On Feeling Alone

Here in the Western hemisphere, days are growing shorter, darker and colder. I can feel my seasonal urges for soup-making, and bringing out the plushest blankets I can find in my closet, kicking-in. I live in California – far from blizzards and true bitter-cold. Still, my tendency to indulge in more decadent eating and just lounging-about this time of year always makes me feel like an animal ready to hibernate. That’s how I justify my need for more comfort foods, and way more sleep, anyway.

Fall and winter also bring a kind of wistfulness. While the natural world is slowing-down, changing into reds and golds and getting ready for sleep, the frenzy of The Holidays, and other people’s ideas about what that means, seems to clash with the quiet peacefulness of Nature, with her soft prelude into deep rest.

Darker, colder days and reminders that The Holidays are supposed to glitter with love and contentment can also be a time of great loneliness for many people. Everyone else’s lives seem to be illuminated by a light and warmth that we don’t share. Today as I was listening to someone who I normally find spot-on with her observations and recommendations for living life fully and happily, I found her ideas about Holiday ‘blues’ uninspired.

This practitioner spoke directly, for a few moments, to “all the people who are alone; without family and perhaps even without friends”. Her recommendation was to “take initiative”, “have a party and invite your neighbors”. I knew what she was getting-at, what she was trying to say, even though my mind immediately registered her suggestions as totally absurd.

What I wanted her to say, longed for her to say, is what every person who’s ever spent a festive season alone needs to hear:  Whatever you’re feeling, it’s OK to just ‘be’ with that, in whatever way you choose. I also wanted the speaker to mention (total wishful thinking on my part) that a lot of the smiling faces on people that seem to be in bliss this time of year aren’t always Feeling the Love, on deep and meaningful levels. They’re just caught up in the frenzy, like everyone else.

There might be something to the expression, Fake It ‘til You Make It:  trying to jolly yourself into a certain mood or spirit. But there are other ways to “survive the holidays” (that sentiment alone, heard in frequent adverts, is enough reason for me to get creative).

What the practitioner I listened to this morning failed (perhaps there just wasn’t time in the podcast) to mention, is that ‘Alone’ can be a choice, or a circumstance. Either way, being, or feeling alone during the holidays doesn’t have to feel like one of the worst of Life’s struggles. Also, fulfillment through companionship – whenever its wanted and needed — is not solely found through other people. It can be through pets, and books, and music, or walks in nature. ‘Company’ can be felt through travel, cooking, mediation, writing, and personal rituals that honor Just Being. Even if a lonely heart feels that none other than a lover or true friend will do, the above options are often pathways to people.

It’s good to remember, I think – especially during festive seasons — that ‘alone’ isn’t always defined as loneliness, or, by a lack of family or friends. Some of the loneliest people I know are married, with children, and a gaggle of people they call ‘friends’. Our choices and decisions about how we exist are always our very own, regardless of the seasons, as long as we live and breathe. That’s something worth celebrating, even after the decorations come down and the party hats are put away.

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