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August 16, 2020

How I Turned my Loneliness into Beautiful Solitude.

 

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Years after practicing self-care habits, loneliness is still often my companion.

Sometimes, it crawls in silently, other times, it slowly drizzles upon me like rain.

Next thing I know, I’m soaking wet.

But raindrops—just like waves—are hard to run away from, so how do we learn to warm ourselves up after the storm?

Let me offer you compassion and a rain jacket.

For some, it might be uncomfortable, but it is so worth it.

Let me share the warming words that helped me reach dry land through writing during the tides of loneliness.

In the passage below, Elizabeth Gilbert, author of Eat, Pray, Love, describes one of her darkest moments, while desperate about her divorce and doubting her entire life:

“So tonight, I reach for my journal again. This is the first time I’ve done this since I came to Italy. What I write in my journal is that I am weak and full of fear. I explain that depression and loneliness have shown up, and I’m scared they will never leave. I say that I don’t want to take the drugs anymore, but I’m frightened I will have to. I am terrified that I will never really pull my life together. In response, somewhere from within me, rises a now-familiar presence, offering me all the certainties I have always wished another person would say to me when I was troubled.”

She finds herself writing the response to herself:

“I’m here. I love you. I don’t care if you need to stay up crying all night long. I will stay with you. If you need the medication again, go ahead and take it—I will love you through that, as well. If you don’t need the medication, I will love you, too. There’s nothing you can ever do to lose my love. I will protect you until you die, and after your death, I will still protect you. I am stronger than Depression and Braver than Loneliness and nothing will ever exhaust me.”

Elizabeth’s words were the catalyst to start my journaling habit—they helped me to gently calm myself when the waves of loneliness rolled in. I could shower myself with those words for hours.

Gilbert pours love and compassion upon her frightened self, and she does it generously, in buckets—buckets full of self-love to wash away all the doubts and fears.

Especially now, during quarantine, I’ve often felt lonelier and more isolated than ever. The loneliness feeling doesn’t only creep in when I am alone, it is often stronger when I am surrounded by people who I don’t feel connected to (or when I feel that someone doesn’t understand me or I just don’t belong in a group).

If we don’t learn how to belong to ourselves, we will never feel like we truly belong to anyone.

Here’s a quote by Brené Brown to spice up the mix of compassion we can offer ourselves:

“True belonging is the spiritual practice of believing in and belonging to yourself so deeply that you can share your most authentic self with the world and find sacredness in both being a part of something and standing alone in the wilderness.”

So the opposite of loneliness isn’t belonging to a group of friends, being in a romantic relationship, or receiving an insane number of likes and views on social media.

It is not out there.

It is in you.

The cure to the lonely feeling is within you. Isn’t that great news?

It means we don’t need anyone else to feel complete. It brings along responsibility though, as we are responsible for our own happiness.

Let’s be so true to ourselves that belonging to ourselves is enough. Let’s get to know ourselves deeply and spend time alone with ourselves—and maybe take a bubble bath (essential oils are optional, but self-love is essential).

Because how can someone else truly belong to us if we don’t belong to ourselves? We have known ourselves for our entire lifetime, listened to our thundering thoughts, and felt the floating feelings.

If we don’t know how to respond to our own loneliness or fear, how can we expect someone else to do the job?

So how do we respond to loneliness?

I often start with a question like: “Why do I feel lonely?”

Don’t think much about your questions or answers. Go with the flow and ask: “What can I do to feel happier?”

Write the question in your journal or on any piece of paper.

Writing it down and formulating what it is that we struggle with already brings us a step closer to the answer.

Because knowing the problem is crucial to finding a solution. Even if the solution seems watery at first. Putting our feeling or confusion into words is part of the clarifying process. Like purifying muddy water, dealing with loneliness needs patience.

We should write down whatever answer that comes from within us.

But wait. How can we answer our own question if it was the source of confusion in the first place?

The truth is, maybe we won’t know what to respond, how to cure the loneliness, or identify the cause for loneliness.

If we fail to swim against the current of those crashing lonely waves (and trust me, I have been there—it is exhausting), we do one thing: we go with the flow.

So I respond to myself: “I don’t know, girl.”

And that’s okay. Elizabeth Gilbert also mentions: “Try to show up for yourself from a feeling of self-love or compassion.”

On some days, the response in my journal looks like this: “I don’t know what to do, but I love you, and I am here with you.” Knowing that we can show up for ourselves in that way can be so calming—even though we won’t always have the solution, the answer, or the cure to what bothers us.

But we can give these to ourselves:

Compassion and love.

Let’s shower in them and imagine the water washing away our doubts, fears, and worries.

Writing these letters to myself is an act of self-love just like a warm shower or a bubble bath.

It means I allow my sadness to be written out.

It means I listen to my own voice and allow all my messy feelings—I am not ashamed of any.

I give space to the waves that need to crash because swimming against the current is tiring.

We shouldn’t avoid loneliness or swim against it, but accept that it is there with us. Once we accept it, we can start to pour those buckets of compassion upon ourselves.

Even after 10 years of writing compassionate letters to myself, loneliness still creeps up on me, especially during this year.

I still get surprised by the rain, but now I know where my rain jacket is, and I make sure to have my journal close by.

~

 

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