How Not To Be 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, I made myself tackle the memoir part, the tasks and questions to ask myself.

Looking at the blank page in my notebook, I felt like a failure. Failed at being a kid, failed at marriage, failed at life. Oh, yeah, the self-pity demon was in full force on that seventh day.

But, thanks to this partner-blog with Vhairi, I forged ahead. We had agreed to do the whole 12 weeks together and write a post each week, and I didn’t want to let her down. So I tried to answer Julia’s questions about those childhood years from 11 to 16.

Is there any time in life more difficult, more fraught with emotion and physical changes and demon hormones? Those years made menopause a breeze. (Maybe a hot-flashing breeze, but nevertheless…)

The questions were directed towards community. Who were my friends? Where did I live? Think of a sound, a smell, a taste from those years. Oh, Julia is relentless: describe a time I felt lonely during those years, then a time I felt connected.

It surprised me to realize that yes, there were lonely times during those fragile, emotional years, but there were also many times that were the opposite of loneliness, more than I would have thought. 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.

Ah, but Julia wasn’t finished with me yet. I had to write about 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 – but then I realized it was also a time when I felt the most connected. Friends and family were there for me, even strangers.

Phoning an agent about getting car insurance in my name and having to say, I’m getting a divorce,” while tears thickened the words in my throat. “That’s so hard,” she said. “I’ve been there. You’ll be okay.” I still remember how those words lifted my spirit that day. A stranger took a moment to connect with me, and suddenly I wasn’t so alone.

Reigniting a sense of community: Julia suggested reaching out to someone who was a support in the past as a way of reminding myself of the web of connection and support that has been there for me my whole life.

I called my ex-brother-in-law. He was kind to me when I was going through the divorce; he told me I would always be family. 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, the new exhaust system on his old vehicle, the always fascinating subject of the weather. We connected – the opposite of lonely.

Maybe loneliness is something we choose for ourselves. Maybe we can make different choices. (Julia was right again) Maybe it’s as simple as letting someone know we see them.

We are not alone.