Lonely Is An Inside Job
My friend, frail and exhausted after months—no years of escalating pain—grief for the loss of her mother; grief for the loss of her physical abilities; grief for the loss of a young, pain-free body; grief for not being able to do things with her husband they once loved and shared; and grief for conversations made frustrating and difficult because her hearing-impaired husband refuses to be fitted with a hearing aid.
“I’m lonely,” she says.
I hear myself respond, “Lonely is an inside job.” Write it down, I tell myself, and I do.
Long before that day, I was in my twenties, living alone and feeling as though nobody in the world loved me. I was alone and I was lonely. With no one to talk to but myself, I had time to ponder loneliness.
There’s a difference between being alone and being lonely. When you are alone, you are by yourself, the sole person in a room. When you are lonely, it is as though even you have left the room and all that remains is your empty body, heart and soul—you’re no longer there to comfort and love yourself.
“I’ve learned through the years the importance of self-soothing,” I say to my friend, thinking offering advice is the same as showing compassion.
“I am self-soothing,” my friend quickly responds. “I’m eating too much.”
“That’s not self-soothing.”
“Yes, that’s what I do to feel better—I eat.”
“I know, but that’s not self-soothing. Self-soothing comes from the inside and has nothing to do with what we eat or don’t eat. Self-soothing is about hanging around with the discomfort until we can make ourselves feel okay within whatever circumstances we must face.”
Self-soothing is an inside job.
What areas of your life are causing you pain? Are you looking outside yourself for an answer? Are you relying on another person to make you feel better or food or alcohol to elevate those feel-good hormones? Do you think you can exercise your way out of your emotions?
Sure, those things will make you feel good for a while, but when another AFGE (Another F’n Growth Experience) comes along, you will not have expanded the internal skills to get you through the next challenge. You cannot always rely on food, exercise, or your family and friends. You may be physically debilitated and unable to exercise and/or eat. And sometimes friends stay away. During those times, you can only rely on yourself.
What do you do in those darkest hours to soothe yourself so that you know you will never be alone?