“To fall in love with yourself is the first secret to happiness.” -Robert Morely
I am all alone right now. My three men left for a boy’s trip and for the first time in a very long time, I am all alone for two whole nights. Admittedly, I felt rejected when they booked a trip without me. A “boys’ trip” – my boys are 13 and 11, and although I know this is actually the sign of my husband being a great dad and that the boys are at a time that shaping that bond is extremely important, to be completely honest, I felt rejected. Their trip was scheduled on a weekend where I was going to have an event. In their eyes, I’d be busy working. I would have quiet time to focus.
My event was cancelled, and suddenly, I had a very free, very alone weekend ahead of me. I made no plans for myself. This was purposeful; I was going to flow with life and sit with solitude.
In May of this year, the Surgeon General raised the alarm about the devastating impact of the epidemic of loneliness and isolation in the United States. In a time when we are connected worldwide, we can’t seem to fully connect with each other. According to the release:
“Even before the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, approximately half of U.S. adults reported experiencing measurable levels of loneliness. Disconnection fundamentally affects our mental, physical, and societal health. In fact, loneliness and isolation increase the risk for individuals to develop mental health challenges in their lives, and lacking connection can increase the risk for premature death to levels comparable to smoking daily.”
We “see” each other virtually through social media platforms, but the inner pain of feeling unseen and unheard is now an epidemic.
In my situation, I am never alone. Thus, being alone is a cherished experience. And even as an extrovert, I was excited about not having any commitments and doing exactly whatever I wanted to do. (It turns out I like very boring things, and I’m perfectly okay with that.) Not everyone fits my demographic. Although I was alone, I didn’t feel lonely. People may experience solitude often; some may feel lonely, while others might not.
There is a vast difference between solitude and loneliness. Solitude is the state of being alone while loneliness is sadness because one has no friends or company. Solitude can be considered a gift, while loneliness is inherently painful. Solitude is only experienced when alone, but loneliness can be felt while surrounded by people.
The Surgeon General’s Advisory lays out a framework for the US to establish a National Strategy to Advance Social Connection based on six foundational pillars:
- Strengthen Social Infrastructure
- Enact Pro-Connection Public Policies
- Mobilize the Health Sector
- Reform Digital Environments
- Deepen Our Knowledge
- Cultivate a Culture of Connection
In the Nonahood, we are so fortunate to have multiple opportunities to connect with our neighbors. There are groups and meet-ups for nearly all interests. And the growth in our community allows for the creation of new groups of interests.
Loneliness is the pain of feeling alone, but there are 8 billion people on this planet (all on Narcoossee right now.) And although NOBODY else has experienced what you have experienced, and no one sees the world through YOUR EYES but YOU, that is something you SHARE in common with 8 billion people.
Even though YOU are the only “YOU” on this planet (and that may stir up feelings of loneliness), the same is true about me. I am the only “I” on this planet. And then, the same is true for EVERYONE ELSE. We all SHARE each other’s “only-ness.” In our moments of loneliness we will always share each other’s “only-ness.” Humans are born with an innate capacity for forming social connections. Everyone else is more LIKE YOU than UNLIKE YOU. Finding a solution to loneliness is seeking inner peace.
Peace comes from accepting yourself and loving yourself as you are. (Let me pause and remind you that YOU ARE AMAZING!) Peace grows in spaces of discomfort. Seeking quiet moments for yourself to breathe or laugh or cry and embracing that discomfort. It’s okay, you’re human. By trying new things in your life, you get to practice that “discomfort.” Go check out all the cool things in our neighborhood or step out of our bubble and check out all the other amazing events and meet-ups in Central Florida. It’s not easy to simply “sit” with yourself, so start small. All the while, pause and NOTICE what is already good in your life and lean hard into that. NURTURE ALL the good that is already present in your life.
I’m so grateful for this time and gift of solitude. And yet, here I am writing. I guess I can’t help but try and connect with others. Then again, I’m only human, just like you.