Friday, July 25, 2014

On Being Lonely

It's a funny thing, loneliness. I have experienced it during numerous stages at various levels since moving, but I was not anticipating this last bout. Indeed, I am very blessed to have such a strong community in Charlottesville and incredible support in family, but apparently that is not immunizing. It is a quiet loneliness, spurred by various factors, but those really do not matter. What matters is how one confronts it, so I will offer nuggets I have gathered from family, friends and personal exposure. It is certainly not fool proof, but perhaps someone will appreciate another's experience. Plus, that nagging voice compelling me to write will not shut up. Sometimes, I think writing gives the feeling an element of tangibility, for better or worse.

A) Acknowledge the feeling, but do not indulge it. One is entitled to emotions, and they are not crazy. Give them their time, but no more. Perhaps you need a good cry, an IPA, an extravagant sundae or a really long chatsky with a friend. Have that. Then continue.

2) Seek comfort in the right places. There are a lot of easy, immediate sources, but they are also fleeting and unfulfilling. Be cognizant of your motives.

Thirdly) Adjust expectations. Your closest friend has a boyfriend and spends time cultivating that relationship. The job comes with different challenges than you expected. The people you left behind go on living their lives without you. That is natural, and if your stability hinges on these outside factors, you will inevitably be disappointed.

Cuatro) Be thankful. I am grateful for the kindness of others and the strong relationships formed when you allow yourself to be open, and even more so for a family so strong, I still miss them so much.

E) Look at yourself, and be completely honest. At the end of the day, you are only in control of your attitude and actions. Decide what you need to do, and do it intently. For me, answers have ranged from forming new bonds and breaking old ones, to physical outlets to cutting unhealthy habits or thought patterns. Most recently, the answer has been, "be content to go on quietly." Honestly, this is the hardest answer yet because I am an active person, but trusting God to work has been a neat challenge. Slightly annoying, but neat.

6) Then... Get outside yourself, and gain perspective. When I first moved to Charlottesville and in one of our many conversations, my mother told me to volunteer. That was not what selfish post-grad Anna wanted to hear. I wanted pity, but instead I got practical advice.* Incidentally, I started volunteering and have been working with a group of high school girls the past four years, facilitating their growth into young women. Seeing their lives offers a humbling perspective to the blessings in my own life.

It is so easy to be consumed with ourselves and forget that we are not the only ones facing struggles. We begin to compare ourselves to others, the most dangerous and fruitless of slopes. The one lesson that has resounded especially during the past couple months is that everyone has difficulties*; those can be used to help others face them down the road.

Finally) Decide to be happy; smile when you would rather not. Sometimes, life's just hard, for no real reason at all, but in the illustrious words of Jimmy Doogan, "The hard is what makes it great." Yep, I just quoted Remember the Titans and A League of Their Own in one sentence. Dad would be proud.

I hope this does not sound soap boxy. If it did, though, you probably would not have made it to this point. I have a sense this bout is drawing to a close, but for now, thanks for listening.

*Written with the caveat that I do not always follow my own advice.
*I love you, Mom.
*Of course, not everyone blabs about them on the Internet.

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