As a young man I learned quickly how to entertain myself. Through books, through bowling, through music, through writing- I may not have been around people at all times of the day, and yet I kept the “I’m bored” or “Nobody likes me” comments to a minimum. Especially after the junior high incident when I realized that throwing around your intelligence does not win you friends and influence people (hails to Dale Carnegie, although I didn’t read that book until 15 years later). However, even though I knew how to keep myself occupied, it didn’t mean I wasn’t lonely.
I admired people who were outgoing, who took risks, who seemingly had no fear in talking to members of the opposite sex, who got invited to all of the great social gatherings- I wanted the sense of belonging and I wanted it to come to me. Unlike my academics, I thought there was some sort of secret formula I could whip up in my room to gain instant attraction and likeability. I learned through the years though, you just have to get out in the game of life and play- that it’s a numbers game much like sales and that you will eventually develop great relationships through working at them.
My youngest daughter thinks it’s silly that we make her participate not only in therapy for her own personal behavior struggles in living with a family, but also that she participates in a social skills group at school. She believes that all they talk about are issues that don’t concern her- and why they don’t talk about family issues where she struggles the most? That’s her way of thinking- very black and white with little grey area for interpretation. Then she wonders why her older sister has better relationships with children, more friends, gets invited more to other people’s social gatherings- and hates being alone.
No matter how much we work with her about possible solutions and/or steps she can take to rectify the loneliness issue, she still lives in the world of ” it’s everyone else’s fault I don’t have friends, not me.” She’ll leave a pool area and make an obvious point of it because she believes other people are talking about her- even if they are 200 feet away and aren’t even directly looking at her. When uncomfortable with a conversation she’ll blurt out a hurtful word or phrase, and wonders why people don’t want to continue with the conversation.
I know adoption can be a lonely, scary feeling. I’m not adopted, yet I can feel for these children who long to have some sense of belonging in this world. They feel like they’ve had to be on their own for so long, so why trust another caregiver when I’ve been disappointed in the past. We keep waiting for that breakthrough moment with our youngest, when she realizes that the world could be hers for the taking if she doesn’t think that everyone is out to get her.
So when you know someone is going through a period of loneliness, don’t be afraid to give them your ear, give them a few minutes of your time, step outside of yourself and be the rock that they need to feel like they aren’t alone. It’s ok to stop what you’re doing if the benefit is a friend or family member getting back on the right path of life. Sometimes the right song, the right book, the right activity can turn their mood upside down and they’ll thank you for it in the long run.
There are times that it’s ok to reflect and be within yourself. Remember though that a healthy heart and mind thrive around the company of others.