By Gwenn Voelckers
Summer has finally arrived. Woo hoo!! Time for barbecues, picnics, festivals and fun!
For many people, the summer months provide welcome relief from the soggy transition from winter to spring. Out of the gloom, summer emerges with longer, brighter and warmer days filled with the promise of travel, socializing, and connecting with friends and family.
So why are you feeling so lonely?
As it turns out, the arrival of summer isn’t embraced by everyone. If you live alone and feel socially isolated, summertime can pose a real challenge. It’s easy to feel like an outsider, looking in on other people’s fun-filled days and activities.
After my divorce, I had bouts of the blues and spent too much time alone. I let my relationships with friends and family drift away and my world became very small and quiet.
Sometimes the loneliness would overwhelm me and I’d lose my oomph for doing much of anything. I became a spectator, rather than a participant, in life.
Eventually my phone stopped ringing and the weekends stretched out before me like a long, lonesome highway. Without companionship, a beautiful summer day left me feeling heartbroken.
I knew something had to change.
An attitude adjustment was in order. Specifically, I needed to remind myself that my life is in my hands — that I’m responsible for how lonely (or not) I am, and that I’m in charge of how large or small my life is.
So what did I do? I picked up the phone, called a girlfriend, and made plans for us to get together. Then I picked up the phone again and left a text message for my sister, asking her to give me a call.
And I didn’t stop there.
The next day, I worked up the nerve, rehearsed a few words, and made a third call to a neighbor who also lives alone. I asked if he wanted to take a walk later that evening. He asked for a rain check, but that was OK. We made plans to take a walk the following week, which gave me something nice to anticipate.
I then shifted to my computer and sent out a few “Hi, it’s been too long!” emails to friends, inviting them over to see (and admire!) my newly installed patio garden. I wanted to share it. And to show it off. Why not, right? It’s rewarding to hear “oohs” and “aahs,” and sometimes we need to create our own opportunities for positive feedback.
I was on a roll, and it was illuminating to see how easily I could change my circumstances by doing just a few small things — by converting my newly adjusted attitude into action.
Within weeks, my phone was ringing again, emails and texts were arriving, and I had entered a few social events into my calendar. Life felt better!
Part of what motivates me when I find myself in a slump is a passage I found in a sweet little book called “Living Alone and Lovin’ It,” by Barbara Feldon.
In one particularly helpful chapter on loneliness, she recounts a heart-to-heart she had with an “older and very wise friend” named Leo. She was brooding about being lonely and shared how much she wanted to feel loved and protected again, the way she felt when she was a child.
Leo responded quite bluntly: “But you’re not a child and don’t have a child’s needs. A child is in danger without company because it’s helpless, but an adult has access to any need imaginable: food, medicine, companionship. All an adult has to do is pick up the phone…”
Good friends can be such a help! Especially when they tell it like it is. Barbara was energized by Leo’s no-excuses straight talk, and indirectly so was I. As adults, we can exercise choices; we can choose to stay in a slump or choose to pick up the phone.
My prediction should you start to reach out? Little by little your world will expand, with one connection spawning another, and another, and yet another.
Before you know it, your feelings of loneliness will lessen and you’ll be on your way to banishing the summertime blues!
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 www.aloneandcontent.com