I need to start this post by re-visiting my last post. This past week I had a session with my therapist and we talked in great length about last weekend when I spent three hours browsing and online shopping instead of completing all the tasks I had planned for the morning. I felt it was necessary for me to take a closer look into why I spent so much time online that day. What was I really searching for? What was I really feeling? So let's rewind a bit and dig a little deeper.
The previous day my husband and kids decided they wanted to take a quick 24 hour trip to Newport, Rhode Island. They planned to take our Boston Whaler fishing boat there, and dock at a Marina that has a hotel where they would get a room for the night, and return on Sunday morning. My family loves Newport and it has been too many years since we have been there. We enjoy the restaurants, the Mansion tours, and the kids love the Arcade across from the wharf. This all sounded like a wonderful plan except...I hate riding in that boat. It’s fine for a local ride or fishing outing, but 2 hours in the ocean? I feared that I would be too nervous, tense and potentially seasick. I was getting so stressed about it that I decided I would not join them on this rendezvous. I certainly had many things to get done anyway, and with everyone out of the house, I could accomplish a lot (so I thought).
But the next day (since they had left early), I woke up to a very, very quiet house. This was nice for about an hour, but then I started to become lonely. I missed them. I didn’t like the feeling of being all alone and I began to imagine being old and wondered if I will be lonely when I’m old. This quietness, this loneliness, brought me back to my childhood. I was lonely as an only child and became even lonelier after my father died. Yes, I had a lonely childhood and I started to fear that I could be lonely again someday. I was feeing lonesome and I was looking for shopping to make me feel better. I could shop for outfits that I would wear out with my friends, or to dinner with my family, or even just to work lunch duty at my youngest child’s school. Those activities would not be lonely.
What else could I have done besides go online to help ease my emotions that day? I could have taken the time to sit with my loneliness for a bit. Acknowledge it, think about it and understand that it is okay to feel lonely. Just because I was alone did not mean I was abandoned. I could have called a good friend or my favorite Aunt, who would always make me smile and who would have told me “you are alone for ONE DAY! Take advantage of the peace and quiet! Make yourself a cup of tea!” As soon as I realized I didn’t really have it in me to deal with the laundry or clean out those drawers, I could have given myself permission to change my plans for the day, then perhaps I wouldn’t have spent three hours avoiding the tasks!
I need to be kind to myself and understand that it’s okay to feel whatever I am feeling. It’s also okay to feel lonely. In fact, loneliness can help to heal us. It gives us a chance to be just with ourselves! An opportunity to focus on what is inside us without all the distractions of our usual busy, interactive days, where we may be more focused on what we need to say or do for others around us….our boss, our kids, our friends and neighbors. Alain de Botton, founder of The School of Life says,
“In these lonely, isolated places, we have an opportunity to meet with bits of ourselves, with which the routines of daily life don’t allow us to commune. We are recovering a sense of who we are, turning over memories and plans, regrets and excitements, without any pressure to be reassuring, purposeful or just so-called normal”
Twenty four hours alone actually went by rather quickly, and I did eventually clean out those drawers and catch up on that laundry before the week was over. Thanks to a friend’s recommendation, I began reading a book called “Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine” by Gail Honeyman. This book is what I reached for all week, every time I felt the urge to go online and shop!
As for today, I am feeling a bit sad because tomorrow my oldest son returns back to college…400 miles away. Then two days later my daughter moves back into her dorm. I still have two sons at home, but decreasing the house traffic by two makes a huge difference. My son can’t wait to get back on campus with his teammates and knowing he is happy makes it easier for me to let go. I don’t usually have much difficulty letting my daughter go, because she is only 70 miles away and I could drive to meet her for lunch or dinner on any given day (not that I've ever done that...but I could!). She’ll text me outfit choices to get my opinion, or a picture of a new pimple that showed up on her face. She’ll call me from the supermarket to ask me which brand of pasta to buy. I’ll send her picture of shoes I’ve bought to get her opinion. When she’s in school, it simply feels like she is in the next room and since she is only an hour and a half away, she comes home for many weekends.
September will arrive and the house will be much quieter now, there will be less random shoes and pool towels scattered around, less laundry to do, and the grocery bill will shrink. Still, there is something comforting when you put your head on your pillow at night, knowing all your kids are under the same roof dreaming, and that I will miss terribly.