Often associated with Julius Caesar (and his untimely demise), the month of March has gotten a bad rap. Sure, it’s cold, it’s gray, it’s damp. But it need not be the death knell of your contentment.
If the month of March is stretching out in front of you as a big, dreary void to fill, you are not alone. For many, our winter wonderland is not so wonderful when cabin fever sets in.
That’s when anxiety can make an unwelcome visit. You might feel yourself spiraling down, questioning the past, and second-guessing your decisions. And that’s when you could be tempted to grab for the TV remote and head to the couch.
I can remember many nights after my divorce, coming home after work to an empty apartment with hours on my hands and a heavy heart. The prospect of a long, lonely evening ahead was almost unbearable. I was fine during the day, but when the sun started to set or the weekend rolled around, I would start to panic.
After way too many nights watching mind-numbing reruns, I had finally had enough and started making better use of my “me time.” I am now much more comfortable spending time by myself and have come to enjoy my own company. In fact, it’s not unusual for me to pass on an invitation out, in favor of spending a nice quiet evening at home — relaxing or fully engaged in something I love to do.
If you are challenged by time alone this time of year, consider the suggestions below. You might even clip this column and post it on your refrigerator as a handy reminder.
In our busy lives and with so many electronic options vying for our attention, reading can fall by the wayside. It’s such a shame. Reading for enjoyment and enlightenment can turn a lonely evening into a lovely evening.
Don’t know where to start? Ask a friend for a suggestion or select a New York Times bestseller. Snuggle up in a comfy, well-lit place, and let a good book introduce you to new people, new places, and new ideas. We rarely feel alone when reading. I just finished “The Boys in the Boat” by Daniel James Brown and highly recommend it.
Marcel Proust wrote, “We are healed of a suffering only by expressing it to the full.” Even if you never look back at what you write, the act of committing thoughts and feelings to paper is therapeutic. Consider starting a journal, if you haven’t already done so.
A few minutes in the evening or on the weekend is a perfect time to write. As you work through some of the issues associated with living alone, and you become more content, you will find that reading and rereading your journal entries will be a great way to see how much progress you are making.
Clear Out the Clutter
I know this might sound uninspiring, but clearing out the clutter can be very satisfying and a great way to spend a few hours alone. I spent one recent Tuesday night sorting out my closet and filling two bags for Volunteers of America. It felt terrific. I not only lightened my load, I did something for a good cause. As a result, I felt part of something bigger than myself and less alone.
Pursue a passion
This can be daunting, especially if you’ve yet to identify your passion, but hang in there. Many men and women in long-term relationships often lose sight of their own interests in favor of attending to the needs of others. The pursuit of your own passions or personal pursuits can be lost in the process. Now is a good time to rediscover your “loves” and to dedicate your time alone to those pursuits. Do some digging and identify the things you loved as a child or young adult, then make a conscious decision to revisit those things now.
Evenings or weekends spent doing what you love can be very fulfilling. Loneliness can dissipate and you can feel alive again.
With time on your hands, you are in a great position to reach out and make connections with others, including long lost friends. This can be a very meaningful way to spend an evening.
Just yesterday, I received an email from a former colleague. I was very touched, and accepted her kind invitation to get together with her and a few other retired co-workers. So, pick up the phone, send an email, or send a snail mail note to someone with whom you’ve lost touch. Chances are you’ll be rewarded with a warm reunion.
That’s right, veg out. Grab the TV remote, a pint of ice cream, and head for the couch. Do it without guilt; do it without beating yourself up. Everyone is entitled to an occasional night when they just hang out, do nothing, and eat junk food. Indulge yourself and tell yourself you deserve it.
Wake up the next morning — free of remorse — and ready to take on the day: alone at home and “at home” with yourself, even in the Ides of March.
Gwenn Voelckers is the founder and facilitator of Live Alone and Thrive, empowerment workshops for women held throughout the year in Mendon, NY. For information about her Living Alone workshops or to invite Gwenn to speak, call 585-624-7887 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.