Feeling Good Alone

January: a dark month to be alone.

You’re stuck in the house – haven’t left it for days. The last conversation you had was with that weird guy who tried to sell you a dodgy-looking Blu-Ray last week and you’ve started talking to the house plant. And that’s been dead for years.

Whether through illness, career choice, retirement, a baby, personal circumstances or something else, you may find yourself entirely on your own for days on end – even months. But we are gregarious animals, we need to be part of the herd. So how does a solitary human cope on their own?

Many writers spend the working day on their own, a lot of people with chronic illness barely leave their home and an increasing number of single people have little reason to leave an empty house. There are many of us living alone with no real interaction with the outside world – and that number looks likely to increase.

I’m luckier than many stay-at-homers, I have my Hubby to keep me sane. Or is it conversations with the cats? Anyhow, my disability makes it hard to leave the house and go somewhere, while my writing work keeps me chained to my computer. But I’ve found a few little tricks to stop me going stir-crazy.

Don’t be Alone All Day

For a long time, I used to make a point of getting out of the house and having a conversation with someone – even if it was only the person making me a coffee. But between worsening health and the closure of my nearest café, that isn’t realistic any more. But there are still options. There are friends I can call – or they may call me. I have some good friends I can connect with online – real friends, not just social media contacts. One way or another, I can interact with another human being.

But not everyone is so lucky.

Yes, there are organisations who will listen if someone is desperate, but they aren’t much help if you’re just feeling a little lonely. The internet is a great resource, with chat rooms and social media, free phone calls to be made and a worldwide community where someone is always online. Many of my social media contacts are also friends, but you can’t beat the face-to-face conversation for making you feel human.

There’s a lot to be said for shopping from home. Whether it’s the postman ringing your doorbell with a parcel from an online retailer or a uniformed man bringing a week’s shopping from a supermarket – it’s human contact and that’s a bonus that comes with the free delivery service offered by many retailers.

If you can get out of the house, take a walk when the dog-walking brigade are out, visit a café, a church or your local library. Many clubs are free – it doesn’t have to cost anything to socialise.

Love Yourself

Not leaving the house isn’t an excuse not to make yourself respectable. Many stay-at-homers report living in their pyjamas, not bothering with personal hygiene and generally letting things slip because no-one’s going to see them. I don’t agree – you will see yourself. Aren’t you worth getting dressed for? Is your life so busy you don’t have time to wash and dress?

Yes, I have days when I’m officially “ill”, worse than just the usual disability problems. And I’ll spend a day or three in bed when I need to – not dressing, even not brushing out my hair. But as soon as I feel that bit better, I behave as if I’m going back to “work” – as myself. Someone who has a bath, gets dressed and wouldn’t have to apologise if the doorbell rings and there’s a hunky young man come to deliver a parcel.

I go further. And these are some of the things that make me feel human when I’m on my own all day. I wear perfume every day, just for myself. It’s a luxury, but it doesn’t cost much for the number of days’ wear in each bottle. Sometimes I wear a necklace or a pair of earrings, just because I can. I’m not one for makeup even when I go out, but if I was…

Or for the blokes – why not shave each morning? Or keep the facial hair trimmed, as you prefer? Assume you’re going to open your door and see someone so fanciable you’d regret not having made an effort.

Create Something

I know my books aren’t great literature, my knitting isn’t going to win any fashion awards and I’ll never be a Celebrity Chef. But people appreciate my writing, my jumpers and the food I make – people including myself! The feeling I get from baking a loaf of bread is completely disproportionate to the small effort that goes into it. Even doing a craft I’m useless at is fun (I can’t draw for toffee, but my notebooks are littered with sketches of machines / clothes / maps I’d be embarrassed to show anyone!) One of the benefits of giving up work is having time to make stuff and I only wish I had more time to create in my life!

Look After Yourself

Cooking for one is such a hassle. It takes so long to prepare food. It’s easier and cheaper to eat ready meals that will poison me. Or nothing at all. I mean, I don’t have time to peel veg!

Wanna bet?

There are myths in the media about how difficult it is to eat properly. How expensive fresh veg is – and that there are no greengrocers anywhere. Programmes on telly give the impression only celebrity chefs can prepare food that’s fit to eat – so buy their latest book and drool over glossy photos of five-star cuisine while you stuff your face with greasy takeaway food full of salt and sugar.

Or buy some good old-fashioned veg from a supermarket and cook it for yourself. It doesn’t have to be exciting or exotic – it doesn’t take much effort to wash a carrot. And if your experiments don’t always work, is it really a disaster? It’s probably edible – and you’ll do better next time.

Endorphins are Your Friends

Big word – tiny chemicals. Endorphins are the feel-good hormones generated by your body. They are the way your body is programmed to reward you when you do something right. From the happy feeling when you eat a good meal to the warm afterglow in the bedroom, we should all take time to get a little of this legal and safe “high”.

Yes, even stay-at-homers have sex drives.

Research shows your body will produce endorphins when you eat a good meal, meet someone you fancy or go shopping. But also when you meditate, exercise, talk to someone or make something. Don’t knock it if you haven’t tried it!

The Little Things

One of the greatest perils of the stay-at-home life is the blandness of daily existence. Don’t let yourself be shut in like a cockroach in a tiny cupboard. Open the curtains and look out at the world. If you’re down – have a good cry. Get it out of your system and step back into the world. Treat your life like a job – something you have to make an effort for.

Because YOU’re worth it.

If you really can’t cope with being alone, there are many organisations to help. On a really bad day, there are always The Samaritans on 085457 90 90 90 (UK) for anonymous, non-judgemental listening.

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A Long Short Week

As Arkwright used to say, “It’s been a funny sort of week”.

I’d foolishly expected a quiet week. It’s half term – people are spending time with their offspring, offices are quiet, I didn’t have a single medical appointment and – after all – I’m meant to be retired. Instead, I’ve had my busiest unplanned four days in years.

Apparently everyone saw an opportunity to catch up with little jobs – especially ones that required my input. At least that’s what it felt like.

It started with Hubby travelling all over the place for work. Not terribly relevant, except I couldn’t rely on him to help with transporting or shopping or anything. I even had to catch two big spiders and put them outside before the cats noticed them.

Speaking of the cats, they had to go visit the cat-doctor for their annual checkover. Fortunately, Hubby was here, but I’ve had a couple of clingy cats for the rest of the week. Cat cuddle overdose!

We had a CRAG writers meeting midweek, which I did know about in advance and was great fun. (We meet in a local pub and I always come home buzzing from contact with like-minded writers.) But I managed to complicate things by mentioning my idea for increasing sales to the landlord. More about this another day!

And then people deciding to phone me! Three people wanting my considered opinion, two editors and a partridge in a pear tree (*). Sending out books, chasing shops about stocks, booking a few weekend sales trips and sorting out access problems with my business bank account. And working on a new Chrystal story! A friend rang me this afternoon and I confessed if he’d left it five minutes later, he’d have caught me with no clothes on. (I was running a bath!) He’s too much of a gentleman to comment…

So, I’ve earned a quiet weekend. With wine – and we’ve started already. Cheers all and have a great weekend.

(*) The partridge is a lie. Sorry for any confusion.