Looking: For Some Lonely Time
We have arrived at the shortest day of the year, today, which comes with some apprehension for me. The inching down of daylight hours finally stops. But it also means that it’s time to accept winter’s arrival and prepare for some bitter months ahead. Although the festive season and social gatherings this month are a great time to enjoy with family and friends, the dark, dull days of winter can be a lonely experience.
So let me take a moment to stop and reflect on this. Loneliness, introversion, social isolation, solitude...
Although related, the words all mean different things to everyone who experiences them at different times. We know that that loneliness is probably bad for our health. But we also live in a hyper-connected and distractible world. Time for reflection and engaged connection can be missing from our daily lives. With a pressure to connect, network, engage, it can feel like you’re falling behind when you don’t find a sense of community and meaning in your daily work.
Some people enjoy being alone more than others, but it doesn’t mean they are lonely. While some of my friends are horrified by the notion of dining or going to the movies alone, solo dining is on the rise. The Ramen chain Ichiran opened its first location outside of Japan in NYC in October 2016. Also, this New Yorker piece tells the story of an 87-year-old Donald Hall. He recounts his life through the small friendships or lack thereof, finding and then losing love (twice).
This problem of feeling lonely: it is not unique to millennials, our seniors, or North America. Finding meaning and community can be challenging for all of us. It is influenced by how we change our environment and try and adapt to new technology or a new way of living. The story of Shanghai’s seniors who met across shrimp cakes and soft serve on a $3 date in Ikea to find love and combat loneliness tells us that.
This video below went viral a couple years ago and deserves another look. It’s one of these videos I have come back to many times, especially when things feel down.
Take a look and take some time to be alone with your thoughts this week. Take solitude in the fact that we are all figuring this out together.