Confession: I stockpile Facebook statuses.
Hey, don’t judge me. My ammo pile of cleverness is for your benefit. My goal always being to educate, inspire, and/or amuse you.
There is, however, one status I was too chicken to post:
”Don’t feel sorry for me, but I’m lonely.”
From time to time, posts like this appear on Facebook. Without fail what results is a beautiful outpouring of love.
As my finger hovered over the SHARE button, I imagined what responses might result. I
hoped longed for empathy, a dozen or two “You’re not alone” statements, but feared I’d get pity. So in the end, I never posted my admission.
Chatting on social media is not the same as face-to-face. You know it. I know it. Yes, it is better than nothing, but still…
Recently when my blogging and writing friend Cole Smith told me her most popular blog post to date was the one she wrote on loneliness, I felt relief. It’s not just me. Googling “loneliness,” cemented this fact.
A nationwide survey by health insurer Cigna, found nearly 50 percent of respondents (in the US) reported that they feel alone or left out always or sometimes.
And it’s not just here in America. In January of this year, the Prime Minister of Britain, Theresa May, appointed a Minister for Loneliness, saying, “For far too many people, loneliness is the sad reality of modern life.”
“No” is the loneliest word that you’ll ever say.
Part of the loneliness I feel is my own fault. A few years ago, when I pursued an MFA in creative writing, I imposed a rule for myself: No coffee or lunch dates with gal pals until graduation. There were so many books to read, so many papers to write. I occasionally broke my rule, but not often.
After graduation, guess what I discovered? A lot of my friends had moved on. Made new friends. Got full-time jobs. Relocated. So now it was up to me to regroup, literally.
More than once during the last decade my mother has said, “I just wish I had one or two good girlfriends, you know?” Yep, Mom. I know.
My husband Tony glanced over my shoulder as I worked on this post. “You’re lonely? I’m sorry! Am I not a good husband?”
I hastened to assure him, I was not speaking of loneliness within our marriage. I have no complaints there.
What I’m talking about is loneliness outside of marriage, closeness with other women.
When our children were little, these kinds of relationships were easy, organic. They happened at playdates at the park. Or in the Burger King play area. At the children’s playground at the mall.
But now all of my fellow mother friends are busy playing chauffeur to their kids. Or they’ve gone back to work. Or they’re caring for aging parents.
Of course I’m still friends with these gals but lately, many of these connections feel merely surface-level. Who do I know that I can tell EVERYTHING to? That’s really what I long for.
Is this just my experience, or in this hustle-bustle society, are close friendships in danger of extinction? I hope they’re not because friendship isn’t just good for the soul. It’s also good for the mind. One of Mom’s doctors told her that social interaction is the #1 thing she can do to maintain her mental acuity. Read about that here.
Community also influences longevity. On the Italian island of Sardinia–which has an unusually high number of folks living to be 100 years or more–researchers found that, “Although good genes, diet and exercise are often cited as crucial to living a long life…in this Mediterranean region, social interaction may be just as influential.”
So knowing I needed more lady friends in my life for lots of reasons,
The first thing I did was pray. For community.
Tony and I also made it a point to attend a weekly Bible study with fellow believers. Our group didn’t just study God’s Word. We also ate together. And prayed for one another. One time we even went mini-golfing!
Then I hosted a Scruffy Hospitality party for the ladies at my church. That’s a party where you don’t clean your house to the 1000th degree. You simply invite people over and maybe provide snacks and drinks.
Not a whole lot of gals showed up for my Scruffy S’mores Fest. Probably because it was the night before a West Virginia University home football game. But hey, I tried.
The next thing I did was sign up for an all-girl trip to Scotland.
Man-oh-man, or should I say woman-oh-woman, was that fun!
I was kind of-sort of petrified the week before. What if our plane went down? What if my husband and son (and pets) starved while I was gone? Would my elderly mother be all right without me? Was I selfish to go? The negative mind-spinning (usually in the middle of the night because, hey, I’m 50+ now.) was wretched.
Once the other ladies and I were en route to Dulles International Airport, I was fine. More than fine, actually. Going on that trip was the first thing I’d done for myself in a long time—25-ish years, to be exact.
Community shows up in the oddest places.
For about a year now I’ve been attending a Pop Pilates exercise class. The instructor, Jessica Savage McHugh, recently opened her own studio—Soar Fitness—in Westover, Best Virginia.
In the beginning, I quickly slipped into my soccer slides at the end of class and darted out the door and into my car. To check my phone. But one day, I dawdled. And what do you know? A bunch of gals started chatting. And though the chatting got a bit personal, it didn’t feel bad, it felt real. “This is community,” I told myself.
Earlier this summer, while Krogering, I ran into a gal I hadn’t seen in ages. After we caught up on everything our kids are doing, I suggested we go out for coffee one day. Then I shook my head. “Scratch that. You probably have tons of friends you do coffee and lunch with.” At which, she shook her head.
“No, I don’t. Not really. You’re the one with all the friends.”
And we had this moment where our eyes got big and our words tangled together, both of us saying, “But it looks like everyone has tons of friends on social media!”
So we’re going out to lunch next Friday.
Another option is inviting yourself to a ladies’ retreat.
I’m not saying this’ll work for everyone, but it worked for me. A friend mentioned that the women of her church were hosting a girl-getaway weekend. I jokingly asked if I could crash their retreat. My friend said, sure, and I had a great time.
Actually, I enjoyed the ladies of the Morgantown Church of Christ so much, I’ve been attending their weekly get-togethers every Wednesday night (6:30-7:30 p.m.) since. We just started a come-when-you-can study of a resource called Heart Sisters. This week’s kick-off session was really good. Feel free to join us. I mean it!
Why text when you can talk?
A couple of Saturdays ago I was texting with a friend about some health issues my mom is having. After a few back-and-forths, my friend texted, “Can I call you? This would be way easier over the phone.”
This gal was one of my best friends from high school. We hadn’t talked face-to-face or on the phone in five years. The sound of her voice, with its gentle Southern accent, melted away the years, the decades.
The things I’m experiencing with my family are very similar to what she’s been through recently. And what I’m going through right now with my mom, she went through last year. As such, she had lots of wisdom to share.
Yes, texting is quicker, but it’s nowhere near as personal.
Listen to your gut, your heart, whatever it is that talks to your brain.
Over the summer I ran into another friend who I hadn’t seen in a long time. After we caught up on kids graduating and seasons of life changing, I spontaneously asked her to a women’s event I was planning on attending. She happily agreed to accompany me.
Giddy from that successful invite, I asked another friend to another women’s event, the Libera Freedom Panel happening tonight in Morgantown. Who knows who we’ll run into with hundreds of women in the building?
One of my newspaper columnist friends has been hosting Porch Parties in Indianapolis.
On multiple occasions, she’s invited ladies, three at a time, to hang out on her porch on summer mornings. She says the resulting conversations have been really great.
Not quite ready to host a porch party, I’m putting together a table of 10 participants for a fundraising Team Trivia night next weekend. I have no guest list in mind. The first 10 people who “sign up,” will comprise my team. I’m super excited!
All this to say:
I think the cure to loneliness is on refrigerator magnets all over America.
If you need further instruction on how to make friends, check out this video and copy the actions of these (adorable British kids). These little people are Ministers of Friendliness.
So where do you stand on this topic? Is this a foreign concept or not at all?