We all have times when we feel alone. What are ways that you combat loneliness? Pray? Join a group? How can we encourage each other to stay positive? (suggested by Laura P.)
Loneliness is one of the things I hate most about being single.
I’m a fan of the Meyers–Briggs Type Indicator. I’ve taken it twice officially (where the results were reviewed by an actual certified facilitator) in addition to the easier, non-Scantron kind you can find online. I feel the same way about Meyers–Briggs that I do about Erikson’s stages of psychosocial development. Both of those psychological/personality assessments acknowledge that people change over time. Thus, I have been assessed as an introvert and as an extrovert at different points in my life, and although I have lived like a P (perceiving) for a long time, wishing I could live like the J (judging) I wanted to be, I am much happier actually living like a J.
The point of all that is to say that I shift between extroversion and introversion depending on the situation. Sometimes I’m sad because there’s no one to hang out with. Sometimes I’m sad because no one will leave me alone. I genuinely like meeting new people and being in big social groups. Conversely, I dread being in groups that are too big and investing in relationship-building with people I literally never see again. So, sometimes, I don’t feel lonely at all, but other times, I crave companionship.
That’s when I wish I had someone to put me first, and someone I could put first. (After God. God should be the real first.) Am I wrong in thinking that’s what good spouses do?
I get that happily married people can still feel lonely. The “marriage is hard” movement has made that abundantly clear.
And I know that there’s a difference between being lonely and being alone. Everyone needs to be alone sometimes. I spent my second year of grad school with no private space in my home. It was all shared with people I did not choose. The people are great, but that part of the experience was not fun. I treasure my privacy.
There’s a balance, though, and I think it’s innate to our identity as Christians. We’re not made to be alone. God saw that Adam was alone and said that it was not good. We’re made for communion, the best example of which is the Holy Trinity. None of the Persons of the Trinity is complete without the others. Similarly, each permanent vocation (marriage, consecrated religious life, and priesthood) involves giving oneself over to complete communion with one other (one spouse, one community, one bishop). That is among the reasons I don’t think non-consecrated single life is a vocation, and that’s how I justify my unsettled feelings about being single. It’s not good. God said so.
I must say that I am blessed to have great parents. They completely support me, the weird religious one in the family who keeps changing jobs. Before I entered the microcosm of college, I didn’t realize that some people are way closer to their families than I am to mine. My mom calls me occasionally, not to see if I’m still alive, but to remind me that she is. (I totally care, Mom!) My siblings and I are so far apart in age that we don’t have much common ground. I never think, “Oh, I should tell my sister about X.” For a long time, I didn’t realize any of that was unusual. I guess it’s atypical, but I’m good. We’re good.
On the other hand, I have always been able to identify at least one friend who just “gets me.” I usually have more than one. I don’t have to defend my personality or actions to them. I don’t have to hold anything back. They call me to task when I need it. They point out the spaces I’m blinded to. I would be a worse person without them. It’s these friends that give me at least some of the communion my heart longs for. But it’s not enough.
Ultimately, what keeps me going is hope. Hope is a virtue. It’s my favorite virtue. As long as I have hope (even when I get down to the bottom of the pit), I have something. It’s not much, but it’s something.
Do you have any advice for how to stay hopeful?