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I discovered the benefits of being alone as a young child. Oddly I often misbehaved so I would be sent to my room. On the second floor of our Cape Cod style home I had the most beautiful view of a tall Mimosa tree with the most beautiful pink flowers and the largest lilac bush I’ve ever seen. I’d open the window and close my eyes while breathing in that heavenly lavender and my little world was perfect. Lying on my bed with a notebook and pen or reading the latest Nancy Drew mystery, uninterrupted, was pure bliss.

People in my life often assumed I was lonely and sad. My answer has always been, “Have you ever been in a room, crowded with people, yet felt so alone?

Being alone is often mistakenly confused with being lonely. The truth is, being alone simply means there is no one else around. Think of the benefits. For me the first thing that comes to mind is the bathroom. Who wants company? While I’m cleaning my house, please get out of my way. When working on something that requires concentration there’s nothing better than peace and quiet.

Our lives can get so messy physically, mentally and spiritually, and it’s impossible to be happy when we are in the middle of chaos.

Getting away by ourselves, if only for a short time to clear our heads, can do wonders for our overall well being.

It’s getting harder and harder to carve out that desperately needed time, alone, because we’re always connected electronically.

On the other hand loneliness is an unhappy emotional state. One doesn’t have to be alone to be lonely. Grief comes to mind when I think of loneliness. A loved one is gone. Whether they’ve passed away or a relationship ended, we miss them so much that our hearts actually hurt. It’s impossible for us to share that deep sadness with someone else. Often when we’re grieving others leave us alone, not because they don’t care, but because they know there’s nothing they can say or do to ease our loneliness.

It’s up to us to decide when we’re ready to let others back into our world.

Either way our internal happiness is ultimately determined by the relationship we have with ourselves. Until we can thrive on, and find strength and serenity in our aloneness, we will never be able to find it with someone else.

Recently I left home without my phone. If I’d gone back for it, I would have been late. It wasn’t long before I felt alone and lonely. Taking a deep breath I looked up, and there on the side of the road was a beautiful Mimosa tree with the prettiest pink flowers. I was instantly reminded of the joy of being alone.

When it comes down to it, we’re only as alone or as lonely as we choose to be or choose not to be.




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Doreen McGettigan, President of Intrepid Marketing Inc., consults and coaches about writing, publishing and marketing. She is an award-winning blogger, ghostwriter, speaker and a best-selling author of The Stranger in My Recliner and The Bristol boyz Stomp.

Doreen is on the board of Family Promise; a former board member of The Press Club of Pa.—affiliated with the National Press Club—and a volunteer for SCORE where she presents seminars on creative marketing to small business owners.

She’s a fierce advocate for the elderly and all victims of crime and a former board member of the Network of Victims Assistance (NOVA), Pennsylvania’s largest, comprehensive victim service organization. Doreen works to end the stigma surrounding mental illness, suicide and homelessness.

Doreen lives outside of Philadelphia with her husband John. They have five grown children, two more in heaven, and 13 grandchildren… their own little cult. Their lives are never boring.


  1. What a perceptive and valuable point, Doreen! I really do love this blog. Because I was an only child, I’m used to being alone. I’m never bored with my own company or sad when there’s no one else around. Probably a good thing since I’ve usually worked from home and have had long stretches without anyone in my life…. but my adorable dogs! You’re never alone when you have a dog… and two dogs make it a party! xoxox, Brenda

  2. What a delightful and powerful piece! I especially identify with you as a young girl, reading your Nancy Drew books, because I loved to do the same!!! I often long for uninterrupted periods of quiet…I need times of peacefulness to think, to reflect and to create! Thank you for your story!

  3. You are so right, alone and lonely are definitely not the same thing. I am perfectly happy living alone with my two kitties and can have company and friends around whenever I want them. And I am never lonely. Thank you for this insightful post.

  4. Perhaps it’s because I’m an only child, and I’m great at entertaining myself, but I don’t experience loneliness. I was devastated when James died and a big piece of my life was missing, but I can’t label it loneliness. You’re so perceptive to point out we all need alone time. Whether it’s time to read or do nothing, being alone recharges our batteries. Thank you, Doreen!

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