Are you in a holding pattern caused by loneliness? Anyone can experience the painful awareness of not connecting with others–married or single. Strong, competent women rationalize being treated poorly by awful men to avoid loneliness. Others in healthy relationships feel isolated by the lack of true friendships outside that relationship. Loneliness is a state of mind that can be changed by connecting with yourself first.
My most profound loneliness was being in a marriage I had outgrown. After being married several years with two young children, I had drifted away from many of the friends I had growing up and in my early 20s. My emotions were in turmoil and I had nobody in whom to confide. Despite our sporadic socializing we reconnected immediately and I began rebuilding other friendships I had neglected over the years. My friends gave me strength to pursue my divorce and that step empowered me to start questioning what I want to do with the rest of my life.
If you are not doing things to fulfill all parts of your self–intellectually, physically, and spiritually–you are not truly living. For years, I coasted on auto pilot. I worked, took care of my kids and collapsed exhausted each night. I realized I wanted more and started setting goals. I have the same 24 hours in my day as anyone and I work full time, juggle the busy lives of two teenage girls and my own social life, yet I don’t just come to life on weekends. I ensure there are things I do for my mind, body and soul each day. What have you done for you lately?
Dinners and nights out with my friends are a given, but I belong to the Jacob Burns Film Center and enjoy seeing films alone. Running makes me feel good and that led to running marathons. Travelling the world alone connects me deeply to the moment and myself–quite the opposite of lonely. Between family, work, travelling and socializing, I met a guy. We clicked instantly and became involved. While happily enjoying my life I met someone, exactly how all the magazines said it would happen. My happiness was short-lived, however, when things ended abruptly six months later. Yes, I was sad, but I rechannelled that sadness into a freelance writing career which fulfils me creatively. Changing grade levels after 18 years challenged me professionally.
Can I pursue all things, all the time? No. Life is a balancing act. Deciding to learn a new curriculum meant publishing fewer articles, but planning new, creative lessons and teaching older students fulfills me in new ways. Some weeks I’m too busy to run as much as I ‘d like so I read or watch a movie. Actively pursuing things I enjoy gives me more energy than I had as a young mother, and strong friendships transcend any romantic relationship. So how can you reconnect with yourself and your old friends?
- Take that first step. Send that message to someone you have been meaning to contact. Suggest after work drinks with colleagues and widen your social network.
- Join a social website. Meetup.com has groups for any interest. Some are geared toward singles but I suggest finding groups geared to your own interests or create your own group!
- Select an interest or two and devise a plan. If it’s travel, calculate costs and plan your trip. Thinking about learning a language, or taking a cooking or photography class? Check out Chappaqua Continuing Education or other community or city options.
- Exercise regularly. Vary your exercise routine to avoid a plateau and remain physically challenged. Don’t belong to a gym? Put on headphones and go for a walk. Endorphins, those “feel-good” hormones released during exercise, are real!
Sometimes friends and pursuing goals are not enough and what began as loneliness veers into depression. If you feel overwhelmed, seek help. A professional, outside perspective can help you view life differently.
Loneliness is not a permanent state but only you initiate change. Make the time for things that bring you joy and the richness of your life will overflow. Happiness is magnetic, and while you’re busy living your fabulous life you might find that special person, just like all the magazines say it happens.
Miriam Longobardi is a freelance writer, fourth grade teacher and single mother of two daughters living in Westchester. wA breast cancer survivor, she also volunteers for the American Cancer Society and has completed four marathons. Also, check out her weekly New York Modern Love column at Examiner.com.