I know of a woman who so longed to be loved, held, and not feel lonely that she gave her lover, a man she hadn’t known long and knew to be a criminal, all of her life savings—some forty-three thousand dollars to be exact. He promised, along with his abiding love, that he would give her back her money with interest in only two short months. When she told her friend what she had done her friend pointed out that she had a small child to feed, and reminded her she had just lost her job—and, incidentally, two other boyfriends just like this one. She quickly replied in her defense that he believed in Karma.
Several months passed, having heard from him only once, when she began to inquire about his whereabouts. Hoping to reclaim her inheritance and self-respect, she learned that he had died in an automobile accident and had left behind a young widow and three small children. When she told her friend what she had discovered, her friend asked her what she had learned. To which she replied, “He died in the car he bought with my money.”
For some of us, being internally referenced or taking responsibility for all you experience is a foreign concept. I know it was for me. I, like so many of us, believed that my circumstances were designed or slated by some dark fate, bad luck or perhaps my difficult childhood. And I didn’t have to look far to see many of my role models and contemporaries following suit. Failed marriages and relationships that fell apart like a strand of dominos over the years, all to the Western tune of: “That rotten, no good, cheating son of a, and he even took the dog!” song.
While you’re busy trying to sort out who really did what, whose responsibility your life actually is, and healing your heart, I offer you some “here and now” antidotes to feeling desperately lonely. (So you don’t go and find another relationship just like the last one, or just like our friend’s.)
10 things you can do when you feel lonely:
Feel. I say we gotta feel it to heal it. And if we don’t know what we feel, we don’t know what we need. Get a pillow, sit on the floor and bring it on. Facing our fears sometimes is the perfect answer. Two and three o’clock in the morning are when they hit me the worst. Whatever time it is, facing the boogeyman is ultimately what we all have to do if we want to be free and choose a relationship out of love rather than need (or desperation). If I was gentle, waited and sat with myself long enough, I would begin to feel and heal. I spent many nights (and days) just letting the floodgates loose and seeing what was underneath all my anxiety.
Move. Release what’s inside. Let it out. Oh my, can I just tell you that moving saved my life?! Sometimes I had so much energy, so many feelings welled up in me, that I stood in my kitchen barefoot on the hardwood floor and gyrated around spastically flailing my fists at God and everyone, like James Brown on crack. I screamed and cried and danced and collapsed until I was empty. Running, hiking, swimming, dance classes—you name it, I did it!!
Read. Yes, it is not easy to quiet that restless mind, so pick books that are inspirational and that will engage you every time. Ones that have exercises and great “if I can do it, you can, too” stories. I always had a stack of self-help books and autobiographies nearby, still do. Check out my suggested reading list in the back of Hindsight, or email Anila at [email protected] for a copy.
Write. One of my single girlfriends told me she writes herself love letters. One every night, and they get longer and longer. Then when she wakes up she reads them to herself. Whatever you have pinging around up there, put it on paper. Doesn’t matter how you do it. Journal, write letters to God (he/she will answer back). Who knows, maybe you’ve got the next NY Times bestseller in there!! I wrote copious amounts of dark, intensely feeling poetry in words from the 13th century, channeling my “DNA gone bad” from the past. It was so great to get it out of my body!
Collage. I love to collage, as I am very visual. Pulling pictures out of new magazines (great way to recycle) of people, places, and things that made me feel happy or inspired always worked for me. Sometimes I was surprised at what I learned about myself, what I really liked or longed for.
Talk. I must say I had a list of folks who would talk with me in the wee hours of the morning if I needed to be “talked down”… if you know what I mean. Not men, but friends that cared about me, knew my history and were devoted to my heath and well-being. Honestly, I have never been a big phone talker, but when I got lonely sometimes it would take the edge off—just hearing someone’s voice was comforting enough to get me to the next place!
Play. Anyone who knows me knows that this has traditionally been a hard one for me. It conjured images of silly people running about doing things I would never do. That said, I needed to find my version of what healthy fun was. Things that had positive consequences. I started dancing the Five Rhythms (http://www.movingcenterschool.com/), took salsa lessons, ice skated w/ my son, played cards with friends, played ping pong, trained for the Avon Walk (okay, for me training is fun), painted with watercolors, took classes at City College, went to open-air markets. There are a ton of things to do and a million online resources in your area for what I call “clean living,” fun things to do.
Get a pet. I love cats, have two (Chloe and Leila), a dog named Bella and a fish; the current one’s name is Donald. (My niece and nephew named the last three Sparkles One, Two and Three.) I cannot tell you how many times my cats have come and cradled me in the midst of some of some of my most intense loneliness. And I let them. I was learning how to comfort myself when I had only known how to reach to someone else before (most of the time not the best someone, either). And yes, they respect me in the morning, all of them, every time—and best of all, so do I!
Laugh. I have always been the type of person who said, “If I am not capable of mustering a laugh, I know something is really wrong!” and then I revert to the above items. Because I genuinely, regularly love to indulge in gigantic belly laughter. I love to laugh at myself and when I am not busy laughing at myself, I seek out opportunities to find the humor in just about everything. I am easily entertained. (My mother once said that if you are bored you are boring.) Comedians on DVD are fab and I recommend getting a library of them—my current fave is Orny Adams, he’s available online. OR a great alternative is funny movies, and my list is long. If you don’t have a library already, it is inexpensive to build, and way less expensive than a one-night stand or bad relationship choice.
Pray. Oh yes, never underestimate the power of prayer. I have said prayers over and over, hoping someone or something out there would hear me, and then one day it happened. I found my Divine connection to…well, The Divine, of course, and have never looked back. It was like coming home, and now I find great comfort in prayer and meditation, as corny or simplistic as this sounds. I know, I know, you are desperately lonely— then I say to you, pray like it!!
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