I’m alone… I’m alone! Is it just me or does being alone feel like winning the lottery? Like one of those gifts that causes squeaks and giggles? When I share with my mom friends that everyone is out of the house, their faces light up as they understand the glory and preciousness of a few quiet hours. After having raised children who are now teenagers walking the road to independence (minus cash, food and clothing purchases), solo moments come more frequently these days.
Maybe I just enjoy the feeling of freedom when I’m alone (phone off) and absolutely no one needs me. Alone, I am a writer. Alone, I am a hiker of great distances, yet stop when I’m tired—for as long as I want and turn around if I feel like it. Alone, I choose not to do laundry. Alone, I try different styles with my hair. Alone, I read beside a blazing fire I constantly tend. Alone, I putter and garden outside. Alone, I clean out my car to the beats of old-school rap. The list can go on, but the truth is, having no one else present allows me to be more present.
With all of this additional solo time, I’ve been thinking about how being alone can take on a different connotation based on the situation. While I devour time to myself, such is not the case for many, many others. How about those who have no choice in being alone? People who would give anything to have a loving family around them or a friend who stops by occasionally. To these individuals—think elderly, recently divorced, lonely in a marriage, estranged, infirm, homeless—life can be horrendously lonely. According to a Channel 9 news article, “There are many significant risks of being lonely. Studies have shown that individuals who are lonely can have a shorter life span by about 15 years, and the death risks of being lonely are equivalent to smoking 15 cigarettes a day.”1 With our busy worlds, we tend to overlook this reality for others.
Reader, I challenge you to enjoy some time alone. Shut off the phone, turn on some music, stretch, do something constructive. Then, attempt to take away someone else’s loneliness, even if just briefly. What can you do? Send a card or email to someone who you know could use it. Deliver a meal through Meals on Wheels to seniors—stay a bit; it’s possible you’ll be their only visitor this season. Complete a paint by number or have children create some of their masterpieces to send to those in a medical or mental health hospital who are staring at a silent TV. Bake (or buy) a delicious dessert to bring to the recluse who lives down the street.
If you are one of the lonely who is struggling, there are resources out there and plenty of opportunities to connect with others such as virtual book clubs, hiking groups, knitting clubs or cooking classes. While these options may be somewhat reconfigured due to COVID, it’s a place to start. Also, Mental Health Colorado has recently launched a ‘good old-fashioned conversation’ program called “In This Together.” You are able to sign up online and someone will call to schedule a Zoom or a simple phone call. For more information, check out the website: bit.ly/36FJA9M
Bringing a little love to someone else’s life shouldn’t be just a seasonal effort; while loneliness may be heightened during the holidays, it doesn’t go away afterward. And social distancing only exacerbates the void. So, while you’re taking some much needed time for yourself, take five of those precious minutes to think of how you can connect with someone who needs it. After all, in case you haven’t heard it enough, we ARE all in this together.
NOTE: The pandemic created long-term loneliness and social isolation, which can also lead to health problems. If you need more info: bit.ly/2VySK1t