Never Alone

“To get the full value of joy you must have someone to divide it with.” ― Mark Twain

This last week started out with Valentine’s Day, our big romantic reminder of how much we need someone else in our life.  American values teach us to be rugged individualists. Remember those heroic images from the popular media? The cowboy riding off into the sunset? A man of few words. Even in space, Han Solo seemed to push others away. There’s all that detective fiction, the dark hero rescuing the damsel in distress while at the same time unable to save himself.

John Wayne in the Searchers | John wayne movies, John wayne, Western movies

Have you someone in your life?

“What you are to do without me I cannot imagine.” ― George Bernard Shaw

Mostly, I think we take the people in our life for granted. We complain about all the back seat driving until one day when we’re alone and keep making the wrong turns. When you’re alone you soon realize that one else is ever going to pick that up off the floor if you don’t. Now you remember all the picking up that someone in your life used to do – even the symbolic kind.

People in your life sit and listen, even when they seem to be bored silly with hearing that same speech, again and again. That’s what people do when they come into our lives, they sit and listen. When they’re gone you don’t realize the value of listening until you find yourself talking to strangers at Walmart – way too often.

Walmart sales surge on coronavirus-led demand | NHH

Work is becoming a harder place. That person in your life probably could use some encouraging words from nowhere with no motive whatsoever – even if it makes him suspicious. Your insight is the most valuable, your words are the most trustworthy. What you say, and say often, can end up counting the most.

It really is the little things that end up making things different.

How about doing some new math? How about subtracting the frequency of critical feedback and increasing the amount of positive words? Tip the balance in favor of that most significant person in your life. Treat her as if she were leaving tomorrow and you weren’t going to see her for months. Make today count for something extra.

“It is an absolute human certainty that no one can know his own beauty or perceive a sense of his own worth until it has been reflected back to him in the mirror of another loving, caring human being.” ― John Joseph Powell

When people are disconnected from others for whatever reason there are a number of adverse effects that can pop up in other areas of life. Humans have a need for affiliation – we are socially wired, not designed to live as loners. Research tells us that when these needs are not met.

  • People can feel like other parts of their life are out of control (even when nothing has really changed).
  • Fuses become shorter and blow-ups happen more often – maybe it’s displacement – under the radar anger about loneliness without realizing it.
  • Sometimes when people are feeling disconnected, they become overly sensitive about other relationships – these feelings may or may not be expressed.
  • When alone too much, people experience a decrease in mental ability – it’s harder to think straight when you don’t have others in your life to talk it out with or to get feedback from.

Do you realize what you’re getting/giving when in the company of others?

We all need connections so that we can experience plain old companionship – even if it’s a silent drive together each Sunday morning to church. Just having a presence near is probably the most taken-for-granted dimension of our relationships. Physical nearness is an important expression of care and love. Going to the hospital and sitting with family in the waiting room really is a big deal. Don’t let anyone or even your own awkward feeling stop you from just going and sitting.

People need to get regular feedback from trusted people in their lives – we need to know what we are thinking by speaking it aloud and watching it get worked out through interaction with a trusted other. There’s also the feedback about the tie you’ve chosen or if you look fat in that sweater. Trust is an essential tie that binds us all.

“To be trusted is a greater compliment than being loved.” ― George MacDonald

There are all kinds of adventures and experiences of life that need to be shared in order to be fully realized. Touring the museum is fun, but only half as much without someone to share your thoughts, questions, and small talk. You won’t remember that view from the mountain as breathtaking as it was unless you were there holding another hand. Our brains need a social connection to be fully operational.

Don’t take for granted the plain old information that you gain from other people in your life. Mundane, trivial, answers to Jeopardy  – this type of information buzzes between people all the time. Then, there’s the important knowledge that gets shared between friends. Where did you find that deal on a new car? When we are with others we can’t help but be learning, albeit informally.

3,956 Two Friends Talking Serious Stock Photos, Pictures & Royalty-Free Images - iStock

“The beginning of love is the will to let those we love be perfectly themselves, the resolution not to twist them to fit our own image. If in loving them we do not love what they are, but only their potential likeness to ourselves, then we do not love them: we only love the reflection of ourselves we find in them” ― Thomas Merton

Do something about it tomorrow…

It Really Isn’t Good To Be Alone

In our new national war on the plague, social distancing is one of our chief defensive weapons. This means we are holed up in our homes with immediate family. We are with fewer daily social contacts than we are used to, and some of us are now spending much more time alone than ever before.

“There may be a great fire in our soul, yet no one ever comes to warm himself at it, and the passers-by see only a wisp of smoke through the chimney.”  – Vincent van Gogh

Before this plague arrived I began to notice some of the effects of newly being alone in my own life. I was (and am) forgetting things and having trouble juggling normal daily routines. Here’s what I decided was probably the cause:

  1. I no longer have anyone at home with me to rehearse and review my daily schedule. This taken-for-granted activity has tremendous effects when it comes to reinforcing memory and solidifying routines.
  2. There’s also an important effect that life-long partnership produces, a running feedback on one’s activity and thinking. Sometimes this takes the form of a long and often repeated speech made at the wrong time. I was always good at this. Other times it’s just a smirk or a roll of the eyes. Last week I discovered how important this facet of living was when I assembled a double sized bed frame for a single sized mattress, both sitting in the same room. In the past, that day long project would never have gotten off the ground, argument included.

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good for the man to live alone. I will make a suitable companion to help him.”  – Genesis 2:18

I think this means that we are not designed to live like hermits. Social distancing is just for emergencies. Selfishness is what often drives people away from each other (without realizing it at first). Sure, friendship and deeper relationships always come with a cost, but in the long run the payoff is well worth it.

Being alone too long can produce a wide variety of physical, emotional and social ailments:

  • Brain fog
  • Depression
  • Poor Digestion
  • Muscle Tension
  • Weakened Immune System
  • Disordered Sleep
  • Social Awkwardness/Panic
  • Mood Swings

Many of these problems we don’t see coming, instead being alone becomes a cause of other symptoms. It can take longer to piece together the causal chain and then even longer to find solutions.

“It is more fun to talk with someone who doesn’t use long, difficult words but rather short, easy words like “What about lunch?” ― A. A. Milne (Winnie the Pooh)

In my case, I’ve got to institute some new routines to replace the review and rehearsing that I did each day without even realizing it. Becoming more intentional about daily life can produce a host of beneficial results. It’s a habit we all need to develop. Think about why you do WHAT you do and why you’ve got THAT on your calendar.

“Life is an experimental journey undertaken involuntarily. It is a journey of the spirit through the material world and, since it is the spirit that travels, it is the spirit that is experienced. That is why there exist contemplative souls who have lived more intensely, more widely, more tumultuously than others who have lived their lives purely externally.” ― Fernando Pessoa

  1. Start the day with a rehearsal of the big events – talk it over in the car ride to work
  2. End the day with a review of what worked and what didn’t – you should be keeping a journal
  3. Post-it notes are still a great idea – but after two weeks you no longer see them
  4. Talk with someone about something in your day each day – even a text message
  5. Try to check in on others – set a goal to do this each week

“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration. ” ― Pearl S. Buck