Are you afraid to be alone? Do you hate to shop, eat, play or work alone? For many, being alone is something to fear, to dread, and they avoid it at all costs. I know I have gone through times in my life when it was unthinkable for me to do something, anything, alone. After all, when we have people around us then we won’t be – we can’t be – lonely, right? At least, that is what I used to think. However, since the change in my circumstances I have had to rethink what connection, if any, between being alone and feeling lonely.
Like so much of everything else in life, there is the tendency to look outwards when it comes to our feeling love, happiness, fulfillment, etc. It is the same when it comes to loneliness – we think loneliness is about people so if we want to avoid loneliness we need to be around people. Now, that may prevent us from literally being alone but it doesn’t necessarily prevent us from feeling lonely. That is why it is possible to be in a crowd of people yet feel all alone. Or, as I have discovered, why we can be alone and not feel lonely at all.
There is a sense of personal responsibility that must be tapped into, even a measure of humility, to see that most of what woes our hearts and minds comes from within our own self. As an able-bodied person, any time I was having a low day, feeling lonely or whatever, I could quickly and readily be with my friends by picking up a phone or jumping in my car. Now that illness has altered the way I interact with people – I can’t talk on a phone nor jump in my car – I am alone quite a bit. And yet, I can honestly say I rarely feel lonely! I had to ask myself what was it that was preventing me from feeling lonely though alone.
Upon taking a hard look at myself I saw the biggest difference was my attitude. As the illness eroded into my daily ability to interact with life, my challenge was figuring out how to embrace these “new” life circumstances without accepting them. I refuse to accept this illness – I feel if I accept it then I will begin giving in to it. This is the attitude that keeps me fighting … and ultimately prevents me from feeling lonely. How? Because I keep my mind busy, active, in various positive and/or productive ways.
That is when I came to see the role attitude plays in most feelings of loneliness. In my situation I have seen the connection between my choosing to feed my mind with things that contribute to a joyful, happy, contented mindset and my actually feeling that way. Oh, don’t get me wrong. I am not Ms. Suzy Sunshine 24/7 … I will readily admit to having days where I feel angry, sad or scared because of this illness and how it impacts my every waking moment. However, I just don’t allow myself to linger in those negative feelings – and sometimes it can be a real inner struggle because it’s as though I just want to drown in them.
Yet, I know that would be a miserable existence … not only for me but for Gene and everyone else in my life. Actually, I would probably find myself truly alone if I was regularly negative while nurturing a complaining state of mind … and I have no doubt that such an ugly disposition would really leave me feeling lonely.
Yes, the mind is truly an amazing thing. To think that by being selective in what I fill it with each day, I am able to rise above my circumstances and feel a sense of enrichment, purpose, excitement, etc. There are so many things I cannot control when it comes to my illness and the way it affects my life – however, I can control what I think about, ponder, meditate on, dream, hope for … on and on it can go. It is an endless opportunity to control an aspect, a very important and vital aspect, of my life – the way I think about everything – and I can make it as miserable and lonely as I want or as enriching, lovely, engaging, and enjoyable as I want.
Now, I hope I’m not sounding a bit of a ‘brag-a-diva’ here because, though it is something that must come from within, it is fueled by the special people in my life. I am ever so thankful, and appreciative, for having friends and family who have remained a part of my life – because it has been their special qualities, their own positive way of seeing life and the way they share it with me that has helped influence my drive to keep fighting by maintaining an overall positive attitude.
It is possible to be alone without being lonely. In fact, I have finally learned to be comfortable with my own company. And when I do get together with my friends there is a genuine spirit of camaraderie while we talk about anything and everything. So, whether I am with Gene, my sisters, my friends … or all by myself …. I think of my life as being full and enriched therefore I feel my life is that way.