When an acquaintance, Michael, shared with me that he had lost his job at a small law firm, it opened a new level of communication between us. We talked about his new situation and he told me he was very appreciative of having my ear. I’d see him most mornings at the dog park where our dogs played together.
For the next several days our conversation focused on his plans, but gradually the conversation switched to other topics, mostly the latest news, but occasionally something more substantive.
In one of those talks he shared with me that he lived alone and had not fully come to grips with not having people around to share the little things. He said, “Not the big, ‘I lost my job’ kinds of announcements, like I shared with you. It’s more like the small projects around the house that couples do side-by-side.” He explained that it was those little, insignificant things he missed sharing with someone.
Michael isn’t lonely. In fact, he, and the others I’ve spoken with about living alone, told me they are quite happy with their situation. They’re not necessarily looking for a partner, and they’re not missing that in their lives.
Their lament, one woman told me, is the feeling of being overwhelmed – it’s just me all the time. “When I’m not feeling well, I’m the one who has to drag myself over to the drugstore, stand in line, and get my prescription. It’s the last thing I want to do when I feel lousy.”
Or, as another single person told me, “It’s like when I have to walk the dog, even though I’m feeling rotten.”
They have little choice. Sure, as they all chimed in, when they’re really not well, they can and do call a friend to run to the store or help with a household task. And when there’s a big event or issue, or a significant task they have to take care of, they do go to their close friends and family members.
But the major concerns many single people seem to have are the lack of back-up, their meager savings accounts, and the limited amount of support. “It’s all on me,” Michael lamented. He didn’t mean just financially, although that weighed heavily too. He really meant that he had very few people he could turn to for the kind of everyday, insignificant sharing that a partner or spouse usually provides.
A key aspect in the lives of single people is the lack of anyone who really cares about the little things in your life that you wouldn’t share with just anyone. I’m talking about some very personal things: your sex life, for example. Or your digestive ailments.
These are not exactly things you’d talk about even with good friends. There’s even a commercial on radio urging you to share information about your poop with your doctor since you are not very likely to talk about it with anyone else.
So with the help of several single or unattached friends, I’ve put together three suggested ways to deal with the “It’s All on Me” phenomenon.
We all do, to some extent, even those with partners. As the great actor Orson Wells said, “We’re born alone, we live alone, we die alone. Only through our love and friendship can we create the illusion for the moment that we’re not alone.”
It’s not easy to walk up to acquaintances and begin talking about some of the little things you miss talking about. But unless you do, you’ll resign yourself to the outcome you dread. You may literally have to force yourself. But the next time it’ll be a little easier.
Have a handy list of people who are ready and able to slip in and help you out at the last minute. At the same time, offer to be that person’s backup too. Think of it as exchanging house keys with someone just in case either of you needs access.
Do you often feel that “it’s all on you”? What do you do as a single person when life gets a little overwhelming? Do you sometimes feel overwhelmed by the lack of a backup person in your life? Please join the conversation.