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THE DOCTOR IS OUT…..

 

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I’ve heard it said that there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. How does one get from lonely to being alone, but not lonely? Practice?
I had some practice at this as a child. For a number of years, we lived in a regular, suburban neighborhood, but there were no kids there, i.e. no friends. And back in the dark ages, people didn’t have play dates and tons of activities. Did your mother cart you around every afternoon so you could be entertained, enriched, or whatever. Really?

Well, my mother taught piano lessons in our home after school. True, she was always at home, but there were no warm cookies and mommy and I sitting together sharing about my day. She was teaching. I walked home from the bus stop, got my own snack, and did my homework. Fun, right? I knew I was not to interrupt her when she was teaching, unless it was an emergency. So as far as entertainment and enrichment, it was up to me. Within reason, of course.
What I thought was a big, fat MINUS (can you say “boring”?) actually was a benefit. Learning to entertain myself prepared me for the many hours I would spend alone as a doctors wife. I spent many happy hours reading, flopped across my bed. And I still love to read. I did my homework and studied with no help from my parents. Did ANY parents help their kids back then? I taught myself to sew and to knit, things I still enjoy. (I made all my own clothes when David was in medical school and residency, giving me something to do when I wasn’t at work, but HE WAS.) I spent many happy hours exploring various recipe books and baking (leaving huge messes for my mom to clean up). And, of course, I still love to cook.

Fast forward.

So, true to my heart, I fell in love with a Georgia Tech man on the path to being an engineer like my dad. But my honey somehow ended up being a doctor! Oh my, was I shocked and not a little upset! While most of our friends from Tech days were starting their families with houses and station wagons (oh, how green that grass looked!), we were in an apartment. I was working to put David through school and he was studying or working what seemed like ALL THE TIME.

Almost ten years later, we finally started our family! We had the house and the baby and a neighborhood with lots of kids, like it’s SUPPOSED TO BE, right? No lonely, boring days for my kids! Our firstborn was happily engaged with many a friend. It seemed she was always arranging to be with friends, either at our house or at theirs or at camp or at a school or church activity, anywhere was always better with a friend. This, I thought, is the life! This is what I wished that I had had growing up. This is the way kids are happiest!

Years later, we were blessed with another little girl, and true to form, she had her best, best friend that lived next door, which whom she spent most of her waking hours. When our family moved, I agonized over leaving her idyllic childhood: day’s spent playing with her little friend, running back and forth between the two homes, skating outside together….. was I ruining her life to rip her away from all that? Would her childhood be marked by loneliness and boredom?

After the move, I made a discovery: I discovered that, yes, she enjoyed her friends, but she was equally happy to be alone. With company, without company, she was fine. I was a little surprised. What? How can this be? She taught me something. Can you say “contentment”?

Upon reflection, here’s my take: contentment is tied up with moving from lonely to alone, but not lonely. Some people seem to naturally come by that contentment easier than others, but I believe we can all get there. My journey perhaps took the boot camp of training for those years in my childhood. But I got there.

Maybe I was destined to be a doctor’s wife, despite my original thoughts of marrying an engineer with regular hours like my dad. Perhaps the lessons I learned as I spent time exploring ways to entertain myself BY MYSELF prepared me for the times when “the doctor is out.”