If there is one thing that ex-Singles are going to forget, it's how deeply lonely the Single life can be. People tend to forget the icky stuff of their youth and remember only the good stuff. That's one explanation for why adults tell teenagers their high school years are the best years of their lives. (What nonsense. Spots, angst and curfews. Hello?)
So when the other day a Single friend told me how lonely she or he felt at night, I had to jog my memory and say, "Oh yeah. I was incredibly lonely when I was Single."
I really was. I hated how, after work, my workmates would walk in one direction, and I would walk in the other to my empty little apartment. Urgh. When I went back to school, I moved in with my parents, and I made a gazillion friends, and I had so much work to do, I didn't feel lonely, although a bit panicked about "What if I never get married?" That gave me a three year respite though the summers were really tough.
But then I went down to the USA to do a PhD and the loneliness just about killed me. I could keep it at bay by hanging out with my one (1)local girlfriend or with my very-soon-to-be-ex boyfriend and for two hours at Sunday Mass and Coffee Hour, but that was it. It didn't help that everyone in my program seemed to think I was a scary right-wing conservative when I thought I was a very nice center-left kind of gal.
There's no lonely so lonely as being lonely in a crowd, as they say. Wait--I take that back. There is a worse one, and it is when you are in a terrible marriage in which you can't tell your husband what you think and feel and believe because then he will shout at you. Even ordinary statements can trigger disappointment. You say, "I'm off to see my friend" and he says, "Your friends are all degenerates or religious maniacs."
Yep. The biggest loneliness is being married to a guy who is quietly, possibly unconsciously, trying to alienate you from your family, all your friends and you yourself.
But if you are Single, that is not your problem, so thank God for that and let's get down to how to deal with ordinary Single person loneliness.
First, most Single people feel lonely sometime. If you think your other Single friends have got it all together and are living blissfully 24/7, you are wrong. They aren't. Possibly a lot of married people feel lonely from time to time too, although to be honest, I don't if there are other women around and if B.A. is only a mobile text away. I'm not going to lie: a happy marriage is a great cure for loneliness.
Second, being part of a great community is tremendously helpful. If you are Single it is so important that you really enjoy your workplace or your school because that is where most of your social interactions are happening. Church, in my experience, is not enough. It might be enough for married people, but I don't think it is for most Single people.
Third, this makes me sound like my grandmother, but keeping busy is important, too. And by busy I don't mean working around the clock, but doing things you really enjoy, or taking on challenges that absorb your mind and/or truly leave you tired at night. The best way to approach an empty bed is half-asleep and with gratitude. "Oh, thank God for my empty bed because I really need some sl...zzzz...."
Fourth, without turning into a princess about it, you owe it to yourself to treat yourself really well. Nobody else is making sure you have a beautiful bedroom and clean sheets and the occasional breakfast in bed and a nice DVD to watch on a rainy day and a beautiful silk kimono to watch it in, so you had better be doing it.
Fifth, do not assuage your loneliness with food or you will regret it. When I was 27, employed and lonely, I worked out at the gym and ate only 1500-1800 calories a day. But when I was 36, studying and lonely, I could no longer afford a gym and developed a Ben and Jerry's habit. To this day I have not gotten back into a gym habit or shifted the weight I got from Ben and Jerry. Thanks so much, Ben and Jerry.
Sixth, there are spiritual benefits to just sitting on your bed letting loneliness wash over you and crying your eyes out. I am not actually sure what they are, but my shrink and various priests have told me that such spiritual benefits exist, so go for it. Sit with the pain and have a chat with it and cry. Only then turn on the TV or reach for the phone or check Facebook.
Seventh, don't sneer at Facebook as shallow. It's okay if you don't want to be on Facebook at all--you may have very legitimate concerns about privacy--but if you are on Facebook, don't dismiss Facebook interactions as shallow. They are a great way to keep in touch with friends of auld lang syne or friends who now live far from you.
Feel free to add your own tips in the combox for keeping loneliness at bay.