The Bright Side of Loneliness

by : Thelma Mariano

Recently a romantic relationship came to an end and I found myself alone again. The minutes, the hours now felt empty. For three weeks I sat beside a silent phone, rehashing the past and coming to terms with my loss. After the warmth and intimacy of love, my loneliness felt like a great abyss that I could not escape.

I do not allow myself to indulge in self-pity – so my next reaction was to ask “what now?" Looking back, I saw that I had invested so much time and energy in the relationship that I had grown lax about undertaking new projects or meeting new people.

My first step was to join a Friday evening discussion group, which I found very stimulating. I also prepared and delivered two new workshops to help people find their life purpose and make money doing what they loved. In giving these I again recognized what I had to offer the community (encouragement, experience and insight) and was buoyed by the positive response from participants.

Everyone feels lonely sometimes. It’s part of being human! However we cannot afford to become paralyzed by a sense of isolation. We all need to connect – both to ourselves and to the world around us.

What does your loneliness tell you? What is it that you miss? You may believe that a love partner will fulfill all your needs. However the intensity that marks the beginning of a relationship doesn’t last; with luck, it will change into something deeper. The two of you will again be drawn into your individual lives. If you don’t feel connected to what you are doing or to the people around you, you are likely to feel lonely again.

Here are my suggestions for dealing with loneliness:

? Get involved with others

Have time on your hands? Offer your services at a soup kitchen, read stories to children, or play cheerful tunes on the piano at the seniors’ residence. What do you know or are good at? Perhaps you can do like me and give a workshop in your area of expertise. There’s no room for loneliness when you give freely of yourself – and you will receive love and appreciation in return.

If you’re a computer buff, there are communities of people on the Net who want to share their interests, from dating to rug hooking. Especially for the housebound, regular e-mail friends can be a great solace.

? Do something you love

Limit your television viewing, push yourself off the couch and engage in something that you really enjoy! Maybe you haven’t roller-skated in years and going to the local rink makes you come alive. Bake your favourite pie and share it with a friend, or learn how to do the lambada.

The problem is that many of us don’t ALLOW ourselves to do what we love. We tell ourselves, I’ll do it when… (I meet the love of my life, become more successful, finish all these chores). Do it NOW and you will feel better for it.

? Connect with nature

I never feel lonely when I go for a long walk by the river. I have a thing for water: ocean, lake or streams. Feel your connection to nature – whether you plant a row of petunias or take a leisurely walk in the park.

? Journal for self-expression

When there’s no one around to talk to, and I feel the need, I journal in a small notebook in longhand, letting deeper thoughts and feelings emerge from my subconscious. I write about my preoccupations as well as my hopes and fears.

You cannot enjoy being alone without peace of mind. Journaling helps you to voice and resolve any inner conflicts that you have. Doing it on a regular basis will give you clarity and focus. It’s a good way to connect with your inner self.

? Realize that you are NOT alone

Do you know that most of the world is feeling lonely at this very moment? Think of the new neighbour on your street, a foreign student in your class, or the man who just joined your company. Each of them wonders how he or she will make friends. Be the first to give a warm welcome.

Whatever your faith or beliefs, connecting with a Higher Force through prayer or meditation will also dispel feelings of isolation.

A little too much solitude spurs me to reach out to those around me. On my nature walk yesterday, I met a woman. As we both watched kayakers ride the rapids, we struck up a conversation – ranging from our experience with water sports to where we grew up and what we enjoyed about the waterfront. At the end we both went our separate ways, parting with a smile and a wave. I’ve learned to appreciate the little exchanges that make life so much fuller.

Loneliness makes me feel painfully alive and aware that I cannot afford to get complacent. It compels me to do more, to be more. And that isn’t such a bad thing, is it?