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Feeling isolated and vulnerable was not good. If I didn’t change my perception of the circumstances—my choice to do, or not—the negative, pity-party feelings would take over and I’d slide downhill emotionally. I generally choose to fight that slide tooth and nail, and, as we know, life continuously provides plenty of practice.
I already knew that eating chocolate or having a glass or two of wine might make me feel better, but certainly the benefits of those options were temporary and if I overdid either or both, I’d feel fat and sick shortly thereafter.
I learned to ask myself, as soon as I’m aware of my negative state, “How can I look at this differently? Is there a way I can feel better NOW?“ When I am willing to ask these questions, rather than feeding negative thought cycles, I open up potential and possibilities. Choosing to ask the questions heralded the beginning of change.
Instead of the pity-party, here are the more constructive thoughts that led me out of my poor-me state.
True, I didn’t have a romantic partner, but there was a lot of love around me. I chose to look at the glass half-full. Our dog was always ecstatic to see me when I got home. Our cat, wrapped herself around my neck on the back of the couch when I read or watched TV. Their devotion was quite obvious and welcome.
Although my four children, who ranged from 12 to 18 at the time, were more interested in avoiding a parent than hanging out with one on Valentine’s Day, we shared a very deep common bond that remains to this day, 20 years later.
I was not alone. I had friends who cared about me and were there for me, to one degree or another. Their support was critical to my emotional well being. There were people at my church who were glad to see me and would give me a hug if I needed it. I also learned to ask for a hug because the physical connection was like medicine and helped me feel better.
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To feel love I had to give it. The most loving thing I can do for myself is to love others. If I felt paralyzed in this area, I would begin by patting my animals. That would open me up a bit. It also reminded me that a gesture of love does not have to be grand to be felt.
I thought about what I might do to show others I love them. Appreciation and acts of kindness made me feel good. I thought about who might need some company or a phone call. What small thing might I do for each of my children? What can I say or do that would make a difference?—a gesture of affection, a cup of hot chocolate, an affirmation of something important to him or her, or listening to their music in the car.
I had two elderly friends who always appreciated a phone call to check in. Another friend had lost her husband and may be happy for some company. I wasn't the only person without a romantic partner. I forgot that others have a hard time too when I was feeling sorry for myself.