Monday, August 4, 2014

Loneliness and Aloneness

 There aren’t many times in my life when I feel lonely; at least, that’s what I tell myself more than I once did. Since I live alone without even so much as a renting roommate, I’ve become acquainted with being alone a lot of the time.

But loneliness is another issue. It often happens on weekends when you find yourself with no one to go out to have a drink with, to go to a movie with, to have dinner with. Couples have those events built into their lives. Single people don’t. You have to arrange things, call or text to see if you can find someone to do something with, often with negative results. So you find yourself alone. And lonely.

The other part of the problem is that people forget about you or don’t think about you in the first place. It’s not intentional neglect, exactly. They are, after all, busy with their own lives, full of business and fun and things to do, and they rightly aren’t thinking that you might be alone and craving their company. They assume that you’re ‘just fine’ since you’ve elected to live alone in the first place, that you have plenty of other people who will let them off the hook and will fill the void of loneliness that very often no one is replacing with human contact.

What they don’t suspect is how much a lonely person would love to hear from them, have a phone call, a casual invitation to go out for a pizza or to a movie. Or to share dinner, no matter how simple or impromptu even if it’s leftovers.

I suspect that loneliness will become more of a matter for concern as I age, and that brings up that third aspect, age. It’s hard to figure out sometimes whether people include you into their lives because they like you or because you are something of a relic, somebody who’s been around a long time, and who from time to time, they feel as if they should impart some time. That last may sound cynical but it’s a thought that crosses my mind.

Yesterday was Saturday and I spent the day at home. Didn’t even go check to see if I had mail, didn’t go to the market across the street, and in the evening when I had thoughts of walking into Hillcrest to have a drink sometime around 8PM, I did nothing but sit at home, alternating reading a novel and checking on what might be interesting on public television. At 10:30 I went to bed. At the risk of this running on into the realm of self-pity, I merely want to explain what it’s like, this living alone.

I imagine that finally people like me move into assisted living facilities, partly for the nearby health care, but also to mitigate loneliness. Such places provide easy access to other humans who would otherwise be alone as well. Is it any worse a warehouse than the one we manufacture for ourselves and by ourselves?

Opening bidding for Prayers of the People today: In peace, we pray to you, Lord God. For all people in their daily life and work; For our families, friends, and neighbors, and for those who are alone. Nice sentiment, but not many people, I think, give that last word much importance, at least until they are among the alone folks.

Are there remedies? Probably not. People will do what they are going to do regardless of any sense of Christian duty, avowed friendship, or even the slightest idea of bringing you to mind. An acceptance of those facts, while not mitigating loneliness, serves to explain how things are. It’s cold comfort, but time passes and so does the feeling of being shelved and isolated. The next day dawns with renewed but wary optimism.

 27 July 2014
Robert Heylmun

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