An Antidote for Hard Times: Build a Home in Your Heart

By Gwenn Voelckers

“Build thy home in thy heart and

be forever sheltered.”

– Anonymous

This is one of my favorite quotes. It captures so beautifully what I practice every day — especially these days — and it’s what I emphasize in my Live Alone and Thrive workshops: that the relationship with ourselves is the most worthwhile and enduring of all.

Most of the women and men whom have made peace with living alone are busy leading interesting lives even during these uncertain and changing times.

They have challenged, as have I, the age-old belief that marriage, as it has been traditionally defined, is the only state in which we can be happy, fulfilled, secure and successful.

Many are finding that time alone has proven to be a gift, not a burden.

Whether divorced, separated, single or widowed, we are not spending this precious time bemoaning our fate. We have experienced hardship, fear and loss and are the stronger for it.

We have taken our lives into our own hands and have embraced the choices and possibilities that living alone has to offer.

This is what we know . . .

• Living alone doesn’t mean living in isolation. Even with physical distancing, we can be together heart-to-heart.

Those of us who live alone know how vital it is to stay connected when times are good. We also don’t hesitate to pick up the phone, text, email or Facetime with friends and family when loneliness and sadness show up.

• Accepting a virtual or in-person safe party invitation is worth doing. I attended an open-air graduation ceremony recently and enjoyed the camaraderie of masked friends for the first time in a long time.

• Solo travel can still be enjoyed. We can still explore the world through virtual online tours of museums, national parks, landmarks and popular cities, from San Francisco to Paris. One of my favorite sites is GLOBOTREKS.

• Figuring out how to join a Zoom meeting, make home repairs (thank you YouTube!), or grow your own vegetables can be very rewarding.

I fixed my own water spigot the other day, and gave myself a high-five with my own Purell-coated hands.

We have learned that . . .

• Rediscovering your “true self” and identifying those things that bring meaning and happiness into your life can turn living alone into an adventure of the spirit.

When rehearsals for my community band were suspended due to COVID-19, I decided to learn how to play a drum set. Awkward at first, I’m finally getting the hang of it. My neighbors may not agree. Ha!

• Doing a “random act of kindness” is a great antidote when you’re feeling sorry for yourself.

• Friends matter, especially now. Reach out. Nurture your friendships. And honor your commitments.

If I make a plan to walk with a friend, I show up, even if I’m not quite in the mood. Without exception, I always feel better afterwards.

• Caring for and serving others is empowering and helps us feel connected to a greater good. It can feed your soul. Even a simple gesture, such as sharing a word of encouragement, can turn someone’s day around.

A larger gesture, such as shopping, dog walking, or lawn care for a neighbor who cannot safely leave home can give you a sense of belonging and purpose.

We will never forget that . . .

• Letting go of the idea that you need to be married or “coupled” to have any chance of being happy and secure is essential. This supposed idea will only keep you from finding a brighter and more fulfilling future.

• Treating yourself well builds esteem. Prepare and enjoy decent meals at home. Get enough sleep. Exercise. You’re worth it. Tell yourself so by taking good care of yourself.

• Continuing to celebrate holidays, birthdays, graduations, anniversaries and other important occasions is important. Be creative and find safe ways to recreate the special rituals that have enriched your life.

• Our spiritual underpinnings and faith traditions, however defined, can be a real source of strength, hope, and inspiration. Believing that we are all connected to each other, even to those long gone, enables us to carry their vitality and energy in our hearts.

And we will always remember that . . .

• Expanding your definition of love beyond “romantic love” will stand you in good stead. Embrace “passionate friendships” — those relationships in which you can be yourself and feel completely comfortable . . . in your sweatpants.

• Hanging out with negative people is a real downer.

I enjoy spending time with friends who are finding silver linings amid the hardships we are experiencing. Imposed downtime has provided a needed rest and break from relentless striving and doing. We are feeling less stress, greater peace and healthier as a result.   

• We all have tools — inner resources — and now is the time to recall your best qualities and to draw upon them. It could be patience, generosity, creativity, kindness or a sense of humor. These qualities have helped you survive hard times in the past and they can serve you now.

• Feeling and expressing gratitude starts a ripple of goodness that reaches further than you can imagine. Every note you write, every kindness you extend and every word of thanks will make a positive difference. It begins with you and ends with a joyful connection.

Last month, I found a wounded robin in my yard. I took it to Wildlife Rescue, where I met with a young staff member named Jamie. She tenderly took possession of the robin and promised me they would do everything possible to restore the robin to good health.

As I got ready to leave, I said thank you, but then it didn’t feel like enough. I turned back and said, “Jamie, if you were my daughter, I would be so proud of you.”

Her eyes crinkled with a smile.

Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Alone and Content, empowerment workshops for women, and author of “Alone and Content,” a collection of inspiring essays for those who live alone. For information about her workshops, to purchase her book, or invite her to speak, visit