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The Alone and The Lonely

"There's a difference between being lonely and being alone."

I was out to dinner with my parents and their priest friend Father Jim when he spoke those words to me. His statement was made in response to a question he asked me: "What are your hopes for the future Andrea?" That's always a tough question for me to answer because I often feel the need to say something profound. But this time, I went with the obvious. I quickly rattled off my immediate hopes. I said, "I want to sell many copies of my book. I want to have great impact on people with the messages in my book. And, I want a partner in life." To which he replied, "I'm all for two of the three." And then I jokingly responded, "Are you saying that you won't pray for me to get married Father Jim?" He laughed. And then, with wisdom said, "I know many people who are married and lonely. There's a difference between being alone and being onely. Are you lonely?" 

My answer was an easy one. I'm not lonely at all. Sure, sometimes I wish I had someone to cook with, or a companion to join me for a beach vacation, or someone to take long walks and talks with at the beginning or end of the day. But very rarely am I lonely. In fact, over the years, I've learned to really enjoy my own company. And I have family and friends who are a short drive away when I do want someone other than myself to talk to (Yes, a side effect to living alone are impressive conversations with oneself). But my conversation with Father Jim got me to thinking about the idea of being alone. And also about companionship. I think companionship is something that a lot of people, especially women, think about when they reach a certain age. Sure, there may be people who truly want to be alone. But I'm calling bunk (my sister uses that word instead of bullshit and I like it) on most people who say that they don't care if they don't have someone special in their life. Who doesn't want someone with whom they can share their hopes and dreams? How nice does it feel to walk hand in hand with the person you love? How thankful are you that you have a nurturing hand to care for you when you're sick? Or someone to pick you up from the airport after a weekend away with friends? Of course we can get all of these things from friends and family (except the hand holding, that might be weird). But it's different, in a good way, when there's a shared intimacy between you and that special person. 

A few years ago I thought I was going to replace my single status with marriage. As the cliched phrase goes, on paper he seemed great (although sometimes we should google the fine print). But the more time we spent together, the more I realized, he was not the companion I longed for. But I stuck around, letting my "aloneness" be replaced by loneliness. It was not a relationship that fulfilled me. It did not challenge me in a positive way. And it certainly did not make me happy. In fact, I could sense that staying in the relationship was causing me to lose pieces of myself the longer it went on. So not only was I lonely, but I couldn't even enjoy my own company anymore. Some might say I had the strength to walk away. Others might call it divine intervention. And some might chalk it up to "it wasn't meant to be." But in the end, I chose to be alone over loneliness. 

A few weeks ago, I was contacted by Cleveland Magazine to give a quote for their February issue (an issue often dedicated to the month of love). The reporter wanted my suggestion for single readers who might be struggling with being alone on Valentine's Day. They asked for a short response. That’s tough for me because I often have a lot to say. I knew that the reporter would likely slim down my quote for editorial purposes, but this is what I originally wrote: "Valentine's Day doesn't have to mean a room for two at The Ritz at the end of the night. If you're single, you have two great choices: 1. Enjoy your own company! Have a "me day." Go for a run or yoga class. Cook yourself dinner (I recommend any Ina Garten recipe. They're fail-proof and always delicious). And watch anything BUT a sappy movie (stay away from “The Notebook!");  2.Grab a friend and treat yourself to a fun night of good conversation and sushi. *** And ladies, buy your own gifts! My suggestion: a new lipgloss. It's affordable and may come in handy when you do meet the right person."

I recall when the reporter first contacted me, I was struggling with her initial implication - that single people struggle with being alone on a Hallmark holiday. As a soon-to-be quoted voice, I didn't want to succumb to the notion that people who are alone are struggling with their aloneness. But then, there I was (post quote), sitting at a dinner table with a priest telling him that I didn't want to be alone. Did I have to call my own bunk? 

The truth is, I meant what I said! In both cases! When you're alone, you should be able to enjoy your own company. AND you can also want a companion... a partner in life... someone to call "your person." But Father Jim helped me to see another side of the equation. And that is, it's better to be alone than to be lonely. 

Andrea Vecchio

About the author

Andrea Vecchio (@andreavecchio) is the founder and author of Live Your Playlist, creator and host of the digital series Driving Cleveland, motivational speaker, life strategist, and Emmy-nominated television host.

7 comments on “The Alone and The Lonely”

  1. Betsy Peters Reply

    I am at a different stage in my life than you. Chldren grown and moved on to other states. Yet I still get asked what I am going to do with my life. I was in business before children. The corporate wife who moved state to state kids in tow. Reared state kiddos and became a teacher in my 40s. Came back to OH in another transferred but also to help me aging parents now parent. Hitting my 6os and I’m still ask what I am going to do. I guess chillin is not and option. So, Andrea you can never escape this question. I too am content with my own self and I like myself. Have friends whom I see but there is nothing like a cup of tea, reading and just plan having a great day. I will listento your playlist whilst knitting along. Thanks for your thoughts. BP

    • Andrea Vecchio Andrea Vecchio Reply

      Thank you so much for sharing your story Betsy! I love this! Enjoy your tea & reading… and I know I’m biased, but I love the playlist for this one 😉 xo

  2. GARY GATES Reply

    hi andrea,

    i fell the same way about living alone and being alone even though there is no certain someone special in my life! it has been a long time that i have had that certain someone special and i get these sayings from family and friends “don’t you get lonely” etc! and i say i am not alone and i find ways to not feel alone even if it is by myself! i call it treating yourself and it could be something like going to a nearby beach like clearwater or daytona for the night and just relax and be open to meeting people in the hotel or swim pool or jacuzzi!. i think there are some people who have issues with living alone and they don’t realize that people can entertain themselves in many ways. me being in the airline business, i can go anywhere i want to in the US for free. just have to fly standby! i will say that valentines day is a day that i always forget about because i am single. when i meet people at work or somewhere else, they ask me if i am married or have a girlfriend or have kids and i can say no, no and no! but i schould not feel ashamed because i am not any of thsese right? it is just that for the time being that i am single, i try and enjoy being single, not alone! i feel that when it does happen that a lady is interedted in me, i might be shocked at first because it does not happen much when you are 54 years old even though most people say i look much younger. i know that when that day happens, it will be awkward at first but then i am sure that i will be able to handle whatever comes my way!

  3. mary vlahakis Reply

    Hi Andrea!
    I met you at Dina’s Christmas event. Was wonderful talking to you…you have a gift of making people feel special. I love listening to your playlists while I am jogging on the treadmill. Please keep them coming. I want to comment on your book. I really enjoyed reading it (done in 2 days)! You seem so centered and you wrote with such honesty. The power of gratitude keeps us all grounded. This post hits home with me. When I was married I was so alone and I did not like myself for pretending to enjoy being married to this man. My husband was a horrible man yet I stuck it out for my children (one being only an infant). I wasn’t sure how to live alone. Now I see how foolish I was and how much physical pain I made my body go through just so I would have this pretend life. Be yourself…you will have the right person in your life because they will see you for who you are. I am fortunate to have many good friends in my life just like you do. They will be there if you want them in your life. Go out of your way to keep them!
    Also, when I met you I admired the shiny black heeled shoes you had on (pattened Leather) with your skinny jeans. ( I am a fashion nut). You looked so chic with such a simple look! So of course I had to go out and buy a pair so I would have “Andrea feet”!
    Enjoy these colder days especially when those beautiful snowflakes (each one is different and unique) fall on your face from the sky.

    • Andrea Vecchio Andrea Vecchio Reply

      Hi Mary,

      I too enjoyed our conversation at Dina’s event! You are a lovely woman and I’m so happy that we had the opportunity to chat that day. Thank you so much for taking the time to write… I’m thrilled that you loved my book (and read it in TWO DAYS! WOW!). I’m having a great time putting the playlists together, so I’m happy to hear that you are listening to them during your workouts. Keep it up! I’m so grateful that you shared your story. And I will take your advice to heart.

      I’m sure you’re rockin’ those black patent heels!

      xxoo
      Andrea

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