Alone, Not Lonely
The first night Barb spent on her own in 20 years, she lit candles, opened a bottle of wine, rented a chick flick, and ordered in Chinese with a Ben & Jerry’s chaser. She had a fabulous time.
The second night, she cried her eyes out.
By the third night, she had made alternative and admittedly somewhat conflicting plans for remodeling the entire first floor, ditching her current job to become a massage therapist, dyeing her hair blond (or possibly just cutting it off altogether and letting it go grey), and moving to Spain.
Barb spent the fourth night in a combination of rage and exhilaration, cleaning out closets and tossing everything that had any negative associations.
The fifth night, she dug some of the more sentimental items back out of the trash.
The weekend was a blur of flinching at weird noises the house was making, repainting the bedroom, trying to balance her budget, and worrying that she was going to end up old and alone on the streets, filching the remains of stale cat food from other people’s garbage cans.
For those among us whose childhoods were a jumble of siblings and friends, whose dating cards were full, who bopped from college to a series of relationships to marriage, finding ourselves on our own following a split or a loss may just be the first time we’ve ever really been alone. It can feel weird. It can feel wonderful. It can feel scary. It can feel like a relief.
And most likely, it feels like all those things, sometimes even at the same time. Alone is a learned skill. Here are some of the things that help:
- Haven’t got time for the pain? Make some. Running from the anger, grief, and confusion doesn’t mean a free pass—it just means a deferment to processing those emotions on a later date, by which time they may well have gained even more potency.
- You’ve got a friend. Or two. Reach out. Lean a little. There’s no shame in needing support.
- Be your own friend. If you know how to be there for someone you love who’s having a hard time, you know how to do it for yourself.
- Dare to start dreaming. Put aside the fear chatter and ongoing judgment of your inner critic and listen, instead to your inner dreamer. What does that small, insistent voice inside you have to say about what’s next?
- Love the one you’re with. That would be you. This is the perfect time for mastering self-care.
Alone isn’t a punishment. It’s a circumstance. It’s an is. When you can embrace “alone” without feeling lonely, you won’t even need a guy, a girl, or a roomful of people to keep you company. You might not even need Ben & Jerry.