isolation and living alone

There are only so many times a living-alone-Single-extrovert can hear the words ‘isolation’, ‘social distance’ and ‘cancelled’ before the weight becomes a little too much to carry and it has to leak out of my eyes! Yesterday I had a significant ‘moment’ (think tears, snot, a few little hiccup-y gulps and one or two audible groans!).

Last month I shared a post how long ‘til the realise I’m dead? and it seemed to resonate. Single people commented repeatedly “This is exactly how I feel!” and married responses repeated the sentiment “I’ve never even thought about this before.”

The same people who worry about not being discovered to have died are bound to be experiencing an additional layer of anxiety in the face of these shut downs and measures of separation to responsibly manage the movement of COVID19 and it’s impact on our health care system and to protect our most vulnerable.

CHECK ON THEM!

Social media is being flooded with posts from Introverts saying this is their idea of heaven. From what I understand, the cancellation of social events and being ‘forced’ to stay at home are the stuff their dreams are made of! 🙂 HOWEVER, even the most introverted of introverts could acknowledge that, as much as they love being alone and are personally energised by that time to recharge, there’s also the reality that without the interruption of exchange with others there can be an un-health that shapes their thought life. As much as they can do without social interactions, the circuit breaker of other people’s engagement in their thought processes and internal dialogue is a healthy and necessary thing.

CHECK ON THEM!

As organisations (like mine!) move to working from home (can we just pause for a praise break that we live in such technologically advanced times – so many opportunities to stay working and connected through online platforms!) while this is a fantastic provision – it’s also a socially isolating move. Many living-alone-Singles rely on the accountability and regular interactions of work life and will struggle without it. As churches move to streaming their services, be reminded that it’s not just the sermon or worship our congregations will be missing (in fact, these things have been out-source-able for a long time now) it’s the connection to one another, a sense of engagement in something bigger than themselves, the opportunity to keep regular relational accounts with one another – to give and receive prayer and encouragement.  (My church has set up an online/phone prayer service to facilitate this – what a great initiative!)

CHECK ON THEM!

For those of us living alone who have the love language of physical touch – this experience has another layer of impact. The social distancing protocols don’t apply within your households. You might sleep closer than 1.5m to your spouse. Go ahead and TRY convincing young children not to invade your (or each other’s) personal space – that’s not happening! So, even in a time of physical disconnection you’re experiencing some connection. In my regular life I can go days without physical touch and now, it’s mandated! In my little ‘moment’ yesterday, this was part of my processing … how long do I have to go without any physical connection?

CHECK ON THEM!

I messaged my friends – the ‘her is ours now’ family referenced in this blog being family to those without family – and shared about my little meltdown and said “I decided you could adopt me, then if we need to isolate I’ll isolate with my ‘family’”. The response was, essentially, an affirmation that they thought I already WAS adopted, and that if we get shut in as family-units then my place of shut in is with them! “If ‘Her is ours now’ then ‘her corona is our corona now’ too!”

Of course, we’re prayerful that the measures our country are employing now might avoid a complete lock-down. Things are changing daily as we continue to track the spread and learn what we can from other countries (another praise break – how grateful are we for all the fabulously smart and compassionate people in our medical system?!) and there’s no real point in leaping ahead to worst case scenarios. Being sensible and caring in this moment is our best next step. If I came to know I was infected I would never intentionally expose them to the virus.

But, I can’t tell you the relief that came to me in my emotionally charged episode, to have my friends make it clear that I won’t have to be alone. It was such a circuit breaker for my fear, loneliness, overwhelm and distress. There’s a plan, an option.

CHECK ON YOUR LIVING ALONE FRIENDS.

If only to give them a safe place to process the emotions they might be feeling. Each of us will travel an experience like this differently as it’s shaped by our lifestage, personality, health status and other factors. Let’s do what we can to grow in our understanding and empathy for one another.

3 reasons you should be a mentor

Being a mentor is one of the more privileged, rewarding, and challenging things you can do! If you’re not one, here’s a few reasons I think you should consider it.

Because it’s not all about you! 

Whatever you know, have or experience is not just about or for you. It never is. Everything that you learn in your life, the skills you possess, the talents you develop, the capacity you have is never about you learning, possessing, or developing so much as it is about the IMPACT those acquisitions can have on the world around you.

To be a mentor is to realise that you have something to give. And you do!

Being a mentor is an acknowledgement that the wisdom you’ve acquired over the years is most wisely applied in the developing of other people’s wisdom! Even if you’ve earned it through a series of terrible decisions and catastrophic failures, your wisdom can be of benefit to those who are coming behind you. Even if you don’t think you’re particularly wise, you’re probably wiser than someone … in something … and it is upon us all to see that we don’t just hoard and protect what we know but that we use it in service of others.

Because it has redemptive power.

Your most disastrous mistake. Your most embarrassing failure. Your deepest wounding. Your greatest regret. These can all find a sense of redemption when allowed to be used to protect, prepare or comfort others.

Whether your story becomes one of warning and caution, one of inspiration and conviction or one of empathy and understanding … there will be something for others to glean from it and so it needs to be shared. And although it doesn’t erase the consequences, pain, guilt or regret it ensures that those feelings aren’t wasted. It brings something of purpose and usefulness out of experiences that would otherwise seem so wasteful and hopeless.

Would I rather not have experienced a broken marriage, grief, or failure? Absolutely! But if it’s happened, would I rather see the learning and the sharing bring life, hope, and wisdom to others? You bet!

Because you know it’s hard to ‘go it alone’.

You may never have had a mentor. You may have constantly craved that intentional investment and support or you might not even realised you were missing it. But I think we can all acknowledge that sometimes life is difficult and often times we are left to navigate life on our own.

New parents, young entrepreneurs, students, newly weds, first time home owners, emerging artists, writers and communicators can all feel like they’re stumbling in the dark – trying to work out how to conduct themselves in an industry or lifestage where everyone else seems to know what they’re doing but them. It can be intensely isolating.

You remember that. You can be part of breaking that pattern for those who are coming after you.

So, what do you think? Who could you be mentoring? What environments could you connect into where your wisdom and experience can be beneficially shared? What relationships could you be fostering to bring some of these mentoring outcomes to the fore?

(And just a little something for nothing … the reality is that you ARE leading, modelling and influencing whether you choose to or not. People are watching you and imitating you. A little more intentionality could help ensure that influence is positive and helpful.)

why people at church don’t talk to you


A friend and I have been known to run an experiment. When attending a different church, she leaves me alone in the foyer (to go to the bathroom or something) and we see if anyone will talk to me. It’s damaging to my pride, self-esteem and sense of confidence in my personal hygiene to report that – more often than not – when she returns, I’m standing where she left me feeling forlorn and having had no interactions with others.

As someone who leads in a church and desires that our environments be welcoming and inclusive for all – I run this experiment not just as a test of the church I’m visiting but to remember for myself what it feels like. To experience that awkwardness of trying to posture myself to look open to conversations or interactions without making a fool of myself. And as bad as it feels, I remember that my experiment is only partly accurate because I’m a visitor. Others coming into churches come because they are looking to find Jesus! Some come because they are desperately seeking a place of connection and belonging – of home. While I’m only there for one night. So much more is at stake for them.

Whilst I have received feedback from people who have felt a little ignored or adrift in our church, it’s more likely that those who feel this most poignantly haven’t stayed around to tell anyone – they’ve just left. You may relate to this experience in your own church environment. You look around and others are deeply engrossed in conversations and excited interactions and you wonder why you’re not included.

 

The reason people at church might not talk to you is because they are exactly like you!

They are uncomfortable talking to strangers. As an outgoing, verbal, extrovert I am uncomfortable talking to strangers! Most people are! People don’t talk to you because, just like you, they are unsettled about talking to people they don’t know. How awkward will this be? What if we have nothing in common? What if I inadvertently offend or upset them with what I say? What if they don’t want to talk to me!? EVERYONE is processing these same questions.

They are comforted by their own friends. There’s safety and security in the knowledge of their connection to their group of friends. And in fact, they may well be worried that if they don’t speak to these people no one else will speak to them and so they don’t leave the circle for fear of feeling that isolation. We are all creatures of comfort and security. Stepping away from the known and into the unknown requires a bravery that we don’t always manage to summon.

Someone once said to me “I never realised how cliquey people were until all my friends were away one week and no one spoke to me.” She didn’t even realise the irony of what she was saying. She only noticed that everyone else stuck to their friends when the friends that she stuck to weren’t around.

They wrongly assess their social position. Frequently, the socially insecure assume that everyone else is socially confident. The quiet and shy ones assume that the noisy ones are more bold and self-assured (when, often, it is just the same feelings manifesting in different coping strategies). Those unfamiliar in an environment assume that everyone else is quite familiar. Those who are more connected don’t trust their social connections enough to leave them temporarily to reach out to others.

Ultimately, the human condition is such, that we are all looking for a degree of connectedness and are all at the mercy of one another to find that place of belonging and welcome. New. Old. Loud. Quiet. No one is exempt from contributing to the social dynamic of a community.

*** A common cry. ***

“What if I go up to someone and say – Are you new here? – and they say – No, I’ve been coming for 3 years.

OR what if you start your conversation a different way!?! (Genius, I know!)

“How are you today?” (Revolutionary, but effective.) “Are those your kids? Have you had a busy week? What’s ahead for you this week? How will you be spending your afternoon? Have you done the winter pruning of your fruit trees yet?” (Read – there are lots of other ways to start a question that don’t need you to guess how long they’ve attended your church!)

Or just a simple, “I don’t think I’ve met you before, I’m Kim!” might be enough.

The reason people in MY church don’t talk to you is because people like ME (and you) need to get better at it. We can do this!

 

it’s not just you


I do some really random things. Too many to list, but here’s an example. 

When I’m pouring a drink, filling a pot with water, or even emptying a new bag of rice into the Tupperware I count. “Pouring ..1, 2, 3, 4 … done.” I don’t have a reason for counting. I do nothing with the number I reach, I just count. 

I don’t know why. 

One day I was talking with my Dad and he just happened to mention that he did exactly the same thing!! We were both incredulous! “You too? I was sure I was the only one!”

We proceeded to share all the different places and times we do this and laughed as we tried to work out together why! (No logical conclusion was reached.)

The power of the “you too?” moment is awesome. In funny, random things like this example it creates a fun and friendly link between two people (I often stop mid-counting now to think “ha, Dad would do this too”). In more weighty or life-impacting issues the power of that is exponentially greater. 

The divorcee, the abuse victim, the fired worker, the tired parents of toddlers, the grieving spouse, the carer for an elderly relative, the gender-excluded, the shift worker, the insecure or intimidated, the abandoned child, the heart-broken, the lonely person, the socially excluded, or the financially challenged often experience exacerbated levels of grief or struggle because of the perception that they are the only one feeling or experiencing their particular circumstances. When in reality, there’s unlikely to be many experiences known to humankind that aren’t also encountered by others – sometimes many others …sometimes even most. 

It’s probably not just you. 

The issue with this is that on top of the struggle of whatever it is we’re facing we add an often unnecessary sense of isolation that brings with it an increased emotional cost to process our way through to wellbeing. The language of this looks something like “everyone else is …”, “no one else has to…”, “I’m the only one who …”It’s harder for me because…” or “it’s easier for them because …” Sound familiar?

So what can we do?

  • Share your experience. Not only might you find someone else who can relate but you might be that person to another. The more I share of my own life and my own challenges the more “you too?” connections I make. For example, EVERY time I’ve mentioned my own experience of miscarriage I’ve found a “you too?” person in the group. 
  • Save your emotional energy for the real stuff without adding (most probably untrue) emotional baggage to your journey. When you’re struggling through a challenge or experiencing a difficulty – devote your heart energy to finding a way to cope and thrive. Don’t add the burden of self-imposed aloneness or isolation to the list of things you’re carrying. 
  • Change your language. I am 150% more prone to exaggeration than the average person. 😉 But in emotionally intense situations we are easily drawn to using exaggeration and over-statement to try and garner the depth of sympathy and response our hearts are looking for. “Never”, “always”, “everyone” and “no one” are rarely accurate statements (like, really, have you polled everyone?!). Yeah. Stop that. 
  • Check your self-talk. The things we say out loud are at least able to be challenged by more emotionally sober and objective people. What you say to yourself is incredibly powerful and largely unknown to those around you. Take responsibility for your thought life and the kinds of things you accept about yourself from yourself. 
  • Acknowledge the equation. While each of our circumstances may not be unique in and of themselves, the combination of them in our own lives – plus our personality – plus our life stage – plus our faith – plus our family dynamic – plus our place in the situation (etc etc) -combine to determine its impact on us and our response to it. The “me too” response ought to bring connection not a sense of being dismissed.