way to carve out some time for yourself to do some thinking. With the pressures in your life you may feel like you have ‘no time’, but you do – it’s all about finding something that will work for you. Perhaps if you only have five or ten minutes at a stretch you could get a notebook and over a few days or weeks whenever you get the chance begin to think and plan how you can look after yourself during these challenging and maybe painful holiday seasons.
Meditation, quiet time, journaling and knowing your triggers:
- Ok, so now you have some time set aside, what do you do with it? Here are a few ideas to get you started. Silent reflection / meditation and listening to how you feel. Journaling to express your thoughts and feelings and to externalise what is going on with you and maybe even to figure it out. And very importantly, learn about what your ‘triggers’ may be (things that can ‘set you off’ on a negative emotional or cognitive decline).
- As to meditation, quiet times and journaling I think you can find what if any of these works best for you so I won’t go into more detail on those. Knowing your triggers is crucial and I encourage you to take some focused time to really think about what these may be and plan ‘safeguards’ around them. Spend time observing your own moods, thoughts, behaviours and make a note of what kind of things make you feel bad, brainstorm, write them down and come up with a list of the most prominent triggers that you foresee yourself having to deal with.
A list of triggers, noting how you ‘cope’ and creating a wellbeing plan:
Now that you have established the things that could trigger you into falling into a bad place, it is important for you to take time to reflect upon some of your unhealthy ‘coping mechanisms’. Be really honest with yourself and write down what these might be. For example, maybe you turn to alcohol, comfort eating or something more harmful to ‘numb the pain’. Maybe you isolate yourself, ruminate, allow yourself to sink further into depression, sleep a lot or self-harm or push people away. There could be a whole host of damaging and unproductive ways that we find to deal with the most painful things in our lives and it is important to know what these are. It is also so important to commit to choosing a healthier way of dealing with things and making a plan and a strategy of getting through.
Where do I start?
This may all sound well and good in theory, but maybe you feel overwhelmed by these suggestions in and of themselves. Therefore, I am going to use some real and hypothetical scenarios to illustrate how you may go about coping with things and you can use this as a template for your own self-care and wellbeing plan.
An example of a wellbeing plan.
Ok, so imagine that you are facing a difficult situation this year of having health challenges, facing loneliness, anxiety, depression, change of circumstances, and the breakdown of a friendship or relationship.
You’ve given yourself the kindness of time to think about what’s really going on with you and to process some of it, as well as to think about what might be your ‘triggers’.
Some of the triggers you face include the following:
- Crowds and busy places make you feel anxious and unwell.
- You don’t have anyone to talk to about how you feel and you feel like you ‘ought’ to be happy or you’ll ruin the mood for other people, and so you try to cope with the depression on your own.
- Things have got worse for you health-wise and you feel overwhelmed and alone.
- You are struggling with the breakdown of a close friendship or relationship and don’t know how to deal with it, you know that you’ll soon be surrounded by all of the ‘picture perfect’ scenes in films, advertising, social media and among your friend or acquaintance circles who are in a happy place in their lives.
- You are having to deal with stressful family situations and don’t know how you’ll cope with the enforced times together that you have to be a part of.
You know some of the things you turn to that aren’t helpful for you. You know that you’ll want to escape and so you isolate yourself, you indulge in negative coping mechanisms and isolate yourself all the while these things make you feel worse.
A better way forward:
You know that you don’t want to fall into the slippery slope of negative emotions, thoughts and reactions, and so you plan some ‘self-care’ and contingency plans to keep you safe and even enable you to enjoy some of this season despite what you’re facing.
These contingency measures will be very specific and personal to you, but to help as many people as I can in a general way, use this ‘Checklist’ that I’ve come up with as a guide:
- Health: Give yourself time to get the healthcare and professional medical advice that you need. Listen to your doctors and those who have your best interests at heart, and ask them for their help and advice in what you should do and how you might be able to cope better.
- Isolation / Loneliness / No one to talk to: You may feel like there is no one to talk to, but try making a ‘contact list’ of people you can turn to for general support and in case of an emergency. You might feel bad being at the stage of having to do this, but believe me I had to do this for a long time, I’ve been there and eventually you will get stronger so don’t feel bad if you need to lean on people from time to time.
Think of the people in your life who care about you. Do you have a trusted friend, or a few good friends, a family member, pastor, colleague, relative that you can turn to and confide in? You may find that they in fact care a lot about you, your well being and will be there for you in whatever capacity they are able, so please reach out to such kind people of noble character if you are blessed to have them in your life. If you don’t have this, then please know that you are never alone. I have also had to turn to ‘crisis helplines’, phoning the Samaritans and talking to doctors during tough times – they may not have been ‘friends’ as such but they were a lifeline for me, and sometimes you need someone to talk to and those in the caring professions are often a good and safe source of support. Make a list of contact numbers you can call and reach out to, and also be aware that nowadays with technology there are a wide variety of ways you can contact professionals such as by text, email and video conferencing.
If you are a bit stronger in yourself maybe you can reach out to others in similar situations or even those who are in greater need such as through volunteering, meeting groups of likeminded people and seeing what’s going on in your community.
Be sure to plan in some ‘happy times’ even if you don’t necessarily feel happy inside, create opportunities for positive experiences as far as you can manage. This may be planning a lunch, dinner, cinema outing with friends or a friend. It could be going for walks in the park or getting away somewhere refreshing by yourself. There are so many possibilities but you may have to plan ahead before things get busy to ensure you have something in place.
- Diet and exercise: Plan in ways that you can stay well and healthy as much as possible as what we eat and how we use our bodies has a big effect on our mood and mental and emotional wellbeing.
- Know when to say ‘no’: You may have certain social and familial obligations to deal with. There may be commitments you need to uphold. But there is likely also to be a lot of things going on that will simply drain you, so you need to know what these might be and how to keep yourself well – you don’t need to say yes to everything.
- Practice gratitude: even in the hardest and most challenging of times you can find something to be thankful for, a lesson to be learned for the future, and a lesson that will someday help someone else if you choose to learn and grow from it. So try to find the silver linings rather than allowing yourself to be oppressed by the clouds.
- Positive distractions: For when things begin to get on top of you, know what positive distractions you can turn to such as hobbies, a musical instrument, a favourite TV show, a walk in nature, painting, art, writing, blogging, journaling, exercise, chatting to a friend on the phone, model making, etc. Do something that will absorb your focus and help you move forward that one next step at a time.
- Plan ahead: You may have a lot of practical things to consider, from organising festivities to managing finances, paperwork, and other ‘grown up stuff’. Plan for these so that they don’t get lost or forgotten when you are perhaps struggling emotionally and mentally. Break things down into smaller, clear, focused and manageable tasks and check them off as you go. Keep your list somewhere where you won’t lose or misplace it, and this will help you stay on track and not get into further challenging situations because of something you may have let slip or forgotten to do.
- Next steps: Ok, so life isn’t quite how you hoped it to be. You’ve felt like giving up and giving in, but you’ve chosen the better way – you’ve chosen to keep on living and looking for a way to cope, to survive, to move forward and ultimately to get stronger, to thrive and to see good come out of these challenges. One of the positives about this time of year is the opportunity to embark upon a ‘New Year’. You may look upon this as a flimsy human-made demarcation of time, but you will be in amongst a lot of other people seeking to improve their lives, their wellbeing and their circumstances. Try to thrive from the positive vibes that are encouraging this forward thinking and goal setting and look at the bigger picture of your life. Ok, so you’re not where you want to be but faith tells you that you can be in a better place, so spend some time figuring out what you want moving forwards, what you need to do and to change and what the next practical steps might be and take this forward with you to a hopefully better and stronger year ahead.
Be blessed, and stay strong friends. You are loved and you are never alone. xx
Hello dear readers,
I have been encouraged lately to see some new names join me, and many of my existing blog companions like and comment on my posts, in this, my little humble blog. The reason this means a lot to me is because the nature of my most recent posts have been in relation to mental health, and the struggles many of us face. It is so encouraging to me to know that in someway, writing about my experiences means that the things I have suffered may help someone among you feel less alone, be encouraged, or inspired to take the next step in your recovery or to help with that of a loved one. Years ago I knew I wanted to use my experiences to help others, but it is a long and ongoing journey and I had to fight through the tough times to find my own strength. So just know that each and every one of you is so valued here, and I appreciate you taking the time to read my posts.
That being said, it is important for me to take note of the fact that although like I said, this is just a small blog with a modest following, there has been more interest lately in my posts on mental health (I blog about many other topics as you will see if you visit my home page and see the tabs listed). It says to me that there are probably many amongst us looking for encouragement or even to compare experiences against. Although we can’t see each other, know that this can be a safe place for you to come, find encouragement and maybe even link with others in similar situations, and know that anyone commenting is prayed for as I do believe in your healing journey and that things can change for the better for you.
So, thank you. And know that I have taken notice of this interest, and am currently working on my next blog post focusing on anxiety in the workplace and what you can do about it. I’m still writing it, but it’s coming soon. If there are any particular topics you’d like me to explore further then let me know in the comments and I will look into it.
Take care, stay strong, you’re not alone, and you have a warm and supportive community of friends here. xx
Image from WordPress free photo library.
There is no doubt that life can be hard, and at times very hard. I know that each and every one of you reading this will have experienced something in life, however relatively big or small, that will have caused you pain. Perhaps the sting of cruel words, or even feelings of loneliness or being ignored, or maybe some devastating life events. I don’t know your story or your heart, but I know we share in our common humanity, and in this world none of us have a purely trouble free existence. Moreover, I care about you, although we haven’t met.
But today, I encourage you to begin to use your broken pieces for something transformative. Build a bridge that can help someone else cross troubled waters and move forwards in their life. Bridges are only built piece by piece, so don’t feel like your offering, your little stone or pebble is too small…it is the start of something…
For me, today, this blog post is one of my little stones to build a bridge that will hopefully help and encourage someone. I am walking my journey of recovery from post traumatic stress, depression and anxiety as I overcome the painful wounds of childhood bullying that almost devastated my little heart, it messed up my mind, and left me feeling like I didn’t want to be alive anymore. But now, reminding myself how far I have come I remember years ago wanting to someday use my painful experiences to reach out and help someone else…even if that was ‘just’ one…for I was just one. It felt impossible though under the crushing weight of heartache, trauma and helplessness, and perhaps this post isn’t a grand gesture…it isn’t the books I wanted to write to help other people, it isn’t me getting up and speaking in front of a crowd which would still overwhelm and panic me, and it isn’t me traveling the world as a motivational speaker or mentoring bullied kids…yet…but today, I hope my little offering towards my bridge will help and encourage you. Think of one of your broken pieces today, just now, and use it for something new. It can be something like reaching out and comforting someone else who is walking the painful road you walked. It could be paying someone a compliment and using words to heal if you are struggling to overcome words that hurt. It could be noticing and paying attention to someone if you felt ignored and neglected. It could be offering food to someone if you know what it is to go hungry….only you know your road and I pray that your heart will heal a little more today as you think of the bridges you can begin to build.
For me, my life is gradually transforming, little at a time…but it’s not just because I am putting my broken pieces to use, it is because I am putting them in the Hands of my Lord Jesus Who was broken for me, and He Is bringing new Life and beauty in place of ashes, gladness and joy in place of mourning….He, The One Who Loves us most, even if we don’t yet believe in or know Him (for once I didn’t), He Is the One Who truly loves, heals and frees us from deep within. Be blessed. With love to brighten your day. xx
For previous posts on similar topics, please take a look at my ‘Mental Health’ and ‘Self Care’ tabs.
I’ve hit a bit of a wall in recent days. Without going into the back story or the journey so far in this particular post, in summary I am receiving treatment for Post Traumatic Stress / complex trauma, Generalised Anxiety Disorder (GAD), and severe clinical depression. It has been tough, however, recently I have made some positive strides, especially in terms of traveling alone again, going for a job interview two days after I got back from work, and managing the work of my team singlehandedly for three weeks while my boss was on holiday.
However, this last Friday and Monday were public holidays, which meant a glorious four days off work. The only thing was that they weren’t entirely glorious. A friend who was married earlier this year and who had moved to a different city was back visiting both for a work related conference and to see other friends, and asked to meet with me. I wanted to, I really did, and felt that I also ought to, but my desire to be a good friend, to socialise, and to make an effort was outweighed by my symptoms overwhelming me. Another friend asked to meet me on the Monday, but again I just couldn’t manage. It was a rough day – I ended up staying in my PJs all day, and for most of the time watching re-runs of ‘Parks and Recreation’ (possibly the greatest show ever made 😉 ) to alleviate the stress of the nightmares I have been having, low mood, confusion, dizziness, anxiety and disorientation. It was a sunny day, but I didn’t even make it outside. However, Sunday I actually accomplished some mini milestones; it was a rainy grey day all day, and yet I managed to travel by train and then by ferry to visit my good friend and her two young children, to see her little girl before her birthday. I used to make that journey fairly regularly, however I hadn’t for the past 5 years due to pretty much barely being able to function or manage the anxiety, depression, and trauma symptoms. So yay! And it was good to have the company. My friend, who I met in university, is only 5 years older than me, and yet she has been married for over 2 decades (they met and married young), and has two children, and is quite settled and happy in life. I knew her before she had kids, so it has been a blessing seeing her family grow and move from one stage of life to another. The kids growing up really signify to me how much time is passing. Not that I’m old, or feel old, it’s just that I haven’t met the ‘milestones’ that I thought I would have or wanted to by this stage in life, and although I have accomplished a lot for someone battling the conditions that I have, it is still sometimes pretty hard. Not to mention that just the day previously my news feeds were filling up with joyful pictures of newlyweds. It is lovely to see, but it sometimes brings up all sorts of feelings, especially being on my own with no company in the flat. I have longed for a family of my own. I strive to be thankful, for I am blessed. Perhaps broken, but also blessed.
I am looking forward to going back to work after this long weekend. I need to get back into a routine, and I need company. Recovery from trauma is tough, and living alone is great, but it would be nice to feel supported, and to share life with someone.
I wonder, do any of you relate? Whatever your life situation may be? I need to get my head back in the game, and overcome this fog and struggle that I’ve been feeling. But this is Life as it happens to be, after all. And so I remind myself that I am loved by SomeOne Who will never leave me nor forsake me, and I just need to keep taking the next step and overcoming each thing. I don’t usually long to go back to work, but it is a blessing to have companionship and human contact, and to feel productive.
So, que sera, sera, whatever will be will be. It has been a long road, but we all need to pause in our journey, take a breath, and take time not only to care for others, but also for ourselves. I hope you find a little oasis of peace in your day today, where you can do just that. xx
It’s Friday evening, almost 7.15pm, and I’m not long home from a day at work. It’s been a blessed sun-kissed day, which is a special treasure in my part of the world where precipitation is by no means an uncommon occurrence! I’m sitting on my couch, feet up and laptop propped upon my knees, as I enjoy the view.
I live on the tenth floor of a flat that overlooks a city bridge where right now I can see cars scurrying to and fro, most likely taking weary commuters home for the weekend after a long day at work in some office or other.
Of course, there are so many more stories than there are cars or people within them. Stories that I know nothing about. And here I sit, in solitude, not knowing quite what my heart wishes to express. So let’s find out together as I write.
As well as the city sights of cars and buildings, hotels and grey block flats, I can also see blue skies, and hills in the distance, trees and church steeples and spires. In some ways it is like a moving picture postcard of an evening, and the sunlight catches the bonnets of vehicles and they look like moving jewels upon a conveyer belt.
I wonder where they are all going to? I wonder, also, as I take the time to think, just who you are, my dear reader, if you have been so kind and gracious to visit my space online, and read this far. If you have, then thank you. I find that wondrous. That somewhere in the ‘ether’ of a wired up world, we serendipitous strangers cross each others paths and connect. At least, I hope we do. For I hope that these writings, musings, ramblings, or ‘whatever you call thems’, this Blog, is as much for you as it is for me.
I am making an educated guess that given the tags I have used, you are likely to be musing over what it means to live the single life too. Either that or you have friends or family members who are single that you care about. Whatever the case, I can only write from my own experience and what I have learned.
Singleness is not a disease!
One thing I have found through many years of walking this path, along with longings for love and a family of my own, is that society generally does not have a healthy view of the single adult. I am blessed to have overcome challenges in my younger days of struggling to make friends to having come to know and share parts of my journey with some lovely people. Towards the later years in university, I made some connections with friends of different backgrounds and stages in life. I’ve now been working full time for a few years, and have also come across all sorts of people, some that I hold close and dear to my heart and others who I know for my own peace of mind I must hold at arms length and pray for from a distance.
Through the years and as the seasons have changed and as we have grown from one stage of life to the next I have been the friend lovingly ‘cheering on’ my friends, as they have had engagements, bridal showers, weddings, and then baby showers, babies and toddlers and children’s parties, and so forth. I wonder if you too have watched the endless stream of ‘updates’ of your friends lives as they celebrate the significant ‘milestones’ of life that we human beings tend to feel the existential need to celebrate? I wonder if in all of their ‘Significance’ you have felt insignificant? I wonder if you do not have friends whose milestones you can even celebrate, and if you feel all the more so alone in life, and in that also sense an insignificance or unworthiness to who you are as compared to who society and maybe also your own heart tell you you ‘should’ be.
If you metaphorically tick any of the above boxes, then I salute you. I say this because you not only have to overcome the inner challenges that you face, whether that be of self doubt, fear of the future, loneliness, isolation, abandonment, low self esteem, lack of confidence, wondering ‘what’s wrong with me?’, or whatever inward challenges they may be, but you additionally have to face the many hurdles of a society that too often views singleness as some kind of a ‘disease’ to be ‘cured’ by a relationship (and sometimes, sadly, at any cost!), rather than a season of life, or even a permanence in the way of your particular unique and individual life, whether wished for or prayed against, to be celebrated! When was the last time anyone threw you a ‘Single Shower’? Nope, me neither, friend! 🙂 Don’t worry, you’re not alone. And moreover, rest assured, singleness, the state of being uncoupled, not in a relationship, independent, flying solo, all alone, whatever you prefer to call it, it is most certainly not a disease!
p.s. As a side note, if you are fortunate enough to have a single friend who has lovingly celebrated your life, whether that be an engagement party, bridal shower / hen do / stag party, wedding, baby shower, children’s party, etc, etc – think seriously about showing your appreciation for them….they have waited and ached long enough for appreciation, and have lovingly yet also dutifully taken on the role of cheerleader or wallflower, wondering if anyone cares about the state of their heart….show them you care, even if in a small and understated way….do they have to wait for a ‘significant other human being’, a Mr or Miss ‘Right’ to complete their life in some way? What if that never happens? Do they in and of themselves not deserve some loving kindness, and celebrating just for who they are? I think so 🙂 Plus, isn’t it better to give than to receive? 🙂
All the lonely people, where do they all come from?
And so, the stream of traffic flows endlessly to and fro. That phrase ‘the city never sleeps’, well, I can tell you, it’s true! No matter what time of day or night I see it, that bridge always has commuters going somewhere or perhaps even driving away from something.
“All the lonely people, where do they all come from?” – The Beatles.
Was a question The Beatles once posed. I can guarantee you, it is not from some dismal cave of singleness! At least, not all of them 😉
We do not live in a ‘whole’ society. Our communities are not made up of wholesome families, living perfect lives in a fairy tale world with a white picket fence (I’m not even so sure why the white picket fence should be so important 🙂 ). We live in a fallen, fractured, broken world. Yes, there is a lot of love. Some people do seem to have ‘perfect lives’ or as near to such as this present life can offer. Pull back the curtains and light shines through. Open the closets and no skeletons fall out, but in their place fragrant roses of love and trust, companionship and respect bloom. These are blessed people indeed, but I would venture to guess they are not the majority. And even if they are, we should be happy that our society has such ‘building blocks’ of healthy families in place. For what starts in the home extends outwards to society, to friends and colleagues, co-workers, and relations. So we should celebrate rather than envy what is wholesome in this world, even if it is something that we feel we lack. And even if that is a challenge.
Some of these commuters in their nameless matchbox cars will pull up in front of a building this evening. They will look in the mirror, take a deep breath, and step out of their cars and into their lonely, frustrating or volatile and dysfunctional family lives. Some will not have families to go to but may refuse to stand alone and independent for fear of feeling the ache of loneliness. And so they will compromise themselves, and other people, and feel guilty for it. I don’t know what all of their stories are or will become, and I pray for all of those lonely people, who are going back to houses filled with people, but also the many problems that they may bring.
The Blessings of Singleness
Right now, I have time to think about these things. It’s Friday evening, and I have it as a gift all to myself. There is no one vying for my attention, and I can enjoy my solitude. I can relax and plan out my evening just as I like it. There are so many things that I could do. I can relax and reflect, I can write and think and pray, I can watch a film of my choice, put a pizza in the oven, read a good book, study, dance or sing if I feel like. I can reach out to other people. I can cook and study. I can dream of travels. I can pray about how I can be a blessing to other people. I can indulge in my creativity. I can plan something to do for someone else. I can plan a treat for myself. I can connect with my Creator, God, Who really Is the Only One Who makes me Whole in life. I can smile at my independence, as I can hear myself think and peacefully listen to the chirp of birdsong ringing clear through my open window.
I can…..I can…..I can……
Is that how you view your solitude? Don’t worry if it’s not, for that is understandable. I have wrestled with it too at times, and I have cried too. But you see the thing is, singleness isn’t the source of unhappiness just as being in company or married isn’t the source of happiness.
This is a blessed time to focus on yourself, take care of your needs, get to know who you are and what is important to you in life, and to invest in yourself and what matters to you. It is a time to grow in character, and in the virtues of a ‘good’ character – that of love, kindness, joy, peace, patience, temperance, self-control, and so many more wonderful things. It is a blessed time to shed the wearisome, dull and lacklustre garments of envy, jealousy, bitterness, and self pity. It is a time to stretch forth your arms in praise, and to count your blessings rather than resent the blessings that others have that you don’t have, or don’t have yet.
For in each stage of life there are plusses and minuses, ups and downs, pros and cons, blessings and challenges. Sometimes being on your own shields you from a lot of challenges that come with being with other people. People face conflict, they hurt each other, they even die.
We cannot put our hopes for a happy or meaningful life in any other person. Yes, the people in our lives can be real blessings to us, and we to them, but ultimately they are not where we find our Answer, nor are we theirs.
We need to be whole in ourselves or on the maturing path to becoming more whole or less broken, in order to be a blessing to others. Otherwise we seek from others what they cannot possibly give and things fall apart, ‘the centre cannot hold’, and society goes on fracturing and breaking itself.
Embrace Your Freedom
So dear one, look up, and take time to embrace the freedom that you have. Many people long after it secretly when the thing that is weighing them down is a commitment that they just can’t get away from. And so the lonely people do often go home to full houses.
Comparison is the Thief of Joy & The Grass is always greener…..
Comparison is the thief of joy: it speaks for itself, really.
The grass is always greener…..where you water it. Not on the other side, but on where you invest your time and love to nurture it, it will be greener than it was before. And what can you do but live the very life that you have been gifted with, with all its joys and sorrows, right here and right now?
So water that grass you’ve been given with all your heart. Put love into your life, right now, this day. Nurture yourself, grow in independence, and ultimately you will grow strong enough to reach out to others. Even your tears may water and birth something beautiful, who knows?
Solitude can be deep happiness
Well my dear ones, if you have made it this far, ‘Congratulations!’. I hadn’t intended to write this much, but this was a freeflowing and unplanned journey that we have taken together.
I encourage you to think about what is special about you and your life, and if you feel like that is ‘nothing’, then that is your starting point of self discovery, because I truly believe that you are ‘fearfully and wonderfully made’, special and precious to God, and even if you don’t believe in God, know that you are unique and there is no one else like you. You have hopes and dreams and gifts and character unique to you. Maybe you need to fight through some thorns and thistles and briers to find the treasure that you seek about yourself, I have had to do so myself, but there is treasure there in who you are and I pray that you will find it.
Your life is also special and important. Right here, right now. You have the very gift of life in this fleeting world. Your very breath itself is a miracle. You have the wonder of sight if you are reading this page, and of knowledge and understanding that comes from the gift of an education that many do not have. You have access to the Internet, which very likely means you are not in severe poverty and that you are blessed to know where your next meal, and even next paycheck is coming from. Or at least you have enough to ensure your survival and safety for today. You may have many, many, many more blessings heaped and overflowing on top of these, if only you would take the time to think about and notice them, and be thankful for them.
And if you have insights of your own, as I am certain that you do, that I or others may learn from then please do share your beautiful ‘voice’ with us that we may learn from your unique journey and perspective too.
And in the meantime, I am off to put a pizza in the oven, pour myself an nice cold drink, put my feet up and enjoy this evening of blessed solitude.
Much love my blogger friends, whoever you are, and wherever you may be going, you are never truly alone, and your life is a wondrous miracle if you would open your eyes and heart to see it! Be blessed, and know how blessed you already are.
Image 1 and Image 4 from Google Images.
I was touched by her heartfelt posts, reaching out to connect with others and to be an encouragement to others.
If you have the chance and are so inclined, please visit her Blog and say ‘hello’. I hope you don’t mind me sharing your Blog, ‘notalone’. 🙂
I also have felt the ache of loneliness and even being alone in a crowd or amongst friends, and know that many others have felt similar things also.
I have been encouraged from ‘day 1’ of blogging here by the feeling of community and connection that sharing our thoughts and a glimpse into our individual worlds brings.
I wonder if you have any suggestions as to what can help someone feeling this way? What healthy ways of coping with loneliness do you have?
I believe that God cares for us and that ultimately we always have SomeOne to reach out to. But it’s not always easy to feel or believe that. We need human companionship too.
But what happens when that is not available?
I think in addition to reaching out to God (for me, personally), we need to learn to be our own best friend, when too often we can be our own worst enemies. The thoughts we think about ourselves really do have such a powerful impact, not only on the state of our mind, but also on our mood, physical and emotional health and our ability to cope with the day to day things of life.
I would encourage you, if you are feeling alone and isolated to think about what might help you.
Here are some things that have helped me. I’d love to know what works for you, so please feel free to respond in the comments.
Much love. x
- Prayer and reaching out to God.
- Connecting with friends and family where possible – whether face to face, by telephone or via email, etc.
- Positive self talk.
- Making connections in safe ways on the online world.
- Thinking of how I can help other people and reaching out to people in need / being an encourager.
- Absorbing myself in a hobby.
- Going outside for a long walk.
- ‘Journalling’ / writing down my thoughts and ‘to do’ lists to keep productive.
- Focusing on ‘self care’ and building myself up to be independent and resilient emotionally.
When I am in a ‘good place’ within myself, I also find solitude immensely satisfying, especially being out in nature – so there is a difference between being physically alone and being lonely….we just need to find the healthy balance and manage our feelings along the way.
Let me know what works for you, if you so wish. Oh, and say ‘hi’ to my new friend over at Blogger.