I live in a subdivision on the outskirts of San Antonio.
Up the road & down aways, is the elementary school where 3 of my kids attend.
It’s only about 1/2 mile away.
The walk there is all sidewalk & once we get out of our subdivision, the road is surrounded by trees & wildflowers. Not the pine trees of the Pacific Northwest, or oaks of the Wasatch Front, of which I’m accustomed, but shorter, more sprawling, bush-like trees & shrubs.
I do the walk twice a day–to take Amalia, my four year old, to preschool at 7:30 each morning, then again to pick her up at 10:30.
I push a double stroller. The girls look at books & I listen to podcasts. It’s a time for me to exercise, to get fresh air, to listen to something entertaining/informative/interesting.
Salem likes getting out of the stroller & runs along side me, or in front, & often doddles along the way.
She picks wildflowers, throws rocks, picks up sticks.
For example, when I dropped Amalia off at school today, I stood in the school lobby, & waved goodbye to Mali, her Dora backpack strapped to her shoulders. A woman startled me.
“I have just got to commend you!”
Commend me, I thought. For what? I was eagerly anticipating what she had to say next.
“I can’t believe you walk your kids to school. & every day!”
She went on to explain that though she lived in the neighborhood, & her twins attend the school, she “could never imagine walking every day.”
I was a bit flattered, but not surprised.
Over the months since we’ve lived here, I’m sure everyone who takes their kids to school knows who I am–that crazy lady who walks.
Yesterday, a tattooed man in a truck pulled over to tell me I shouldn’t let Salem walk because he “had killed two rattlesnakes in that area” & I needed to “watch out.” That wasn’t the first time I was advised against walking because of the “wildlife.”
Let me remind you, I’m walking on a paved sidewalk. Not venturing through brush & uncharted dense foliage.
Last week I went to a baby shower of a friend, & all those in attendance were Air Force wives. More than half of those women, will be moving this summer. When I thought about that, & the fact that the reality of military life is a semi-transient one, I was saddened.
Loneliness is something that most people deal with, one way or another, no matter their occupation, age, or marital status. But I think it can be particularly acute for those of us with small children & who stay at home. Double that when you’re a part of profession that requires you to move around a lot & typically live away from any extended family.
Extra efforts must be made to not allow loneliness to get the best of us.
One day, I was down about the fact that it’s just hard to get out & get together with other women. And when I do, we’re often so busy taking care of our own kids that it’s a challenge (if not downright impossible) to have a steady, uninterrupted conversation.
The more I thought about it, though, I began to realize that I was thinking about social interaction all wrong.
I was compartmentalizing, telling myself that I was having little or no social interaction each day because I wasn’t getting what I thought I needed–uninterrupted time, chatting with girlfriends, going to lunch, getting manicures.
(You know, the stuff of single women, or women without kids, or women with nannies. I fit none of these descriptions.)
The reality is, I’m interacting all day long.
With my kids, with Joseph, with nature, with books, with neighbors & even the people at the library or store. I don’t have to limit my interaction to fit a narrow view of what it means to participate in the greater world.
Further, I’ve realized that loneliness is in large part a result of feeling isolated.
There are a few things I do on a regular basis to ease the feelings of isolation.
Aside from my daily walks, which are such a key ritual to staying connected, I:
1) Try to begin my day with a spiritual practice–scripture study, prayer, mediation. Some days it’s nothing more than a prayer, but I have to have at least a moment or two to connect to a higher power & reflect on my faith.
2) This is followed by some sort of exercise.
Yoga is always a good choice for me, because not only do I enjoy the physical aspects, but I get a mental/emotional release from it too. I don’t usually have time for more than 20 or 30 minutes, but even 5 or 10 minutes of breathing or stretching is an amazing way to start my day. Now that our community pool is open & the weather is conducive, I’ll swim laps for 20 or 30 minutes while Joseph is still at home. Then Joseph & I get the kids ready for school (breakfast, dressed, lunches), the boys get on the bus, I get the girls ready for the day, then I walk Mali to preschool.
3) I try to really interact with my kids.
To be present & aware when I’m talking with them. I ask them questions & try to listen to what they have to say. I love laughing with them & catching on to their nuances & subtle facial expressions. Kids are funny, but sometimes I think I don’t pay enough attention to realize the unintentional (& sometimes intentional) hilarity of what they say & do.
4) I call Joseph.
Joseph is very busy throughout the day, so often I can’t talk to him when I want. But it is an unusual day indeed if we go without talking to each other for a few minutes at a time, a few times during the day. We just check in with each other, I’ll tell him what I’m up to, & mostly he listens. I really look forward to our brief, but satisfying conversations.
5) I listen to podcasts.
Some of my favorite are Planet Money, The Moth, Fresh Air, Freakonomics, Coleen Patrick-Goudreau’s Food for Thought, & This American Life. I also listen to the archives of BYU speeches & LDS general conferences. I love how I can fold laundry, do the dishes, or make dinner & at the same time learn from insightful & intelligent people. It totally helps me not feel so alone.
Reading, for me, is one of the best ways not to feel alone. I especially love memoirs or non-fiction, as I feel like the author & I are sitting down for a one-on-one, intimate conversation.
I try to call someone in my extended family or a friend from church at least once a day. Just talking & connecting with someone over the phone for a few minutes is a great way to feel better about life.
I’m horrible with play dates. They kinda stress me out. So instead, we often invite friends over for dinner or we meet at a park. I try to do this once a week, but realistically, it happens more like a few times a month.
For me, there is no greater pick-me-up than going to a bustling place filled with people, books, & ideas. And it’s free! We go at least once a week.
What’s your list–what do you do to beat the lonely blues?