Turning an Epidemic of Lonely into a Cascade of Lovely
Photo Credit: "Lonely?", nimble photography, https://www.flickr.com/photos/ninjaneil902//
I think we are suffering from an epidemic of lonely.
Looking at the climate of the country right now, reading news of violence and hate crimes, watching headlines about Kanye or cyberbullying or wildfires… I can’t help but wonder how many of us feel lonely. Even if we aren't even truly aware of it.
How does this play out? I think in a million different ways.
I walk away from a room full of one hundred-plus people that I’ve just spent nearly two hours facilitating with, and I feel lonely.
I suddenly notice that my skin/clothes/religion/customs/language is different from those I sit with every day, and I feel lonely.
I’m on the stage bearing my talents and soul to countless viewers, and then go back to my hotel room and sit in the darkness and feel lonely.
I realize my point of view is different from that of my best friends, family, and co-workers, and so I keep my mouth shut… and feel so lonely.
I reach across the kitchen counter to my partner but am met with a rush of to-dos and a flurry of things-that-need-to-be-done-before-the-kids-get-off-to-school and feel a strange pit in my stomach. What is that? Oh, it’s loneliness.
I wait for a colleague to remember to include me in that thing—that meeting, that decision, that water-cooler banter… and as I wait a feeling overwhelms me. Right. Loneliness.
I am sitting at a party in a room full of “friends” and I go home feeling like I’ve never been more lonely.
I sit with my children on the floor playing dolls and legoes and smiling and laughing with them while my insides are screaming. I think of reaching out to the other parents spending their days the same way… but instead I just sit silent, lonely.
I have xx-hundred friends on Facebook. How many of them fill me? More accurately, how many of them emphasize a void. What is that void? Yep. Loneliness.
What does it mean to be lonely? It's a topic people have pondered since the beginning of time.
I am lonely, yet not everybody will do. I don’t know why, some people fill the gaps and others emphasize my loneliness. —Anaïs Nin
All great and precious things are lonely. —John Steinbeck (East of Eden)
We are all so much together, but we are all dying of loneliness. —Albert Schweitzer
The most terrible poverty is loneliness, and the feeling of being unloved. —Mother Teresa
Yes, there is joy, fulfillment and companionship—but the loneliness of the soul in its appalling self-consciousness is horrible and overpowering. —Sylvia Plath
When was the first time you felt lonely?
I remember feeling lonely in high school and wishing like hell that somebody might come break through the loneliness…. while also feeling protective of my alone space. It didn’t occur to me until much later in life that alone and lonely are two very different things. I hate being lonely, but I love my alone time. Which makes me wonder if everyone does, in their own way.
How do we know when someone is lonely versus wanting alone time? And how do we treat them the way they need to be? My colleagues were just talking about what the opposite of loneliness is... and they came up with the word loveliness. I just love that. Loveliness is the antidote for loneliness. So in my interactions with others, am I intentionally trying to spread loveliness? Maybe it’s just a smile, a hello, an “I see you”. Maybe it’s that simple.
Loneliness is something that so many of us hold on the inside, unseen... sometimes even unseen by ourselves. What a powerful reminder to all of us that we just might be able to turn someone else's loneliness into something else-- loveliness. And that loveliness just might start to creep right back inside of you, too.
How you can you spread loveliness today?
Wings & Whimsy Challenge: Awaken
talked to in a while, just to say hello. It could lead to so much
more, and turn someone’s loneliness into something else:
loveliness. Tell me about it in the comments below, or
“Turning an Epidemic of Lonely into a Cascade of Lovely”, The Leadership Program, 2016