One of the biggest fears in society today is loneliness. We are historically tribal creatures whose ancestry stems from small groups working and co-operating together to survive. As we progress, however, we are losing that sense of co-operation and finding ourselves in living conditions that are far from these tribal beginnings.
For example there are more single women living and existing on their own than ever before, resulting from shifts in attitude of self preservation, increased acceptance of divorce in society, changes in priority of choosing career over families and the change in work opportunities to include working away (Fly in Fly out – FIFO) arrangements.
So this begs the question, without a “tribe” don’t these single women get lonely?
Perhaps they do, perhaps they don’t, perhaps they have developed a balance between loneliness and freedom. As it is likely that we will all be single at some point in our lives, I decided to find out. I asked a number of single women that I admire to share their thoughts on how they live their life and cope with loneliness and here are their answers:
How long have you been on your own?
SM: 6 years; SE: almost 2 years; LB: 25 years plus; DO: Wow hard to believe its 16 years; AR: 2yrs, but 8yrs since being in a serious relationship.
What circumstances resulted in you being on your own?
SM, LB: Divorce
SE: I decided to return to Perth after doing FIFO work with my partner due to family circumstances, my partner stayed on.
DO: My marriage ended for various reasons but initially infidelity. From there it is was more me not having faith in myself or trust in others.
AR: My boyfriend moved interstate to be closer to family which resulted in our relationship ending.
What do you enjoy about being on your own?
SM: I enjoy the freedom it brings. I can totally be myself and do whatever I feel like doing without recourse. I can spend money how and when I like, I can be the person I want to be.
SE: I enjoy that everything is in my time, the house stays the same which then allows more time for me or anything that comes up.
LB: I love having my own space, things are the way I want them and I am in control.
DO: In the beginning I didn’t like been on my own, now I thrive on it. I have no one else to answer to, I make my own choices and decisions based on my family’s requirements not on what anyone else expects.
AR: I enjoy the freedom to make my own decisions on a whim without consultation and the ability to do whatever I feel like without considering what my partner might want to do. And of course cleaning up only after myself and not someone else.
What do you most like to do with your time when you are alone?
SM: I like to read mostly and meditate and relax, I have mastered the ability when I am alone, to ignore that I have lots to do.
SE: I like to relax on the lounge, potter around the house, read a magazine, be in my own space.
LB: I love to take the paper down to a café and read it without interruption, I also spend time thinking, making sure I am working through any life issues that I need to.
DO: I love to do my gardens and make my home tidy. I also like to watch TV it’s so much better to watch on your own no one to interrupt or steal the remote control.
AR: I do all the things I have intended to do all week. I have subscribed to a few blogs and things I am interested in, on the net so spend time working through these. I have a space in my home that is all about me, I like to spend time in it writing in my journal.
What do you not enjoy about being on your own?
SM: In most instances I gain energy from other people and with that energy get lots of things done and can be adventurous. That goes when I am on my own, I often find I am either seeking company or spending a lot of time resting. Seeking company is fine but you can often draw in people that aren’t that good for you. Rest is good too but when you are alone your mind has space to consider all of its insecurities.
SE: I don’t enjoy the sense of feeling lonely and being dependable on people just because I’m lonely. Weekends are the hardest sometimes, during the week it’s about routine, but when the weekend comes I feel lonely, especially on a Sunday night.
LB: I actually really love being on my own, there isn’t much about it that I don’t like. I have been on my own for such a long time, I enjoy the freedom which I did not have while in a relationship, so it suits me. I do get frustrated at times when I have to move heavy things or things around the house need fixing but that is minor.
DO: I miss having someone to love me as me for me and share the financial burdens in life.
AR: It would be nice to have someone to be spontaneous with and to talk about mundane day to day events which you wouldn’t bother bringing up in conversation with friends.
What has been the most difficult hurdle for you to overcome being on your own?
SM: I had to get over the feeling of being unacceptable as I am in and alone again on a Saturday night.
SE: Not feeling scared in my own home, to get use to the noises and that I am not always going to be busy and there will be nights that I am on my own with nothing to do.
LB: I found it a financial burden of being on my own, there is only my wage to rely on, if I get sick it will be a problem. I have, however, invested in insurance to give me more of a sense of security.
DO: Being the 3rd wheel at gatherings or not been invited at all because I’m the odd one out.
AR: Special Days are the hardest when everyone has family events or plans with their partner and I am on my own. I have worked out some strategies though to help with this.
When you feel lonely how do you overcome this feeling?
SM: I work actively on being engaged in a broader space, trying to gain little connections with whoever crosses my path, so get a more community spirit going. For example I engage with the local shop keeper or one of the neighbours passing my house and smile a lot. I try to be as adventurous as possible and within reason say yes. This becomes a benefit to being on my own as it actually leads to some interesting opportunities.
SE: I watch a DVD or play on my phone, which I know is bad….but I am changing that by reading good books.
LB: I have a cup of tea or ring a friend for a chat. I have also spent time thinking about what it is I really like to do, what my interests are and then I make sure I have capacity to do it. I love gardening so I have subscribed to a magazine and when I feel lonely I try something new in the garden.
DO: I call my Mum or my best friend, I tell them straight up that I am feeling a bit lost and lonely. They always make me feel better just talking to someone lifts my spirits.
AR: I look around on the internet for courses or interests that I have and enrol in something to broaden my circle of friends. It can be a little hard going to things on your own for the first time but you soon get over that and it is so wonderful to meet other people with the same or similar interests.
What practical measures would you suggest to a person who has recently found themselves in this situation?
SM: Get connected but try not to be too busy or actively fill up your entire day. It is ok to be and feel lonely, it is not a disease. You could alternatively feel that the extra space you have could be used positively to find out who you are, try new things or be more adventurous than you would be with a partner.
SE: Enjoy it, get used to being in your own company. Read a book, cook a nice meal, go for lovely walks, really try and make the time about you and giving you and your body what it needs (quiet time, nice healthy food).
LB: I would counsel that it is best to accept the situation as quickly as possible, to stay in touch with friends and get to know yourself.
DO: You have do what is right for number 1 – YOU. Strive to rise above petty annoyances and concentrate on what’s most important to you, not what everyone else sees as important. Happy, healthy you, happy, healthy family. I always say keep occupied, find a piece of dirt, dig a garden bed, plant something and watch it grow, it will give you strength to try new things!
AR: Enjoy it, it may not last forever and if and when you do get a partner you will miss that time on your own, I guarantee it.
What character/s have you developed by being on your own that you would not have had to develop by being in a relationship?
SM: Like any minority, Bravery – it is the more difficult road.
SE: To not be dependable on others, to nurture and look after me. Its only been this experience that has opened my eyes up to how busy I was making my life – I am grateful. I also get excited about seeing my partner come home, even though I know when he is home, its excitement rather than routine.
LB: The time I have spent alone has taught me that I am actually an okay person.
DO: I’m a lady “bob the Builder” and proud of it. I have a shed full of tools and I’m sure I would never have been this strong and independent had I been in relationship. I also have no fear of anything when it comes to my child’s safety … I am so much more mindful of what’s going on the world now and how it will affect me …. Before I would just go with the flow – not now I am the flow!
AR: I have learned independence and to be strong in order to cope with situations on my own.