I know these days so many of us are spending more time at home, more time alone.
For introverts or wounded hearts not having to turn down invitations can seem like a gift.
But it’s easy to slide from solitude (healthy, restorative alone time) into isolation (unhealthy, depleting separation). So I ask myself a few questions to help sort it out.
If you are feeling increasingly alone and forgotten, full of despair and abandoned, you might want to use this checklist too.
Even in this era of social (physical) distancing a heart can and absolutely should seek out community.
It’s what we were made for.
I’ve always loved my alone time.
As an introvert (who can, if pressed pretend not to be!) my energy is restored when I interact with one or two folks or no one at all. A dream afternoon is writing while listening to nothing louder than the wind chimes outside my door.
I treasure solitude.
Since Dominic ran ahead to Heaven, I find I need even more alone time than before.
That quiet place is where I do my most effective grief work, undisturbed by interruptions and distractions.
But I need to be careful that solitude doesn’t shift into isolation.
For some of us, along with societal angst, fear, illness and loss (of income, dreams, opportunities), we are heavy laden with grief.
That makes everything harder when it’s most certainly already hard enough.
So while there may be fewer gatherings, parties, school activities and community events due to Covid19 you are probably already feeling some pressure to show up and be part of something, somewhere.
I want to take a minute to think about how important it is to make and maintain space for grief during this busy season.
You have to do it.
I know, I know-where to fit it in between all the other responsibilities!
If you don’t, though, the grief will out itself one way or another.
So may I offer the following practical suggestions for this upcoming holiday season?
Start each day (whenever possible) with a few minutes of alone time. Let those moments be the buffer between you and the day ahead. Don’t allow your mind to wander to your “to do” list. Sit. Sip the hot beverage of your choice and let silence soothe your soul.
Don’t overschedule your days (or nights!). Exercise the option of saying, “no” to things that are not really important or necessary. Just because you have done it every other year doesn’t obligate you to do it this year. Exhaustion always magnifies despair.
Try to balance busy days with not so busy days. The surest path to meltdown is traveling in the fast lane.
Let other people take on responsibilities-especially if they offer- and even if they don’t. Asking for help when you need it is a sign of maturity, not a sign of weakness.
Keep a pad and pen on your nightstand and jot down any random thoughts that you don’t want to forget before bedtime. There is no sense worrying about something you can’t address until morning and writing it down means you won’t forget it.
Make use of online everything. Have gifts sent directly to recipients. Order groceries for pick up. There are many ways to make life less hectic and more enjoyable. If you don’t know what’s available in your area, ask friends and family.
Plan for at least one recovery day for every large gathering/party/meal you have to attend. Some of us need two.
Don’t sweat the small stuff. If you are used to having matching everything, perfect centerpieces and gourmet meals it may be hard to lower your standards. But if there is one thing I have learned since Dominic ran ahead to heaven, it’s that the companionship of those we love trumps anything else. People rarely remember how you set your table but they will remember who sat around your table.
And if your heart is too tender to do anything but hold on and hope this month passes quickly, then do that. You don’t have to live up to anyone else’s expectations. Sometimes that’t the best we can do and that is OK.
I’m sure retirement is an adjustment for everyone. One or both partners ending long-time work and coming home to unlimited hours of schedule-less days is HUGE.
For my husband and me it’s been perhaps even a bit more tricky.
The past eight years he’s worked out of town-WAY out of town-2000 miles from our little redneck hermit home in the woods of Alabama. So when he hauled his accumulated stuff across six states and showed up at the door it felt a little bit like an invasion.
I know, I know, my traditional friends are cringing that this Jesus-loving, (mostly!) submissive wife would say that aloud.
But let’s be honest.
I’ve been a stay-at-home wife/mother/educator for thirty-six years. These walls are my castle (such as it is) and this land is my kingdom. I’ve had to learn to do lots of things on my own because I was (pretty much) on my own. I couldn’t call hubby to come home and fix the drainpipe or chase off a fox or dog threatening the livestock.
Of course, our youngest son has always made himself available (since he lives close) but I try not to burden him too much with anything less than a true emergency.
Do the math.
Thirty-six years of marriage divided by eight years away. Yep. Nearly a full quarter of our years have been spent largely apart.
So there’s a little adjusting to do.
We’ve had some out and out fights (not going to sugar coat it ) but we’ve also had some beautiful moments when we look at one another and recognize afresh what drew us together in the first place.
Laughter has ALWAYS been the glue in our relationship.
And let me just tell you that the combination of aging minds, bodies and an aging house has provided plenty of hilarious moments.
We’ve searched for days looking for important documents only to find them barely hidden under some random sales ad on the kitchen table. We forget why we walk from one room to the next. We repeat the same question to one another at least two or three times a day and depending on how sassy we feel either answer again or question the other’s mental status.
Laughter lubricates life.
It makes otherwise frustrating and fear-inducing moments bearable.
I first shared this post three years ago when our family was in the midst of hard circumstances and we all had frayed nerves.
This year is a different kind of hard because some of the plans we thought were coming together are falling apart. I imagine many folks probably feel the same way with the pandemic forcing changes to longstanding traditions. So I’m sharing again.
You’d think that writing something down would ink it in my brain but I forget too. I need this reminder to take a breath, take a sip of my favorite flavored whatever and savor the beauty of this season.
Here they come round the bend like a pack of dogs chasing that rabbit on a racetrack.
No way to slow them down, no way to step to the side and ward off the relentless message that Thanksgiving and Christmas are coming soon-so, so soon.
Internet ads scream, “You’ve got to buy it NOW! You’re running out of time!”
If you’ve ever been in any kind of counseling or recovery group , you have probably seen or heard this acronym and advice: HALTbefore you speak.
It’s a great reminder that I should take a moment to consider my frame of mind before I blurt out something that might damage a relationship or wound someone else’s heart.
I had never thought about it until recently, but it is also a great reminder to us who grieve that what we interpret solely as grief (which we cannot control) might be compounded greatlyby other things (some of which we can control).
So I am learning to apply the HALT acronym to a grief spiral in my own life.