How does one escape an epidemic? Loneliness is rising at an alarming rate despite us having more opportunities for communication and connection than ever.
Loneliness would have been the logical response for so many seasons of my life. Not only the divorce from my first husband, but also the years of marriage preceding it when I hid a book on intimate partner abuse under my mattress.
I went away to college, and far away to law school, and to Spain on my own for a semester at 19. My youngest went away to college at 15 and today my children live more than a thousand miles away. Separation from those we love certainly leads to loneliness.
Oh, and death. My brother died at 35, both of my parents passed, and my second husband John died after a long illness.
I’ve lived alone for over eight years.
While I miss the people I love, it never feels like loneliness to me. Am I simply in denial? Is it just my genes of German stoicism that cause me to ignore ever feeling lonely? How is it I’ve been spared while so many have suffered?
I didn’t realize that I’d won the loneliness lottery when I was born. Like many aspects of our personalities, research shows that our genetic coding, in part, determines our propensity for loneliness. The same is true for my extroversion—I was simply born this way.
Unlike many large families—I was one of eight children—many of us siblings can go for months without talking to one another. Still, I know I could pick up my phone and call (for those of us who still do that sort of thing) them any time and they would be there. Surely that shelters me, along with living in the same city where I grew up.
How does one escape loneliness if you don’t have my good fortune? Perhaps it’s creating connection wherever you are. Are you scheduling a coffee to have a conversation or relying on random texts? Are you connecting with the wonder of who you are when you are in solitude, or on social media comparing your life to people in the pictures? Are you focused on your aloneness or curious about the lives of those around you? Are you turning down invitations to connect or extending them?
As a life coach I feel the greatest connection to others when they have the courage to be vulnerable with me. When they are willing to share their greatest hopes and dreams and their deepest fears and worries. In that space I can never feel alone. I experience the undeniable connection of being human.
Every day people allow me into their lives through their openness. If we can continue to open ourselves and make it safe for others to do the same, we might all be able to escape this epidemic.
What eases your loneliness?
Where can you find connection?
Is there someone waiting for you to connect with them?