I went to visit my best friend this past week. I looked at my work schedule and there were no shifts. I could have gone to work at my second job but if I’m being honest, I needed a break from work period. It had been a lot of really late nights, one after another. A week off was a welcomed and needed change.
My first thought however was not to visit with anyone actually. My first thought was how wonderful it will be to have a week to myself. But I knew deep down that that wasn’t the right choice to make. This past year I have, for the most part, kept to myself. My job keeps me pretty isolated as it is, working constant nights while everyone else I know works days. Doesn’t really lend me much time for being social. I needed to reconnect with people again. Specifically the people that I care about and that I know care about me. So I packed up my little suitcase and drove a few hours west to stay with my friend and her family. I ended up staying 3 nights and 4 days. And it was splendid. I was so glad I went. I also got to reconnect with another friend while I was there and I had forgotten how much I missed the people in my life. We laughed so hard, had deep, meaningful conversations. Essentially we’ve been each others therapists for the past 17 years but it was even better to get to do that in person! I forgot what it was like to be around people that accept you for who you are and still graciously love you. I had forgotten how much we need vibrant, human connection and relationships.
With everything that has happened this past year, I hadn’t really been in the mood to socialize if I’m honest. That, plus being on my own for so long, I have become extremely comfortable with solitude. Which at first seems wonderful but if embraced over long periods of time starts to make us quite ill, both spiritually and emotionally. We were created to be in relationship but sometimes, through bad experiences, doing life alone can seem like the more attractive option.
I read a quote that sums up this point quite well:
“Solitude is very dangerous. It’s very addictive. It becomes a habit after you realize how peaceful and calm it is.”
I used to be quite a social butterfly. Years ago. Growing up I had a lot of friends. Some of which I am still very close with today. I was always going to someones house to hang out. Always calling people up to go outside and play etc. This continued up through high school and even bible college. I remember always being with friends. Always wanting to be out of the house. Always trying to find things to do with the people in my social circle.
What changed? Once I got married and moved to a new city where I didn’t know anyone other than his family and friends. On top of that I was at home all day with 2 young children and no drivers license so I also didn’t have the freedom to really go where I wanted at any given time. Once I became single again, it was still the same thing. No vehicle of my own (couldn’t afford one) and no friends or family for company or support. It was very isolating. It stayed that way for nearly a decade until I finally made the decision to move back home so that i could have my family close by again for support. Ten years of solitude and relative isolation had turned this once social butterfly into someone who rarely went out at all. Someone who winced at the idea of having to put on pants anytime someone would invite me out anywhere.
Poor relationships/experiences can also make us want to crawl back into our shell. Even after I was single or even moving back home, I’ve had my share of not so great experiences with friendships or relationships that would have me swear off the entire human species all together. It can seem like the easier choice rather than to try again.
Everyone is different I suppose in how they react from negative relationships. For me, I “turtle”; meaning, I retreat back into my shell. It’s safer in there. Not to mention warm and cozy and filled with all the comforts of life without the headache and interference from the outside world. And I’ve grown to quite enjoy it. That is, until recently.
When the boys were still with me my isolation was balanced by the fact that I was still a full time single mom and I had my boys to keep me company. We had a great relationship and I was okay with that. Since the boys have been gone this past year the isolation has become a lot louder and more clear leaving me now officially alone. At first I needed that space to process something that was very hurtful. To mope and lick my wounds, so to speak. In the process of that however I’ve completely made myself an island, population: me.
Visiting with my friends this past week has made me realize that this whole isolation business has been apart of my past for so long that it’s become “the norm” but it isn’t what I want for myself in the future. Relationships are messy and people are fickle and sometimes downright mean. That shell can become more and more attractive the longer we live. But while we think we’re keeping all the “bad” stuff out, we’re also keeping all the good stuff from being able to get in.
So, how do we go from a lonely turtle on an isolated island back to being our fabulous social butterfly selves? One step at a time. Here are some tips:
~ if all you can do at first is take a very small step, simply get in the great outdoors. Go for a walk. Get out in nature. For example I love hiking and I love driving out to the country. As soon as I’m out in the country my stress and blood pressure level goes down immediately. And I always feel better. And at least you’ve left the house.
~ See if there is something happening in your community that interests you and then go check it out! This could be anything from a concert, any live theatre or show, a festival, a new restaurant, an art gallery or even a new movie that’s out in theatre. I’ve personally done every single one of these things both alone and with another person. If you have friends that you can call up, that’s great! If not, do yourself a favour and go anyway! Another great way to get out there and socialize and do something you enjoy at the same time. If you’ve never gone out of the house alone, it might seem ridiculous at first and perhaps awkward, but it beats sitting in the house by yourself all the time and you just might meet some great people or even create opportunities for yourself. Networking is key!
~ Say YES! When you’ve been isolated for so long and someone asks you to do something, your first response is usually to try and find an excuse not to go. But, try to push your way past your comfort zone. If you think that what they’re inviting you to is something that could be a positive leap forward in any capacity then just say yes! #1: They could have asked anyone but they picked you so there must be a reason. #2: It could be the start of something amazing and new, whether it’s personally or career wise. You never know if you don’t go. #3: It could be something that simply leaves you inspired, perhaps even to the point where you start rethinking things in your life. Perhaps it’s the very thing that propels you forward.
We were never meant to crawl along on our bellies, retreating at the first sign of life. We were meant to break free, dust ourselves off and fly.