Embracing Loneliness in a Pandemic Winter
Photo Credit: Getty/Maria Voronovich
Loneliness means your heart wants to open. What do you want to open it to?
For many of us here in the Northern Hemisphere, the pandemic struck in the springtime, and we found we could see people, from a distance, perhaps with masks on, outside. We could eat on patios and wave from opposite ends of porches.
We still felt the stinging strangeness of isolation despite these measures, even if we’ve had a partner or a family to isolate with. In the colder weather, we lose even this small reprieve from life in the pandemic as we head indoors.
It’s going to feel lonely.
This winter, we are being asked to return to much older winter practices than we are used to. Traditionally, winter was post-harvest time. It’s a time to slow down work on the farm as everything freezes and take the opportunity to bundle up, stay home with our closest people, talk, learn, and tell stories. In many indigenous cultures, this is the time when the elders would gather around the fire to teach the young people about life.
In our modern lives, we can do this with our partners or our families—or, if we live alone, all by ourselves (and thank Goddess for the cat). This may be painful and uncomfortable, but there is a deep value in spending time alone. There is a deep value in feeling lonely.
Loneliness is a powerful emotion, and it should be attended to. When we feel lonely, our systems are telling us that we are missing true connection. Many of us are surprised to find that we can be lonely in the middle of a party or in a relationship with someone who loves us. When we are lonely, we are not feeling seen for who we truly are. We are not feeling understood or met on a level that feeds our soul. When we are busy filling ourselves up with distraction or stimulants that prevent us from feeling our bodies completely, we might miss the deep ache to feel seen and held for who we are that calls out from our bones.
When loneliness calls, we must listen. It wants us to feel truly, deeply connected, not simply surrounded by warm bodies. The good news is, in order to feel connected, we don’t need a lot of people. We don’t need a bar or a crowd. We just need a few people who we can feel really close to—even one person. As human beings, we definitely need community, but we don’t need to be in-person to feel that we are held by a web of people who have our back if we need help.
As we settle into this winter of winters, let’s allow this unprecedented space and time alone to teach us what we really want, what kind of person we really want to be connecting to, and how we want to do that connecting. Loneliness means your heart wants to open. What do you want to open it to?