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Nothing Wrong with Being Lonely (Except for Being Lonely)

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Are you big on definitions? Because I am, and here we go.

Lonely as described by dictionary.com means, among a couple other things, destitute of companionship and support, and isolated.

Isolation I like, because I am an introvert, and I frequently choose a sort of solitary confinement at home, where I’m really comfortable. And can be solitary. But it’s also in my home that I am destitute of (adult) companionship and support, because it’s just me and my daughters. What an unfortunate contradiction, right?

Loneliness is a fact of life, though. We all feel it now or later, because it’s a natural occurrence of the human condition. And so I allow myself to go through the emotional dip. I don’t let it shame me. I embrace it, even. Mostly.

“Loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” — Henry Rollins

I think Henry’s right, it lends some significant moments untouched by others. Too, it’s from out of loneliness that comes a strength dependent on no one else. It’s when you surprise yourself, I’ve learned. Get things done, make yourself proud. Figure out what it means to make your own self happy, and just be you.

But there’s the downside, too. Loneliness breeds a longing for companionship, romantic or otherwise, and for interdependence. That’s something we all need, another fact of life, another part of the human condition—we are not meant to be without it. That’s the kind of loneliness that comes on so strong for me at times, especially during the holidays, and especially when my girls are with their dad.

I do make the most of my “me time.” That’s when I do my best “introverting.” I get stuff done that I can’t give focus to when I have my girls. I watch movies they won’t appreciate, and read a lot. I (sometimes) get sociable (just nothing too crazy). And sure, sometimes I mope.

It’s an interesting awareness, not wanting to be lonely, and having to admit that you are, that you’re in want or need of someone else…

“I’ve got everything I need except a man. And I’m not one of those women who thinks a man is the answer to everything, but I’m tired of being alone.” — anonymous

I had a romantic companion through part of 2014, but timing was off, circumstances were not as I’d hoped. So for now I am without. Though this contributes to my loneliness, it’s okay. I’m okay. I have the utmost faith that it won’t always be this way. (And it’s smart to point out, I think, that I’d rather be alone and a bit lonely than in the wrong relationship, one that’s forced, or unhealthy, or just flat not meant to be for whatever reasons. And I’m glad to feel this way, I can’t tell you how much.) But I do get tired of being alone.

I also know that no one—no one with the fullest house, not with the most “perfect” significant other, not even one who chooses, willingly and happily, to be single or be around no one—will ever live without loneliness.

And so I take it for what it is. Loneliness is an emotion. It’s an experience.

It’s an occasional visitor I both welcome and despise, because of the rounded out perspective it allows during this silly little thing called life.

Scene of the Day

Occasionally I’ll observe something that I consider a “Scene of the Day,” because in some way it speaks to me, or catches my attention, gives me pause.

There was the time my daughter won a stuffed animal in a claw machine, and ran after the boy who’d tried minutes before her, so she could give the coveted bear to him. And there was the time I saw a young nun, habit and all, bounding joyfully through light rain.

Maybe it was my beau across the table from me in a fantastic, aromatic coffee shop. Or a sweet smudge of chocolate in the middle of my other daughter’s forehead.

Sometimes it’s a quieter moment, very small, one I don’t share with anyone. I might see a man who—in a single second—reminds me of my dad, who is gone now. Or maybe I’ll see a baby who looks not unlike my girls used to, strapped in its infant carrier, face winched tight as it cries its need, some need, any need. In both of these instances my heart will soften and dive toward memory.

This last weekend we had a garage sale at our home, like others. Many Amish families came from the community close by, to shop the town-wide event. A youthful mom asked if her tiny boy might use my bathroom. I gave permission and, one after the other, seven Amish folks filed into my house. (I suppose where one goes, they all go.) It was a sight to behold, as well as ruminate over. (I stepped in, as well, and saw that each used the facilities.)

Last night I studied the beautiful moon outside my bedroom window, and then several minutes later from my back stoop to get a clearer, more striking look. (Side Note: Unbeknownst to me, a friend was at the same time messaging me to go take in the moon, because he knew I was frustrated about something and thought it would do me well. I love connection like that.) (Side Note 2: Have you ever noticed the still and peace that accompanies an effort to absorb nature or weather or the cosmos?)

Maybe my point is, one scene has an impact, then the next, and another. If you’re paying attention, they all add up to a significant facet of life. Don’t you agree?

Tell us about your latest Scene of the Day.

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Hey, Mister Postman

When’s the last time you wrote a good old-fashioned letter?

I don’t mean e-mail. We all do that, likely many times a week. I’m talking about something for which you pull out a blank sheet of paper and a pen, sit down at a table or on the couch with, and write by hand.

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It’s a lost art, letter writing. I’ve heard that more than once, but it doesn’t have to be.

My girls and I each have experience with penpals.

Biggest writes an occasional letter to someone we consider an honorary uncle, he lives in Texas. He’s exceptionally good at sending stuff back. And Biggest recently connected with a girl just a couple years older than she is. They live only a town apart, here in Missouri, but how cool that they make use of the USPS? No texting (yet) for these two.

Littlest has received printed letters from a classmate at school, and a long-time friend of mine, who in the past has sent sweet thoughts and curious questions from out-of-state.

They’ve both written to a girl in Maine. And have traded letters with my boyfriend.

I like to send my girls notes and poems when they’re at their dad’s. I imagine (hopefully not for naught) their pleasure in opening an envelope from me, especially when we aren’t together.

Too, I have a penpal from overseas. After connecting online through a writers’ forum, and later Facebook, we started penning true letters, sent halfway around the world. Just as exciting as receiving heartfelt correspondence from her is knowing how many hands our mail has touched, across how many borders it’s roamed.

And who doesn’t love to read something written just for them?

There’s anticipation when you open the mailbox and find a letter with your name on it—and it’s not a bill. Or junk mail. There’s a tangibility not evident in e-mails, there’s a certain romantic spirit, an intimacy. Knowing you were thought of, that a few minutes’ time was spent contemplating and expressing thoughts for your benefit. That’s awesome.

Do you agree?

When’s the last time you wrote a good old-fashioned letter? Or received one?

In Between

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The regular school year is over for my girls, who are ages 8.75 (Littlest) and 11 (Biggest). They wrapped up before Memorial Day, and have since begun a month-long summer program. Here in these parts, summer school is a loose, creative approach at superfluous learning, with no tests, free lunches, daily raffles, and an incentive to earn spending money, the balance for which grows larger the more days you attend. Here, summer school is not a requirement for faltering students or troublemakers, like back in the day.

Anyway, Monday after school Littlest had food—what looked like dried cheese sauce—on her face, either side of her mouth. Likely it had been there since her mid-day meal.

My heart swelled at the sight, because it meant she is still my little girl. She is getting big and becoming significantly independent, but not yet grown enough to find self-consciousness and think or care about whether or not her face is clean. She’s in between. I love that. And I didn’t make a fuss about the food because right now she deserves to float in that space before having to try so hard.

Biggest is at the cusp of the many things girls her age begin doing, all related to development. We recently discussed leg shaving. Some friends tell her she should, and she’s okay with the idea, but she’s not feeling an overwhelming desire to do so, either. She’s in between. It’s another thing I love, both because she is comfortable thinking for herself without feeling pressure from her peers, and because it means that (at least in this way) she’s not too eager to grow up. And she deserves to rest there for just a bit longer.

We started reading Charlotte’s Web last weekend. One evening the three of us sprawled on my bed, as I read aloud the early chapter in which Wilbur escapes from his pen. It’s not lost on me that I, too, am in between as their mom. They may not have to rely on me for every need or task, the way they once did, but I’m still their first go-to. They have friends and extracurricular activities and interests which are shaping their personalities, but they still want to be with me, doing the things we’ve always done.

I love that, and I want to hang onto it. Even when I know I can’t.

Because we’re only in between.

Proper Motivation

Sometimes we all need a little help in the motivation department, yes?

Check out these ideas, compiled by Geoffrey James, author and more. (Learn more about him on his website.)

1. Realize that YOU are in control. You cannot control the outside world, but you can control your emotional reaction to it.

2. Accept where you are. Life is like those signs that read “You Are Here.” You can get somewhere else only if you know where you are now.

3. Adopt a positive vocabulary. Use strong adjectives (e.g., “fantastic”) to describe what’s good and weak words (e.g., “annoying”) to describe what’s not.

4. Condition your mind. Train yourself to think positive thoughts while avoiding negative thoughts.

5. Condition your body. It takes physical energy to take action. Get your food and exercise budget in place and follow it like a business plan.

6. Avoid negative people. They drain your energy and waste your time, so hanging with them is like shooting yourself in the foot.

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7. Seek out the similarly motivated. Their positive energy will rub off on you, and you can imitate their success strategies.

8. Have goals—but remain flexible. No plan should be cast in concrete, lest it become more important than achieving the goal.

9. Act with a higher purpose. Any activity or action that doesn’t serve your higher goal is wasted effort—and should be avoided.

10. Take responsibility. If you blame (or credit) luck, fate, or divine intervention, you’ll always have an excuse.

11. Stretch past your limits. Walking the old, familiar paths is how you grow old. Stretching makes you grow and evolve.

12. Don’t expect perfection. Perfectionists are the losers in the game of life. Strive for excellence rather than the unachievable.

13. Celebrate your failures. Your most important lessons in life will come from what you don’t achieve. Take time to understand where you fell short.

14. Don’t take success too seriously. Success can breed tomorrow’s failure if you use it as an excuse to become complacent.

15. Avoid weak goals. Goals are the soul of achievement, so never begin them with “I’ll try…” Always start with “I will” or “I must.”

16. Treat inaction as the only real failure. If you don’t take action, you fail by default and can’t even learn from the experience.

17. Welcome obstacles. You can’t grow stronger if you’re not lifting something heavy, so savor your problems.

18. Get perspective. Take the time and effort to step back, reexamine your assumptions, and find truths that you missed before.

19. Appreciate being alive. Never neglect to marvel at the miracle of conscious existence, which is all too soon over.

20. Relax more often. Spend at least one hour every day doing something that’s just because you enjoy doing it.

21. Experience wonder. Take pleasure in the unexpected and unusual because without them life would be tedious and boring.

22. Be playful. The joy of a child still lives inside you; let that child out at least once each day.

23. Give thanks. Experience deep gratitude for all the wonderful things in your life: family, friends, work, and play.

What do you think of James’ insights?

Are there other suggestions you’d like to add?

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