To Hell with Loneliness
I recently found out that the areas of what I thought were water damage on my fantastic 1970’s T111 siding is not water damage but carpenter ants. I looked up information on the buggers.
Did you know that lonely ants die young and hungry? That is the title of an article I happened upon. My carpenter ants are already dead because I got the pest control guys to poison them, so no worries there.
Anyway it got me thinking about loneliness and I started waking up with the Bee Gees song “Lonely Days” looping in my ears so I must need to write about it. My plan is to share how to poison loneliness. The first line in the song definitely works for me, “Good morning Mr. Sunshine.” I’ve known for years that lack of sun puts a damper on my mood so I get out in it daily if I can. I also have a clock where the light rises up slowly like the sun, which is a helper for winter days.
Since being on the single side of life, I’ve noticed that some people see the cause of loneliness as a lack of a sexually intimate relationship (SIR). I have met some super lonely people. I have been one at times. But I know a SIR is not a cure-all for loneliness. If it was there probably wouldn’t be so many divorces and broken hearts walking around. I’d bet a good SIR could not hurt, sure. As a cure all, nah. I like to remind my single girlfriends to take after Joss Stone who tells the boys, “If you don’t like the peach, walk on by the tree.” In other words, don’t let a lonely feeling drive you to someone who doesn’t fit, male or female.
And holy cow, I’ve seen some other really bad ideas come from coping with a feeling of loneliness. Addiction and risky behavior in general being the top two. You know I’m not judging because I haven’t dealt with my 30 year smoking addiction. I remember going to a smoking cessation class many years back. One thing I will never forget is the facilitator saying the first thing to try is switching up brands of smokes. She said, “If you can’t let go of your ‘best friend’ you can’t quit for good.” Yes. They called the sticks our “friend.” That is the psychological deal with some addictions! We start off feeling lonely and “make friends” with a substance. For other people a different bad habit, or coping method, becomes their friend. It’s so annoying, that some pick up coping methods that aren’t emotionally healthy, but societally cheered. They never have to deal with their shit or take all the dirty looks I get. (I didn’t say it wasn’t fair, I said it was annoying!) Yes, I know, smoking is bad and I gotta deal with it. Noted.
Loneliness is a feeling. It doesn’t have to be a state of being. Like all negative feelings, it needs to be recognized, experienced and then left in the wind. Some of us deal with it more often, so we have to accept our nature and have a sense of humor about it. I bought the damn sunshine light, whether it will work or not. (Not talking clinical depression here, ok, different set of parameters!)
My friend Zach’s advice always runs through my mind in talking about healthy living. “Never submit yourself to an ideal.” I’m not sure exactly what he was writing about when he said it, but I love it. Because there is no ideal life. There is no perfection on earth. There is no constant state of happiness that we should be striving for. There are no expectations of others that have to be met, “or else…” There is meaning to be found outside of rainbows and butterflies, if we would just look.
I do believe humans are born with an absolute need for connection. As adults, it’s our job to make it happen. It’s a matter of engagement with the people around us, in an authentic and somewhat vulnerable way of relating.
Oh damn, I sound like I’m giving a to-do list, but I swear I’m not! Just sharing some things that work for me. Like expending time caring for others. Listening. Engaging. Having conversations about more than the weather. Expressing yourself through creativity. Saying no to shit you don’t like. Accepting care from others. Doing things just for the fun of it. Fighting isolation. Fighting the urge to withdraw.
It’s not always easy, especially with opposite sex friendships. I have had several male friends over the years, some when I was single and some while I was married, who did not react well to my expressions of appreciation for their positive impact on my life. I sometimes got a petrified look like, “Oh shit, she’s gonna start packing up and move into my house!” But expressing to others the way they have affected me in a positive way, brings joy to me. Girlfriends, guy friends, my kids, my family. Somehow sharing appreciation connects us. Makes us less lonely.
I can only hope that something I have shared will give you courage, especially this time of year when loneliness can hit hard. I leave you with the song, now you can have it looping in your mind too. My musician friend says the track has a Beatles sound, so even if you don’t like the Bee Gees, maybe you’ll appreciate this one.