I was out for the day with my besties yesterday. Love that. Just a day of girlfriends, shopping, eating, and laughing.
One of my girls mentioned she was at a conference recently where this question was posed: What is the number one disease afflicting the world today? My first thought was heart disease. NO. My second guess was mental illness? NO, but closer.
Turns out, the number one disease afflicting a great majority of the world we live in is loneliness.
When you think about it, it kinda rings true. Because I’m so egocentric(!LOL) I immediately thought about my life as it stands now as a full-time writer.
Here’s a quick snapshot of my routine day for clarification. I get up anywhere from 3am-4am due to this chronic insomnia I have. Hubman is still asleep so I either write a little or watch a little OnDemand Real Housewives episodes that I’ve missed. Get him up for work a few hours later. He leaves and most days is gone for between 12 and 13 hours. I do one of two things: go to the gym first or just start writing.
If I don’t go to the gym there are days when I will not speak to or interact with another human being until my husband returns home. That’s approximately half my waking day without human interaction. Without speaking to someone, hearing their voice, engaging them in dialogue. More than half. One of the reasons I joined a gym was so that I had a reason to get out of the house and be around people for a few hours a day and not just sit at home, typing, and being alone for hours upon end. Believe me, if I didn’t consciously go out of the house, I could sosososo be a hermit and never see or hear another person. Not good for someone like me who makes their bread and butter creating relationships between people. I need to see people, hear them, watch them, and talk to them so that my characters feel and sound real to readers.
Well, you troll on Facebook and Pinterest and Twitter you’ll say. That’s social interaction. Yes, to a point. But nothing can replace looking into someone’s face when you are speaking with them, drawing them in with your expressions, your spoken voice, looking directly into their eyes so that you actually connect with them. Nothing. You don’t get that from hitting a “like” on facebook, or “Re-Tweeting” something on twitter. You just don’t.
Again, you will say, but Skype and Facetime, and other mechanical apps where you can look at the person you are speaking to over the device, face to face, is social interaction. Again, yes, to a point. It’s similar, but just not the same as sitting across from someone in a coffeehouse, being able to hold their hand when they’re sad, or run a comforting caress up their arm; or sharing a meal with someone in a restaurant and actually engaging them, eye to eye, face to face, in a conversation that actually has substance, value. and meaning. Nothing.
To most – if not all – writers, being alone is just part of the job. We need the alone time to settle our thoughts, run them through without interruptions, figure out the next scene in silence. Like I said, being alone is part and parcel of the job.
But loneliness is very different from being alone. Being alone has a purpose. You need quiet to focus, to create, to bring forth coherent thoughts on the page. Being lonely is a result. A negative result of an event, or simply just happenstance of life. A spouse dies and your family lives far away and doesn’t visit. You’ve worked all your life and now retirement comes and you realize you don’t have many friends or family members to spend time with. You’ve gotten divorced, moved, experienced a trauma. Anything and everything can contribute to a state of loneliness.
Humans are social animals. We talk, we laugh, we cry, we touch, we love, we communicate with words and without. We need interaction. We crave the company of another, and when we are isolated or unable to interact with others, severe, depressing, heart-wrenching feelings of loneliness can surface and destroy us.
So, like me, if you are alone a lot, do something that gets you out of the house, even for an hour. Be with people. Go grab a cup of coffee and a bagel. Call up someone you know is sitting at home alone and drag them out with you. Smile. Engage with the world and the wonderful people in it. Don’t give loneliness a chance to develop, grow, and fester.