“All alone! Whether you like it or not, alone is something you’ll be quite a lot!” ˜ Dr. Seuss
Yesterday I took a group of my Make A Difference Club kids on a field trip to a no- kill, rescue animal shelter/ adoption center. We brought donations of blankets, towels, food, and hand sanitizer we’d collected at our school. The majority of the students had never been to a shelter before and were noticeably saddened by all of the lonely animals in their cages. The shelter worker escorting us around explained that their waiting list for people wanting to bring animals in was close to 100! They just don’t have the room to meet that kind of demand.
In the cat-tree room, students were allowed inside to pet and interact with the “friendly cats” while they played on and around a massive structure designed for all kinds of cat fun and games. Our guide shared the feline names and personalities present and one little fellow stood out. He was the first to come forward and the last to slink away. His name was Rally and we were told that if he was put in a cage by himself, he would tear all of his hair out!
Rally really made an impression on the kids and we started discussing the difference between being alone and being lonely. Some commented on how bored they get when they’re alone. Another said he didn’t mind being by himself at all, because he could always read or play his video games. Yet another remarked that she couldn’t stand to be alone for a minute and that she spends all of her alone time reaching out to others, by texting or calling someone on the phone.
On the way home in my car, one of the girls was sharing information about her family and after- school life and then she asked about mine. She asked about my husband, where he worked, and what time he got home each day. She calculated the time between his arrival time and the time I said that I usually got home, and loudly exclaimed, “And you’re just home alone all that time?” “Yes,” I replied. “Don’t you get lonely?” she inquired. “Not at all, ” I said. “What do you do?” she questioned. “Well, whatever I want !” I responded.
As Dr. Seuss reminds his readers, young and old, “alone” is something we will be quite a lot in our lives. We each have our own opinion of being alone and our own way of handling it. Introvert or extrovert, the stage of life we happen to be in surely also has an effect on our view of “alone time”. I can remember the days of “2 in diapers”, when I’m positive that I never performed just a solitary task at a time. I was forever multitasking, while keeping my eye on that nightly prize, that sacred 30 minutes each night, when I’d be able to keep my eyes open before collapsing, after tending to the needs of my beautiful babies all day. As a young mother, there were certainly occasional times when I felt “lonely”, primarily due to a lack of adult interaction, but even so, I treasured my “alone time”. Now that my babies are grown; one with a baby of his own, a previously unknown wealth of alone time requires me only to choose how to spend it. Having that choice, I certainly feel blessed, as I know there are many folks who aren’t as fortunate.
I grew up in an unplugged generation; no cell phones, iPods, electronic games, or computers. Sometimes, the natural world, my imagination, and own thoughts were my only entertainment. And you know that’s a whole other story! I would never discount the fact that there are a myriad of valid reasons for people to feel lonely. They require no justification at all, for as individuals, our perception is our reality. I fear though, that many in the current generation are robbing themselves of the benefits of “alone time”. And many of us (adults) are unconsciously allowing it to happen. Our “too busy” lives rob us of the contemplation, self-examination, analysis, and critical thinking time that are all necessary pieces of truly conscious living and self-actualization.
My suggestion for today is that we all try to start carving out some quiet “alone time” for ourselves and for our children. Sure, there might be some whining at the start, but stand strong. We have to give ourselves the alone time we need to be the people that we really desire to be. We need to give our children the opportunity to be unplugged and by themselves as well. They’re the future of our world and Mayan calendar aside, our civilization is doomed if our children only know and love themselves in relation to others. If we never learn to be alone and not “lonely”, we’ll never be able to recognize that still small voice within, or hear the songs our hearts are singing; and sadly, like Rally the cat, we’ll end up tearing our hair out.
Peace and Love