As the wonderful Marilyn Monroe once said: “It’s a terrible thing to be lonesome especially in the middle of a crowd.”
Lonesome. Crowd. Two words we don’t often consider as being connected. Yet so often they can be.
Alone, sadness, isolation are all words used to describe being lonely. But you can be alone and not be lonely. You can be sad but not be lonely. You can be isolated and not be lonely. So, what then is loneliness?
To feel it is to know it.
But we don’t always recognize it especially in these days when we have so many ways to communicate — texting, email, facebook, twitter, direct message, etc… We can think we’re in community when in reality, we may not be. What we may be is lonely.
On May 1, 2023 the US Surgeon General issued a report – The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation. Which can seem ironic since the population of the world is at the greatest it has ever been in recorded history. Yet like Marilyn said, we can be lonesome in a crowd.
The US Surgeon report lays out various aspects of what it means to be lonely and what it means to be isolated. It reports on the affects this has on the individual, the family, the community, the society. It also gives ways in which we as individuals, as community and society, as government, as institutions, can help alleviate this epidemic of loneliness and isolation so prevalent in today’s world.
One of the statements in the The Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation that I found particularly impactful was in the statement of what the individual can do.
Loneliness and isolation represent profound threats to our health and well-being. But we have the power to respond. By taking small steps every day to strengthen our relationships, and by supporting community efforts to rebuild social connection, we can rise to meet this moment together. We can build lives and communities that are healthier and happier. And we can ensure our country and the world are better poised than ever to take on the challenges that lay ahead. Our future depends on what we do today.
Please know in feeling lonely you aren’t alone. And there are ways to find community. Call a friend. Meet for a walk, coffee. Volunteer. There are some great events out there, many free. The public library has many offerings. The art gallery has by donation nights. Join a group that is involved with something you might like to try – walking, hiking, dancing, movie night. We all need to start somewhere. It can be hard to get going but so worth it.
To quote the late, great Prince: “We are all in this thing called life.”
I’d like to add – together.