When I was married, my Sundays always were the same. We would go to church, then afterwards go to the diner for a big brunch, or we would cook up a big meal and invite friends over. No matter what we did, Sunday was always my favorite day of the week.
After I was separated, however, I dreaded Sundays. Because that was the day I gave the kids to my ex because we shared custody.
Once they left my home, and I closed the door behind them, my small and cozy home felt suddenly huge. Still hearing Sponge Bob blaring from the TV, I would stand in my living room and stare at my children’s unfinished milk and their half-eaten toast, wondering how they could be there one minute, and not there the next. It was like a tornado that swept in, and leaving me there alone to pick up the pieces, every single Sunday.
And so after putting toys away and cleaning up crumbs from the week, I would sit on my couch, wondering how to fill my day. Some days I had filled up with lunch dates or meeting up with friends, but at that time I didn’t have too many friends, so I had to get creative.
Battling loneliness is a two-part struggle. First, you must deal with your physical space and time. When you are used to your former spouse and/or kids mostly occupying your space, having them gone presents a new form of emptiness. The space around you feels enormous and uncomfortable. When you once barely had time to use the restroom without getting disturbed, now you have a whole 12 hours of your day completely open and unplanned. Your own home may feel weird, and you may avoid it just so the evil ogre of loneliness doesn’t pay a visit.
But when it does, you must battle the mind games so that they don’t consume you. You have a constant conversation with yourself and in your head that may go like this:
I am totally fine. Being alone is good. I’m not lonely, I am alone. Maybe I will clean out my closets. My basement could use some organizing. Okay good, I’ve got a plan.
Five hours later, after your closet is clean and your basement looks like a showroom in Ikea…
Maybe I should call Jen to see if she wants to have dinner. Oh wait, she can’t, she has her kids to deal with. Maybe I should see a movie. No wait, that’s totally depressing. I’ll make some calls and see what everyone is up to.
Fifteen minutes later, after no one answers their phone…
Shit. Oh my God. This is really happening. This is my life now. I am really, really alone. Like so alone, that if I were to die right here on my couch, no one will even notice until maybe tomorrow.
And then, this is where it gets REALLY dangerous…
Why did my relationship end? Was it really worth it? It wasn’t all that bad, was it? This feels WAY worse than any cheating, abuse, yelling, or arguments we had.. maybe I should have stuck it out.
So perhaps you start texting your ex, apologizing, or strolling down memory lane because you were reminded of something that you saw on TV.
No, no, no – don’t do it. Don’t even go there.
Here’s the thing about loneliness – it is only evil if you allow it to be.
That personified ogre of loneliness – that ghost lurking in the dark waiting to “get” me – that horrible being was actually ME. It was my own thoughts of despair, my lack of self-confidence, and my inability to love myself. It was saying to me:
You can’t do this thing alone. You have failed yourself and your children. You F’d up, Lindsey, now you’re paying for your mistakes. Without your ex, you are nobody – and you never have been.
Once I consciously became aware that it was my own self-loathing causing loneliness, I vowed to keep a journal that only spoke the opposite of those negative thoughts. The written word is far more powerful than the thought itself – so writing positive statements combatted the negative thought. Here’s an example:
Look at you, doing this all by yourself. You are paying your bills, caring for the children, and working a full-time job. Your alone time is allowing yourself to heal – enjoy the silence and solitude. No wound can heal without it resting and being safe.
I want you to think of your home as a cozy womb. And within that womb is you, but you just aren’t ready to be reborn yet. It is allowing you to heal, lick your wounds, and be safe from the outside world. If you injure your foot, you don’t go outside and run, do you? No, you wrap it, keep it safe, so that you can run, just like you used to.
And that’s where you are right now. All wrapped up, warm, and cozy – free from harm right now. It isn’t loneliness – no, it’s far from that. It’s actually a miracle happening. Just like when you cut your leg, all of these cells miraculously come together and form a scab. Then it turns into a scar. Then you hardly notice it at all.
So let this miracle do its magic. Fighting it is just like picking at a scab, delaying your healing.
I remember the time I called my dad, hysterically in tears, having a total meltdown about how alone I was. He said to me, “Lindsey, enjoy it. Because one day you’ll be married again, and you’re going to have someone snoring next to you, driving you nuts.”
So I took his advice. And I enjoyed four years of blissful, snoreless nights.
Now I have a bulk supply of Breath-Right Nasal strips, and have to negotiate who’s going to sleep on the couch.
Let your miracle do its thing, lovely … you’ve got this.