How to be the Opposite of Lonely

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It’s never Too Late to Begin Again – Reigniting a Sense of Community is the theme of Week Three in Julia Cameron’s book.

By Day Four, I figured I had blown it.

Morning pages – I wrote a measly three. Artist date – none. Walks alone – none. On the last day, it was the memoir part with its remembering tasks and questions.

I looked at the blank pages in my notebook and knew I was a failure.

Failure at growing up, failure at marriage, failure at life. Oh, yeah, the self-pity demon was in full force on that seventh day.

But, thanks to this blogging partnership with Vhairi, I made myself forge ahead. We had agreed to do the whole 12 weeks together and write a post each week. I didn’t want to let her down. So I tackled Julia’s questions about those scary childhood years from 11 to 16.

Is there any time in life more difficult, more fraught with emotions and physical changes and demon hormones? I really don’t think so.

The questions were directed towards community: Who were my friends? Where did I live? Julia asked me to think of a sound, a smell, a taste from that time. She was relentless: describe a time I felt lonely during those years.

It surprised me to realize that yes, there were lonely times during those fragile, emotional years, but there were also so many times of the opposite of loneliness: Biking over to a friend’s house where we sang to Beach Boys records over and over again. The teacher who gave me full marks for a wrong answer because he admired my argument. My grandmother making me rice pudding because she knew it was my favourite.

Then I had to think of a time, any time in my life, when I felt the loneliest, and another time when I felt most connected to others. I would have thought the loneliest time was after my husband left me – and boy, it was lonely – and yet it was also the time when I felt the most connected. Friends and family were there for me, and I am deeply grateful, but strangers were there too.

Phoning an agent about getting car insurance in my name and having to say, I’m getting a divorce” with tears making the words thick in my throat. “That’s so hard,” she said. “I’ve been there. You’ll be okay.” She took a moment to reach out to me, and suddenly I wasn’t alone.

Julia suggested reconnecting with someone who was a support in the past. I called my ex-brother-in-law. These days, health issues have isolated him, and I imagine he is quite lonely and frightened at times. We talked about what we’re doing, his new exhaust system for an old vehicle, the always fascinating subject of the weather. Divorce didn’t matter because the strong thread of our connection over the years will always be there.

Looking back on my life, before, during and after marriage, I see a complex, strong web of support – friends, family, strangers, music, books. And, thanks to Julia, I see more clearly that I have been there for probably many more people than I will ever know. All I have to do is reach out and connect.

We are not alone.


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