Thursday, July 8, 2010
Now that we're halfway into summer, I have begun realizing how much I value being in community with others and the social relationships I've been able to develop. From hosting a book club for local ladies, to playing on a softball team, to being part of a strong church congregation, developing healthy, harmonious friendships and being in environments where I can positively interact with others is key to enhancing social wellness in my life.
As I think back on some of the transitions I've experienced in my young life - heading off to college, going to graduate school, moving across the country for my job - I have discovered just how important having a strong "home base" is to me. While I can easily masquerade as a traveling diva, I am someone who likes to form connections with others and feel grounded where I am in my social relationships and involvements. During times of transition, it helps me to know there are people I can reach out to and places I can go to feel safe and secure.
Shortly after moving to Illinois, I remember the first time I went to my new medical clinic and they asked me to list a local emergency contact. I almost started crying in front of the nurse because I didn't know who I could list in town! It was the first time since I moved across the country that I realize how alone I was in this new place. In that first year, I had to learn the different between being lonely and enjoying solitude - a subtle, but important distinction.
"Loneliness is a negative state, marked by a sense of isolation. One feels that something is missing. It is possible to be with people and still feel lonely - perhaps the most bitter form of loneliness.Solitude is the state of being alone without being lonely. It is a positive and constructive state of engagement with oneself. Solitude is desirable, a state of being alone where you provide yourself wonderful and sufficient company. Solitude is a time that can be used for reflection, inner searching or growth or enjoyment of some kind. Deep reading requires solitude, so does experiencing the beauty of nature. Thinking and creativity usually do too.Solitude suggests peacefulness stemming from a state of inner richness. It is a means of enjoying the quiet and whatever it brings that is satisfying and from which we draw sustenance. It is something we cultivate. Solitude is refreshing; an opportunity to renew ourselves. In other words, it replenishes us. Loneliness is harsh, punishment, a deficiency state, a state of discontent marked by a sense of estrangement, an awareness of excess aloneness. Solitude is something you choose. Loneliness is imposed on you by others." From Psychology Today Online
It was during this time of transition that I had to search inside myself to find contentment and fulfillment, instead of only stuffing my life full of new commitments, relationships, and projects (I'm so good at that, too!). Learning how to live in a state of peaceful solitude and find happiness by being alone, while also being in community with others was a big step for me (and continues to be!) as I work on cultivating social wellness. Now coming up on my two year "workiversary" in Illinois, I am so thankful for the individuals and experiences I've been blessed to have that increase my social wellness and overall quality of life exponentially (you know who you are!).