We're in a precarious position, you and I. Our lives are volatile, not unlike anyone else; but there are certain ebbs and flows to this life that constantly keep us on our toes. Just when we settle into our sense of normal, there's a quick pivot and we're looking at a new challenge.
With all that change often comes periods of loneliness.
I'm not sure that there's a military spouse who hasn't ever felt completely isolated -- even while they're right smack in the middle of a community who lives the same exact lifestyle.
Loneliness can creep and envelope you, especially when you're in a new town. Heck, you can be lonely even when you're in the same town where you've lived for years. Your spouse may be gone, and your friends are busy and your kids are ... well, kids. It can be hard.
Those times, when it's hard and you're feeling your worst, is the perfect time to ask yourself a big question. What exactly are you going to do about it?
You have a choice: remain lonely or change your situation.
Several years ago, my daughter hopped in the car after school. She was in third grade at the time, and as I asked how her day went, she told me about an issue she was having at lunch. She was upset because no one talked to her. She had friends, and she sat with them, but in all the conversations going on around her, no one really directed questions or seem interested in her.
Like any tiger of a mom, I was upset that my child was upset. I wanted to fix it. However, I recognized right away that the only person who could change that was her. So, I asked questions.
"When these conversations are happening around you, how do you join in?" I asked her.
"I don't," she answered.
"OK, well, what kind of body language are you using?" I responded.
"What do you mean?" she asked.
I answered, "Are you open or closed? What are you doing while they're talking?"
"I just read my book," she told me.
Ding! Ding! Ding! My child was lonely because she silently was communicating that she wanted to be alone by reading her book. Sure, the book was a defense mechanism, something she brought in case she didn't have anyone to talk to. What she didn't realize was that she had the ability to initiate conversations. On the rest of our 35-minute car ride, I taught her some ice-breaker questions and we practiced. Six years later, she's never had an issue at lunch or making friends in general.
As adults, much like my then-8-year-old, we tend to place the responsibility of cultivating relationships on other people. While it's always nice to be greeted, brought into a circle and warmly welcomed (it's the southern gal in me that wishes everyone was like this), the truth is it's hard to approach someone -- let alone someone who seems closed off.
There are many factors in life that can prevent you from wanting to take a step into what's uncomfortable -- anxiety, fear of rejection or the plain truth that some people are just mean. We just have to accept the fact that if we make the choice always to stay comfortable, wait for someone to invite us out or initiate talking, that could mean that we are likely to be -- and stay -- lonely.
We're all going to be lonely at some point; it's inevitable with our transient community. Recognize that and call it what it is. Then, figure out what's next. Are you going to go to that FRG (Family Readiness Group) meeting? Volunteer with an organization? Invite a neighbor over for coffee? Call that friend that you've been putting off?
It's not anyone else's responsibility to ensure that we lead a fulfilled life. Not your children, not your (potential) friends ... not even your spouse. Putting yourself out there means there's a possibility that you may get your feelings hurt. But there's a greater chance that you may move out of that cycle of loneliness much quicker -- and that's worth the risk.
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