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How Do You Win Over Loneliness?
How Does it Feel to Be Alone on a Saturday Night?
If you're single, divorced, childless or with grown children, and you're over 40, chances are you know what it's like to spend a weekend night alone. When it seems like everyone you know has a partner to spend time with, feelings of depression and hopelessness can overwhelm you.
It can seem like everyone else's life is moving ahead, but your own life seems stuck in a place you don't want to be. Sometimes it can get so bad, you feel like your screaming even though no sound is coming out at all - and yet, the silence itself is deafening.
You may know that thousands, no millions, of other people are out there - basically in the same boat - but you don't know how to connect or who to connect to. Dating sites have proliferated on the internet, ostensibly filling a void in so many people's lives, yet leaving many more feeling as lonely or even lonelier than before.
You can "meet", "wink" at, chat with, send messages to, and communicate in various ways - and more often than not, you will be communicating with someone you will never meet in person. So what does that do for your loneliness? Ouch! Does this come across too harshly?
I hope not - because the intent here is to help people who are really, really lonely - get past the loneliness and find what they truly hope to have and who they want to have that with. But I thought the best way to do that might be to ask others - people who have been there themselves - and then found what or who it was that helped them get beyond their loneliness - to help answer the question - how do you win over loneliness?
My Own Story
It's a long, sad tale, but if I was to tell everything I have gone through over the past seven years, since I was divorced, it would fill a lengthy book. I won't do that here, but it's important to know, I think, that my loneliness has an extra component - the loss of my children.
Is it worse to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all? Emphatically, to me, the answer is that I am so glad to have had the love I shared, especially for my children, and to have hope of reunion with them some day, and I would never trade those years and times for anything I could have had alone during those years.
Many people spend years with another person, never have children, and then part company. Does that leave someone feeling as if they wish they had never loved at all? I can't say - I haven't been in those shoes.
What I can say is that I know it is quite different to grieve over a loss while you are alone, than merely to feel loneliness. Though grieving adds to your sorrow, it comes with memories and good feelings that you cannot have if you have never had a long term mate.
The point of all this, however, is loneliness itself - not how you get there, but how you overcome. I hope my own unique, journey is helpful.
I spent a year going though a very painful divorce. Certainly one of the most painful aspects of the divorce was being alone. I wasn't accustomed to it - didn't know how to deal with it. Lots of rented movies, early nights asleep, finding a new church and groups where I felt I could belong - those were the things that occupied my mind and my time for awhile.
But the loneliness kept growing. I started falling asleep on the couch watching TV. I had never been one to leave the TV on when I fell asleep, but that changed. One night I recall laying on my sofa, watching a show, then waking in the middle of the night when public access had taken over the airwaves.
It was during the holidays and I was feeling especially lonely at the time. A very strange video was on, something locally produced, and produced without much professionalism either. I will never completely get the tune, or its refrain..."that wild and windy night" - out of my mind. I could not go back to sleep that night, nor did I think I would sleep soundly again for awhile. I was alone - and felt like I was actually in hell!
I did find some new things that brought me comfort - I bought a new bed, and it was very comfortable. I also discovered Norah Jones - she was very popular at the time, and I would go to sleep nearly every night listening to her sing me lullabies.
I learned that being alone came with some frightening consequences at times too. I had a reaction to an antibiotic, and my eyes swelled to the point I knew I couldn't drive myself to the doctor. No one was around to give me any help, so I finally called 9-1-1. I survived, changed medicines and went on.
The loneliness eventually got much worse, however. My ex-wife and children moved far, far north, and I followed them in the dead of winter. By then, I had spent nine years living in the deep south and my blood had thinned, I wasn't prepared in any way to endure 200 inches of snow, in a lonely place where I knew almost no one.
But I did survive. One thing I did was to buy a pipe and some good tobacco. Sometimes I would sit outside, on a frosty, starry night, smoke my pipe and listen to the utter silence of the vast open space around me. It was comforting.
Months past and I bought a dog - a black labrador, Samantha. She was beautiful and she was a great companion! I miss her even now! She slept on her own little sofa outside my room, and I will always remember how she would come next to my bed every morning, and quietly, but persistently lick her chops to let me know it was time to go outside to start the day.
From the time my wife and I separated, I spent three years having every other weekend with my children, and the rest of my time alone. It's true, those weekends with my kids were a tremendous blessing of time together, but there was certainly plenty of time alone, and every time I took them back to their mother, I had a painful reminder that I was alone - again!
I fought the loneliness desperately. I tried meeting someone online - I felt that was a disaster. Without recounting the details of my dating life, I did meet people. To be quite clear and honest, though, loneliness had never felt lonelier.
Finally things changed for me. I was no longer thinking about meeting someone, hadn't been "online" for two or three years, and was working to start a new business back in my home state of Indiana. And then it happened!
Though a mutual friend, I was reacquainted with a girl I had known in junior high school. We talked on the phone, nearly every night for about a month, and then finally had the opportunity see each other. That was nearly a year and a half ago - and we are still together - now living in the same home, and hopefully, making our lives together for good!
For the first time in years, I feel like I can spend a weekend night at home, doing practically nothing, and feel connected, content - and not alone! I love that. We are both, I think, very lucky - or rather, very blessed!
Sometimes I wish the activity of our children surrounding us would bring more noise, more of those past challenges - more joy - back to us. But at the same time, I am realizing what we have together.
Other People's Stories
When you are in your 20's, you are looking for things that fulfill a life ahead. You're likely to be looking for the partner you will make a family with. But when you reach 45, your needs have changed. The desire for a companion becomes a desire that is a bit different than it was at 25. Quite a bit different. It's so much more important to find someone, to be with someone, who will just be there for you!
That doesn't mean it doesn't have to be someone special - very special. It just means that your needs have changed. Loneliness has a much higher cost than it did at 25. But if you can find someone who is there, you can spend that Saturday night together, in each other's arms, doing practically nothing - and feel very content. That is a wonderful place to be.
Of course, it isn't the only place to be. There are so many different stories to tell out there - mine is just one.
What about yours? Did you finally get to meet someone special later on in life? At 40? Or 60? Or were you still a bit younger, but had every reason to think it would never happen? How did you meet? Was it someone from the most unimaginable place, or in the most inconceivable way you could have met? Or was it someone who was always right there but you never realized it was meant to be?
And then, not everyone needs a mate to be happy - though some people don't believe this to be true - it is. How do you find contentment in the midst of solitude? What if you are destined to be alone? How do find peace and happiness?
What is it like just to feel lonely right now? What would make your life seem better - day to day, week to week, year to year? How could you meet the person of your dreams? What do you dream about - even as you are alone?
Please tell your story - how do you win over loneliness!