How to soothe loneliness

Where does loneliness show up in your life?

I assume you experienced it—I’ve not met anyone who does not encounter it from time to time.

Do you feel it:

  • At night when it’s time for bed (but munching on cookies seems like a better idea)?
  • Waking in the middle of the night with your partner snoozing?
  • When the kids leave for school?
  • Being around other people but feeling lonely on the inside?
  • When you keep looking at your phone in hopes of feeling connected but still end up unfilled?

Lonely with family
I thought a lot about loneliness during my family reunion this month. As I sat under a beach umbrella, my kids hung out reading or skimboarding with their partners. My mom-self was happy—it’s a gift when your children find loving relationships.

As a person, though… I felt left out, lonely, and disoriented.

I resented that loneliness. It was interrupting a beautiful setting with inner pokes and irritation. I knew even a special someone wouldn’t make the feeling go away.

Constantly reflecting on how others interacted with me was a deep dead end. It was time for a different view.

The first step was pretending I was alone, rather than hoping for a random hello or check in.

Loving the waves wasn’t enough

I walked into the waves, relishing being at the edge of the land and sea. My love of the ocean lifted me momentarily, but it also felt abstract, hard to hold onto.

A deeper level opened when I remembered the book I’m reading, Braiding Sweetgrass. The author, Robin Wall Kimmerer, says that restoring our relationship to the earth is deeper than loving her (or ki, as Kimmerer mentions). That one-way love keeps us outside, unless it’s reciprocal.

It seems arrogant to think the earth loves us back, but as we connect to the earth, we recognize that we’re a part of it. For instance, we help blueberry bushes fruit by putting them near orange poppies to attract bees.

I imagined the ocean loving me. As the water broke on my knees, my feet sank into the sand, the current pushed me towards the land or the sea, I imagined—I felt the ocean’s love.

My critical voice jumped in, “That’s stooopit, woo-woo hippie dreams, why would the ocean love me?”

The love I speak of isn’t personal love. It’s about belonging. The sense of being touched with love by the ocean released my emptiness and opened my heart.

Returning home, remembering love
When I returned home, the single-life loneliness reemerged. I miss the ocean. I miss having a partner. I miss having someone ask

 me how I am everyday. I automatically tried (let’s be honest, keep trying) to soothe them with compulsive behaviors.

Sometimes, though, I’d remember the belonging sense of waves on my legs. I translated that into feeling love in the breeze on my arms as I walked or cycled.

And I can access the other layer of being loved, from the breeze, from the redwood tree in my yard, from gravity under my tush, from my heart opening to gratitude.

“Knowing that you love the earth changes you, activates you to defend and protect and celebrate.

“But when you feel that the earth loves you in return, that feeling transforms the relationship from a one-way street into a sacred bond.”

~ Robin Wall Kimmerer

Let the earth love you, and let me know how it goes.

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