Is it Possible to be Fulfilled and Still Feel Lonely?
There is no question that I have an amazing life. I have a good job, great friends, an awesome spouse, a nonprofit that fills my soul and plenty of people around me that are my cheerleaders. There is much to be thankful for and for that much thanks is given. I do my best to stay upbeat, keep others spirits lifted and work hard to continue the mission my grandmother laid out for me through the Bring Smiles to Seniors program. From the outside, many would look at me and think I have it all and don’t have a care in the world. In our lives, we see many people like that. However, what we often fail to realize is that we are all humans with real feelings, going through life’s journey the best we can. Naturally, the question that people often ask is “with all that you have, how could you possibly feel lonely?”
The answer often comes in the circumstances that surround us. In my regular job, I work from home. In normal times that is taxing as I am in the house five days a week. My interaction with the outside world is through a video screen, which in the best of times is bearable. There is an opportunity for evenings out for movies, dinner with friends, social gatherings and of course weekend events. Fast forward to these current times and those opportunities for escape from the daily routine have all but disappeared and five days in the house quickly become seven. An outing to the grocery store or post office becomes a major event and I find myself driving slower to and from simply to make the most of those things that I am still able to do. A year of that has certainly taken its toll.
The decision I made for myself to abide by the guidelines wasn’t political, it was personal. I made a conscious effort early on to not only protect myself and my spouse, but having a father with Lymphoma, there was no way I was going to take a chance for a few minutes of pleasure that could put those that I love at risk. Without judgement, I have watched others make different decisions and go about life as normal. As I began to question whether or not I was the crazy one, the loneliness started to set in and the impact began to take its toll.
The loneliness enters a new phase as I watch all those around me getting access to vaccines, while I find myself in an age group waiting its turn that never seems to come. I feel caught between the younger generation that seems to have the ability to fight off whatever may come their way and the older generation that needs the vaccine desperately to ensure that they live. That in itself creates a space with new feelings and emotions that naturally increases that feeling of being alone.
At some point, the pressure becomes too much and the emotion finds a way out. One morning recently it came out in full force and fifteen minutes of a good cry was in order, which often relieves the pressure. If only temporarily, it did. Through that act, I am reminded that I am human, I have the same need for comfort and support of everyone else and despite all that I have, I too can be lonely. It is what I choose to do with that loneliness that becomes the most important thing of all. When that feeling takes over it is important to acknowledge it, understand it, and do what is necessary to find our way to the other side. There is always an other side if we persist.
Having an incredible life doesn’t mean that we can’t be lonely. Learning to deal with that loneliness helps us create a foundation to deal with it when it arises again. There is no question that it will, but with each episode, we hopefully learn new methods, tools and tricks to get us through. Understanding the difference between being alone and being lonely is key to how we are able to overcome it. Acknowledging and being open about it provides others the opportunity to return the favor and be there for us when we need them most. When you are able to overcome the loneliness, celebrate the success, make note of the tools you used and be ready for when it shows its face again. The foundation for dealing with it becomes stronger with each episode and that my friends is how we grow.