I don’t need a man to rectify my existence. The most profound relationship we’ll ever have is the one with ourselves.
~ Shirley MacLaine
When you live alone, the importance of having a solid base of loving family and friends cannot be overstated. These people are our support system and keep us from spending too much time in our own heads.
As vital as time alone is to recharge our soul’s batteries, we also need to reconnect with the world, lend ourselves to others, and learn from them. This ebb and flow of communication fuels us and reminds us that even though we live alone, we are not entirely on our own. Rather, all of us are interconnected—with our loved ones as well as with everything in the universe.
But let’s start a little smaller than the entire universe.
Depending on the type of family you come from, you may find that your single life is either accepted wholeheartedly or viewed with a tinge of pity. If you’re lucky, holidays at home are not peppered with hints about finding that special someone to bring home next year.
Playing with your siblings’ children doesn’t paint your family’s faces with shades of expectation that you, too, might add a leaf to the family tree with one of your own. If you’re lucky, your life as a single person is met with joy and encouragement, and the knowledge that you’re out there living life fully.
If you’re lucky.
If not, here are a few tips for helping your family along when you’re being pushed to explain your life of solitude or are outright attacked for it:
- Take a deep breath and remember that your family loves you. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bother worrying about you.
- Smile. (A real smile, not that fake, I’m-tolerating-you smile.)
- Tell whomever it is you’re talking to that you are happy. You are peaceful in the choice you’ve made to live alone. You’re not opposed to finding True Love (unless you are, in which case, skip this part), but right now you’re living your life as best you can. Yes, life can get a little lonesome at times, but that’s where the love of good friends and family (like you, dear mother/father/sister/brother/aunt/etc.) comes in. Thank the person for his concern. Give him a hug.
- Suggest a distraction like tag football or a slice of pie. Anything. Change the subject.
I’ve found that friends are often more accepting than family of the solitary lifestyle. In fact, many prefer having friends they can rely on any time of the day or night for quick pep talks or a shoulder to cry on (or a phone to text to). But, of course, true friends love you regardless of your relationship status.
After the end of a long-term relationship, I began a five-year stint of solitude. It’s hard to be fully alone in New York City, but I surely felt that way.
I made good friends with my new apartment neighbors, Bruce and Bob, who lived just one floor below. They regularly held impromptu late-night cocktail parties, which I often attended in my pajamas. When my cat Winnie died, they were there for me when I discovered her under my bed at half-past midnight and was too distraught to remove her myself. Before my first trip to India, Bob tended to me during the sudden illness brought on by four inoculations playing doubles tennis in my bloodstream. My life of solitude was greatly enriched by their love, respect, and Bruce’s famous cheesy garlic bread.
Of course, Bruce and Bob are by no means the only beloved friends I have, but when I was alone—and sometimes lonely—they were nearly always there to cheer me.
You know who your friends are.
Take a moment to be thankful for them. Love them. Cherish them. Use their strength when you need it. Recharge your own soul in your solitary times so that you can give back to them when they need you.
This is what any friendship is about, but for those of us who live alone, friendships remind us that as we dance along our path, our friends are right there beside us, dancing on their own. You can reach hands across and touch now and again, never breaking your own individual strides. What a blessing!
Make a list of your dearest friends and family members. Send each of them a card that expresses your love and thanks. No, it’s not corny. Trust me, they’ll love it. And you’ll be putting good energy out into the universe. Everyone wins.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Editor: Catherine Monkman