I had just finished listening to an E-book, Evvie Drake Starts Over by Linda Holmes, (I’d recommend) when this quote popped up on my Instagram account (thank you Hoda Kotb!). It reminded me…#1 I LOVE reading and all the thought provoking experiences & inner journeys that books take me on…and #2 I had started writing a blog post awhile ago about isolation, loneliness and a sense of community.
There was a really interesting and thought provoking article in the NY Times back in November 2018 titled “How Loneliness Is Tearing America Apart” . Just the other day I heard Dr. Oz say that we have an epidemic of loneliness right now and it reminded me that I wanted to weigh in on the topic. At the end of the NYT article, the author says, “And there lies the challenge to each of us in a country suffering from loneliness and ripped apart by political opportunists seeking to capitalize on that isolation. Each of us can be happier, and America will start to heal, when we become the kind neighbors and generous friends we wish we had.”
He references the divisive state of our political agendas and how it can cultivate a negative, extremist, sense of belonging in someone who might not otherwise feel engaged with society. They sit in their room, by themselves, on a computer and find some sense of community in a scary group of like-minded isolated people in a radical chat room somewhere. That, in and of itself, is sad and an obvious negative effect of not feeling a sense of belonging in society.
I’ve lived alone, quite unexpectedly, for almost 8 years now and I can honestly say that I’m rarely lonely. I thought I’d revisit a few positive ideas on how to change things in one’s life to feel less lonely and isolated.
If you live alone, and as with everything in life, you have a choice! You have a choice whether to be lonely or create the community you desire. Don’t wait for someone else to create your community & social life. It’s up to you! Sure, it takes a bit of effort, but you’ll be rewarded many times over. Invite people over, have your own pizza Monday, or soup Sunday. Join clubs, join an exercise class, start a book club, check out meetup.com to find groups that you might like to join, or just pick up the phone and see if a friend wants to go for a walk, coffee, or out for happy hour. You can also reconnect with old friends through Facebook or Instagram. You’d be surprised how you can rekindle an old friendship just by reaching out. It’s also helpful to get comfortable with doing things by yourself. Use your new found status as an opportunity to try new things….like dining alone.
Okay, the first couple of times I went out to a restaurant by myself was bit weird & uncomfortable, but when it was over I felt a sense of accomplishment for facing that fear. Now, I like going to restaurants alone (but it’s always more fun with a friend)! I usually bring a book or magazine so I don’t feel awkward, or feel like I have to look at my phone to occupy myself. The people watching is fabulous behind the guise of reading a book. Many times I’ve end up chatting with someone at the next table, or barstool, who might also be alone. It doesn’t cost anything to reach out and say “hi!” and the conversation can be very interesting.
I lived in the greatest, close-knit neighborhood where my kids grew up. As young families, we we did everything together and were always out and about. There are now a fun new group of young families that have moved in and creating their own group. I know and loved the feeling of having neighbors that are always there for me, but it could sometimes be isolating as a single person in a suburban location. I’ve moved back to a small beach community, mostly because I can go out of my house at any time of day & there will be people around (I did it just the other night!) It’s an added bonus that my sister lives so close now and many of my friends have moved to the beach too. I don’t need to have them all over, but it’s comforting to know they’re there….just like it was comforting knowing my old neighbors were there if I needed them…and I still see them quite often too.
As I/we get older it’s important not to feel isolated. A sense of community is important. My friend, Darci, said her dad told her, “Keep your girlfriends!” Wise advice! Cultivate friendships…they will rejoice with you in the happy times and comfort you through death, divorce and heartache. I don’t know what I’d do without my friends and family. Well…I guess I’d be lonely…and that’s not a good thing!