How can a woman who believes so greatly in community and connection feel… well, uh, lonely?
This is a question I just can’t get out of my mind. Why am I, as a true believer, community-pusher, connection-promoter feeling LONELY and what the hell am I going to do about it?
First, let’s back up. Every year around this time I reflect on my father, Ricky, who took his own life in 1983 at a very young age. He left behind his wife and three little children, 8, 5, and 2.5 years. I was the five-year-old.
This event that happened when I was at such a young, impressionable age, has led to my firm conviction in togetherness—that we must feel connected to other people to fully thrive in our lives, and that when we feel the need to check out on life, we have ultimately bought into the lie that our lives don’t matter and we are alone.
Now, I’ve come to many understandings about his death through the years, but as a parent to young children myself, I’ve come to an even greater understanding.
On one hand, I cannot at all ever possibly imagine choosing to leave this planet and leave my two little boys here without me. To leave them here to pick up the pieces of my life, and forever seek to solve a mystery that no one can truly understand, is something I can’t comprehend.
On the other hand, I now see how hard, how frustrating, how exhausting, and how lonely parenting is and can be.
However, now on the verge of my 40th birthday, with a four and 1.5 year old, I see myself battling the big-fat-ugly lie of loneliness.
You don’t have to be a parent of young children to buy into the lie. It can take down anyone: the young, the old, the smart, the pretty.
Loneliness is an epidemic in our society, and this last year, it got me.
I once considered myself a social person, but having two young kids really put a damper on my social life and the ability to deeply connect with people.
Over the summer, my husband and I were driving to a concert at Red Rocks when I became hysterical. I started spouting out things like, “I don’t have any friends anymore,” “No one invites me to anything,” “Have I become unlikeable now that I have kids?”
I wasn’t joking.
What happened to my life?
Why am I feeling so isolated?
I vowed last fall to make more time for friends and deepen my connections to the people closest to me. I told my sister we needed to spend more time together, and we’ve been making time for that. I started up a community group in my home. I made a monthly playgroup for moms and kids to connect.
But still… the loneliness creeps in.
The desire for deep, meaningful connection lurks around every corner, feeling so elusive at times.
In my desperation for connection, I found myself spending more and MORE time on social media, mostly Facebook. I wanted to feel connected so badly and to be a part of something outside of my “mom” role, I kept reaching for my phone. ALL. THE. TIME.
I’d scroll and scroll, not knowing what I was hoping to see, I’d get that little hit of dopamine.
I’d see… other moms making this parenting thing look easy with kids who were clean, well dressed, and smiling AT the camera (how does that happen?).
…friends who were going to dinners and celebrating life (without me).
…colleagues launching new endeavors and finding success.
Meanwhile, sadness and loneliness would sweep in…
And it’s not that I wasn’t happy for them. I was, or at least I was trying to be. But I was sad for me. Sad because it felt like I was missing something. Missing connection, missing people, missing a tribe.
Something was amuck. Why was a site that was supposed to connect me to the rest of the world triggering sadness and loneliness in me?
I decided I needed a serious loneliness overhaul. I believe loneliness is a lie. I believe we are only as disconnected as we feel. So I believe when we feel lonely, we don’t have to stay in that feeling forever. We can change it.
What I found was that I hadn’t lost a connection to others, I’d lost a connection to myself. All this seeking and searching OUTSIDE myself and into the lives of others caused great separation within me.
So, I deleted the Facebook app on my phone and I recommitted to a practice of meditation, even five minutes (and on most days), something I haven’t consistently done since the birth of my FIRST child.
And now… the loneliness has started to slip further and further away. It’s not gone, it still shows up here and there, but I’m not going to let it take me down. I’m not going to buy into the lie and make it my story.
For me, the truth is that the more I reach outside of myself to squander the loneliness, the more lonely I feel. But the more I can quiet my mind and be present to what or who is in front of me right now (my husband, my kids, my work), instead of the latest post or update online, the more connected I feel.
Loneliness really is an epidemic. We really are missing out on something in our individualistic society, but we don’t have to let that cultural norm dictate our happiness. The lie will sneak in and get you from time-to-time, but don’t buy into it. You matter. You belong. Never forget that.
But more importantly, don’t be ashamed when the lie does creep in. To never feel lonely or alone is almost impossible. There is no shame in experiencing these feelings. Anyone at anytime can feel lonely, even the people who are almost always surrounded by a sea of friends and smiling faces.
Don’t hide out and hole-up somewhere. Don’t let the shame of loneliness prevent you from seeking out connections and community. Reach out to friends and family, even though it’s extremely scary and difficult to say, “I feel alone.” It is in these times of vulnerability that our greatest connections can occur and elevate us OUT of these feelings of loneliness.