I wrote this post last December and never shared it. As we approach the holiday season this year (where did the year go!?), the topic is on my heart again. For those of you who feel lonely this year, I want to remind you that you are not alone, we are in this world together.
Almost exactly three years ago, on December 15, I got dumped by a boy I really liked. Not gently broken up with. It wasn't a mutual decision. I did not see it coming. I'd already bought his Christmas gift! There's really no way to make it sound like I was cool, collected or in control.
In retrospect, that 8-month relationship was a blip on my radar and a tiny dot on a piece of paper. In the grand scheme of life, it meant very little. But, at the time, it felt monumental. I felt hurt, lonely and appalled that he'd break up with me 10 days before Christmas and two weeks before New Year's Eve. Also, I was wearing a tacky sweater and both of my roommates were out of town when he did it. It hurt, y'all.
I'd anticipated a year-end romance full of holiday parties, tacky sweaters, gloved-hand holding and a New Year's Eve kiss. When the whole world is giving and rejoicing and celebrating, the loneliness of singleness is even more magnified.
I wanted to take a moment at the start of this holiday season to tell you that it's OK to feel lonely. You're not a Scrooge. At the height of our sugar highs and blissed-out gift giving, know that you are not alone. You might feel lonely and that's OK. But you aren't alone. And it's not wrong to yearn for someone to share this season with.
It can be tempting to wallow in our loneliness when we're struggling; to turn on Adele, grab a bottle of wine and cry ourselves to sleep with Christmas cookies. But, I think it's important to stretch ourselves beyond our natural inclinations so we can understand what a lonely season means. So we can learn and grow from it. My loneliest days shaped my heart, made me more tender and helped me understand who I am when I'm by myself - when I'm not standing on someone else's shoulders.
So instead of calling on your friend Adele, when I feel lonely, here are a few things that help me cope:
1. Acknowledge it. Allow yourself to feel lonely. Instead of texting a random guy or filling your time with something mindless, reflect on why you feel this way and what would be a long term fix. You might not be able to make that change, but it will help you isolate what you feel is missing.
2. Understand it. So often I've found that we say we are lonely, but, in actuality, we're yearning to feel known. The feeling of someone knowing what you're thinking before you say it, or knowing the perfect gift to give you is such a good feeling. And it's not wrong to yearn for that. But it's important to isolate whether we're yearning for physical company vs. emotional understanding.
3. Practice gratitude. I sometimes struggle with anxiety and the best thing to help me overcome it is to reflect on what I'm grateful for. I've found the same habit can help when I feel lonely. Who are you grateful for? And what? What brings you joy? Look around: what is so beautiful it could take your breath away if you stop to notice it?
4. Reach out to people that know you well. It can be really easy to want to wallow in our loneliness. This is normal. But push yourself to call a friend and tell her the truth - that you'd love to be around people, that you'd love to get a latte and exchange Christmas gifts. Be vulnerable with the people that love you; allow them to meet you in your loneliness.
5. Be friendly in the grocery store. If I feel alone or grumpy or just blah, when I'm extra friendly and conversational with strangers, I find it can completely shift my mood. It's simple but it works.
I know none of these things can solve for the loneliness we can feel during the holiday season. But, I've found they help me when I'm struggling, and I hope they will do the same for you.