I don’t know about you but I find there are times in my life where being single is harder than others. In those moments, I feel all these feelings. I can feel sad, wistful, longing, blue, melancholy, possibly hopeless and at times I may even teeter the edge of light despair. After facing them year after year, I finally decided to call them “the lonelies”. As in, man, I sure do have a case of the lonelies today.
I find that single life has this ebb and flow kind of like the seasons. Metaphorically speaking when it’s spring, summer and fall, I’m totally fine. But man, when winter hits, things get bleak. And it’s weird because the lonelies can come out of nowhere. And if I’m not careful they can take me out. Sometimes it’s just a random day where they come on fast and then I bounce back to normal. Other times they can last for weeks if not months and seem to follow me around like a dark grey stormcloud. The nighttime and long weekends tend to be when I am most susceptible. But over time I have developed a few little strategies that help me keep the lonelies in check and keep those winter seasons short and sweet.
5 ways to push through the lonelies:
1. Take a break from love songs.
Love songs are wonderful, magical even. I have so many favorites. I have my go-tos and somedays. But when the lonelies hit, the first thing I do is change what I’m listening to. I remove all romance. A song that in a summer season makes me rock out in the car can reduce me to pitiful tears on a lonely day. So when the lonelies knock at my door, I make sure to only listen to music that leaves the heart strings alone. The radio is tricky because I can be beeboppin along just fine and then some slow song that triggers the right memory and bam…down the rabbit hole I go. So, I make a different choice. One that protects me from the sadness and in turn hopefully gets me outside of myself. A new worship album can work wonders. I keep a playlist of fun platonic tunes that just make me smile. Pandora on Hawaiian or Pink Martini keeps it breezy. And it doesn’t last forever. Once the threat has passed and spring has sprung…love songs lose their power and are ready to be enjoyed once again.
If it is a particularly brutal winter season, I might even cut out love stories all together. Movies and books if they start to trip me up. I just make sure to delete anything from my life that invites the pain and makes the rabbit hole look appealing.
2. Make a Date
I don’t know about you but when the lonelies hit, I have been known to isolate…some might even say wallow. I pull away, roll around on my couch for evenings ( if not days) on end and think of how happy I would be if I were just married or 10 pounds lighter or whatever it is I’m convinced would break the sadness. To be honest, I sometimes kind of enjoy the misery of the wallowing and can get trapped in a painful cycle. For me, this is when I need to put down the Netflix remote and call someone. I intentionally make a plan to see someone the next day, usually an early dinner because I’m less likely to punk out because hey, a girl’s gotta eat. If they are single and on a budget, I might invite them over and we watch a show or four while one of us catches up on laundry. If they are married with kids and dinner is not an option, we might grab coffee or visit over nap time. I just make sure that there is a plan in place to connect with someone the next day. Otherwise, a lonely day can turn into a lonely month.
True confession: I may or may not have watched 154 episodes of West Wing this summer as tried to avoid dealing with a broken heart.
I think it is easy for single people to assume all our married friends are busy living fabulous lives, making out with their sweethearts 24/7, so we wallow in a bed of loneliness when in reality…our married counterparts often struggle with the same feelings of isolation. Because the lonelies don’t go away once the wedding bells have rung. I remind myself that constantly. I have to learn how to cope and process these feeling now because loneliness is a heart issue that follows you wherever you are. So when the lonelies come a knocking, I have a go-to set of peeps to schedule a date with so that I get outside of my head and start pouring into others. And I rarely bring up “the lonelies”on these outings. The point isn’t to make a date and chat them out. The point is to make a date and do something fun outside of the den of despair that I have created. Mix things up. Get some fresh air. Stop being alone.
3. Get touchy
A Christian counselor that I greatly admire (Karen Johnson) once said that humans need 7 healthy touches a day to thrive. This is definitely true for me. I grew up in a very affectionate family.Lots of hugs, pats and squeezes. It was my normal. Because touch is one of my love languages* getting my daily dose has always come easy. Sometimes to the chagrin of my less touchy roommates (Shout out to Caroline and Andrea for always letting me tuck my toes but not wiggle them while watching TV). Anyway, in a winter season, I make a habit to add a little extra healthy touch into my life. A massage or a pedicure allows for me to meet this need and fill up my love cup so that I’m not looking for connection in way that might leave me wounded.
4. Get up and serve
It’s really hard to wallow and be sad when you are doing something great for others. Part of living a life of maximum impact is to find something that you enjoy doing that helps others and do it well. In my hardest bouts of the lonelies, I keep myself busy doing things where I don’t have time to think about…myself. Looking back, there have been times when I had something to do 4 or 5 nights a week. And it was awesome. I can’t keep that pace forever but if you are truly rolling in the blues…sign up to serve (more). Bible studies, youth ministry, homeless shelters, food banks are just a few ways you can improve your serve. Find something that you are passionate about and commit.
5. Pick up a pen and journal
This is by far the best way to beat the blues and usually my last resort. Isn’t that just how it goes. We know the cure but avoid the medicine? Stubborn and hard hearted. Anyway, if I take the time to journal out my feelings and then turn them into a prayer where I cry out to the Lord…things tend to change pretty quickly. It opens the door to hear from the Lord and get some perspective. When journaling, I try to focus on identifying the lies and replacing them with truth. What lies am I believing in this moment? What is the truth? This is where the Bible really helps in sorting things out. God’s word is the truth and there are so many precious promises starting in Genesis and ending in Revelation.
This process also helps me to not eat my feelings.
One night about 6 years ago I was spiraling down the rabbit hole of loneliness and was in the throes of a midnight crying jag. All of a sudden, I felt like I was supposed to make a list of all the things I was thankful for. I took out a pad of post-its and one by one filled up the side of the fridge with everything I was thankful for. Turns out the list was long and I had much to celebrate. That broke the lonelies and turned around my heartache. I left those stickies up until I moved out of that sweet little ohana. They were a constant visual reminder that even though I may not have that relationship I long for, my cup overflows with blessings galore.
Side note…Singleness is not forever. It is a season. We all start single and statistically a lot of us will end there after our spouse passes away. Learning to be content and even joyful whatever my season is a huge part of developing mature faith. One of the lies that tripped up
Eve in the garden was that this is all there is so you better grab hold of whatever pleasure you can…it sells a lot of beer and terrible decisions. When things get hard, I use these little tricks of the trade so that I won’t fall for the lies of the lonelies and end up make choices I regret. Hope this helps.
Love, Love, Love
The Girl Who Lives In My Head