Sunday, March 21, 2010

Loneliness


Perhaps the most pervasive fear that human beings have is loneliness. The most severe punishment in prison is to put a prisoner in solitary confinement. Yet there are those in life who are not in prison who live in circumstances that are just about as lonely as solitary confinement.




Lately I’ve been giving this more thought because a couple of my friends have died. My circle of friends is shrinking. My Mother and a good friend are still alive but they are sinking into the fog of dementia. Their bodies may still be here but their minds are gone. I can no longer talk to them. They are no longer the friends I had. Each day they drift farther and farther away from me.



I do not fear death but I do fear loneliness. I had expressed in an earlier blog posting that perhaps I missed having children. However, upon reflection I realize that I probably wasn’t temperamentally suited to having children. Maybe that was God’s plan for me because He knows what I’m like. I am really way too self involved with myself.



Every Saturday night I watch a Netflix rented movie in the comfort of my bedroom (my personal movie theater.) Last night I watched “Asylum.” It is about a psychiatrist's wife (Natasha Richardson) encounters an inmate (Marton Csokas) at a maximum-security asylum and finds herself curiously drawn to him. This movie was about loneliness. The psychiatrist’s wife is lonely. Even though she is married and has a young son, she was lonely. Almost everyone in the movie, including the character Ian McClellen played, was desperately lonely. This movie was well acted but very sad. This is a movie that lingers in your head long after you’ve seen it.



Earlier this week I checked in an elderly couple at the hotel. The lady told me that she had married her high school sweetheart…..many years after they were married to someone else. She told me the story of how they dated in high school but became separated during World War II. Both of them married other people and had families. Both of them eventually lost their spouses. Through a class reunion they met up again fourteen years ago and began dating again. They were in the hotel celebrating their thirteenth wedding anniversary. This is a wonderful story. This couple won’t have to spend their autumn years alone. They conquered their lonely problem although I did not they requested the room with two queen beds. Obviously their relationship was more about other issues than sex.



I’ve been very fortunate in my life. I met my Prince Charming when I was twenty two years old. I wasn’t looking for a Prince Charming or anyone to settle down with. I came out late (at 21 years old, still a virgin) and was ready to sow plenty of wild oats. Prince Charming (aka “Bill”) said he understood that I was a young guy and “had to get it out of my system.” Up to I was thirty seven years old I had a pretty active social life. However, on one Saturday night standing in a bar in Philadelphia at closing time when they flicked the lights on and off, indicating Last Call, I decided that I had had enough of the social life. The time had come for me to settle down. The charm of Nightlife in the Big City had faded (thank goodness.)



The years since have been one of mostly tranquil domesticity. Of course there have been some “speed bumps” in those forty six years together but we’re still together.



In our forty six years we have raised five Pomeranian dogs, lived at five different homes in three different states, and now are settling in for the Final Act of our life. The odds are that I will be the one left alone (Bill is 81 years old.)




As I see my friends die and drop out around me it becomes more apparent to me everyday I may be faced with living my remaining years alone. I’m way past my bar hopping days when I was out to meet that certain someone to spend the rest of my life with. That just isn’t going to happen. For one thing I’m just too old. I would probably fall asleep on my feet as the big hand on the clock neared midnight. I’ve had my experiences with guys I met in the bar (with sometimes near disastrous results) and I have no intention of going down that road again. And I’m certainly not going to be a Sugar Daddy to anyone. I’m not that rich and if I was, that isn’t my style. Been there done that. It doesn’t work, believe me. All one is asking for there are lies, betrayal and heartache. As I said, Been There, Done That.



I wonder what some of my single friends handle their loneliness or even if they consider themselves lonely. They’ve been single their whole lives and seem to be doing well. Perhaps I will go back into that mode. For a short time before I met Bill, I lived by myself. From the time I got out of the Army in January of 1963 to July of 1964 I lived alone. For the most of the time I was alright but there were times that loneliness caught up with me. At times I felt like I was going crazy. I would be in my one room efficiency apartment in Coatesville, PA and think “Is this all there is?” I knew there had to be more to life. Then I met Bill and my life took on a real purpose. Our life together has been one of sharing, supporting, loving and living life as two compatible like minded souls. I’ve always considered myself one of the Lucky Few to have met someone like Bill. Some people go through their whole life and never meet that special person. I’m not one of those people because I did meet my special person.



I’ve often joked with Bill that I’ll “check out” before he does. Then I wouldn’t have to face the problem of loneliness. But then one never knows what surprises life has in store for me. I just hope I don’t end up like those characters in that movie last night.

11 comments:

  1. Maybe that was God’s plan for me because He knows what I’m like.

    What an odd comment, coming from you. Have you found God again?

    Mankind evolved in social groups over millions of years. Solitariness is something only a few people can truly embrace - the rest of us need other people for company and validation of who we are.

    In just a very few generations, our culture has emphasised individuality above all else, creating the illusion that we don't need other people to survive - we just need "stuff". This is the advertisers and marketers dream.

    We can survive on very little if we have the support of people around us, and all the money in the world means nothing if we are alone.

    This sense of loneliness you feel is rife in our culture. There are vast numbers of people out there desperate for meaningful human contact.

    Don't resign yourself to a life alone, Ron. Start seeking out new groups to belong to now, while you are still fit and active.

    Blogging staves off some of it, but it's no replacement for face to face

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  2. Kim,

    "God's Plan"....I used that term generically. No, I don't believe in a God sitting on his golden throne in the sky. I made the comment tongue in cheek. You didn't see my facial expression when I typed "God's Plan." :) There, that's my facial expression.

    Ron

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  3. Kim,

    Thank you for your thoughtful and excellent advice for staving off loneliness. I can see it coming down the road. I sure can.

    By nature I am a solitary person. Perhaps that is the biggest complain Bill has against me, that I'm "cold." I do like being by myself but, as you said, we are all social creatures and even the most solitary among us needs some kind of social contact.

    My problem is that I'm at an age now where some would seek to take advantage of my loneliness. I am so averse to being taking advantage of that I fear I have painted myself into a corner.

    You touched on a truth when you said "blogging staves off some of it, but it's no replacement for face to face."

    I'm not really a family kind of guy (having a family with screaming kids really would drive me crazy) but I do need somebody to talk to at the end of the day. Not just anybody but someone that I am simpatico with and that will be hard to find, I know.

    I have several women friends who I am very close with but I cannot see myself living with any of them. I don't have any men friends I would want to live with either. I may have to settle for a Circle of Friends like my friend Bob C. does.

    Again, you are right about we don't need "stuff" to survive. We need others for company and validation of who we are. When that option is no longer available I don't see the purpose in living. Then one's life is just an existence. I need something to live for.

    Thank you for your kind and thoughtful advice Kim.

    Ron

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  4. Ron,

    Surprises me a bit your concern with loneliness. You seem to have a much wider circle of friends than I do and you keep so many contacts going.

    I have never felt uncomfortable about being alone. I think it is because I was in that period of isolation during my formative years that I made peace with being alone. Although I have no feelings of loneliness even when alone, I do get out in groups of people regularly and I see myself as always involved in such activities. I am shy, but not as much as I once was and once I warm up to people, I have no problem feeling a part.

    I don't know, it isn't something I worry about, at least not yet.

    Of course, as you know, I am a former Atheist activist, who is now a true believer in Jesus Christ, so I have that. That is my own personal belief so I hope you and Kim can just respect as I respect your choices.

    I hope you remember you do have a lot of people around you you know. If Bill should pass away, with the hope that won't be for years yet, relationships of friendship may bloom and fill some of the void. Try to just live your life and not be dragged down by something which may never be a problem.

    With brotherly love,

    Lar

    Lar

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  5. Lar,

    Thank you for your comments. They are always appreciated.

    As far as being an atheist, I can't say that I am. What I do know is that I don't believe in what I call "man-made religion." However, I do respect other's right to believe in whatever gives them comfort. That is where I differ from many religious folk; I don't denigrate or disrespect their religion or them just because I don't subscribe to their religious views. And by the same token I don't insist that they subscribe to my views on religion.

    I'm not in a panic about loneliness now but I do see where it could possibly become a problem in the future once I am alone without family and most of my friends. But, maybe as you say, there will be others to "fill the void." That's always happened with my life in the past and it may well again.


    Ron

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  6. Certainly a thought-provoking post. My wife and I discuss the "what ifs" life can throw and the thought of living without her is one I do not relish. Thank you for writing this.

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  7. Liberty and In Dependence,

    My Mother was married to my father for sixty years. He died in August of 2000. For the past ten years I have watched her wither away to the point where she is now a shell of her former self. They met when she was 16 years old. He was the only man she was ever with. Without him her life, even though she has three loving sons and numerous grandchildren and great grandchildren, has never been the same. My Mom is slowly fading away.

    I remember her father (my grandfather and the only grandparent I ever knew) when he was in his 80's saying that he never thought he would outlive all his friends.

    I'm not lonely now but I can see down the road the possibility of being alone and, like you, it is not a life that I relish.

    I also remember a man who lost his wife in an automobile accident. They were in their late 30's with a young family. To this day I will remember him sitting in the bank office where I work, waiting for us to change the title of his joint accounts that he had with his wife. He looked like a haunted man. I knew and he knew, his life would never be the same again.

    We will never know "what ifs" life can throw our way. That's why I am making it my goal now to enjoy each day as if it was my last and to leave a mark. I don't know why I feel a need to leave a "mark" but I do.

    Thank you for your comment.
    Ron

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  8. Anonymous10:22 AM

    Hi Ron,

    Sounds like you are having one of those reflective moments. I have them a lot lately myself. I'm alone quite a bit when my husband travels for work. Very seldom do I ever feel lonely though. Reading is one of my favorite pasttimes. Wayne said I'll read anything even cereal boxes....lol.

    I have a lot of friends but I don't talk to them on a daily basis. My husband is my best friend & so are my sons. I usually keep private problems to myself & am lucky to be able to solve them that way. I enjoy people but like the solitude or one on one relationships much better.

    If you ever need to talk my email is franwalbert@yahoo.com. I'm the go to person in my family for advice & I cherish the fact that others feel I'm their confidant.

    Have a great week!

    Fran

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  9. Fran,

    Yes, I was having a reflective moment. Like you I appreciate those times of solitude but lately I've been wondering what my life will be like down the road if and when all of my friends and close relatives will be gone. Maybe that will never happen. Something to think about though.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comments.

    Ron

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  10. Anonymous6:32 PM

    I just left a 5 yr. relationship with a woman that had two children from two different husbands. Neither child accepted me and I have no children of my own. It's amazing how differently the world treats you when you are single and without children. It's better to be divorced twice than never married. It's better to have children and no spouse than no children at all. People will include you at parties if you are with someone, but not when you are alone. People don't treat single people well.

    I am VERY lonely (I have been alone for 8 months). I am sometimes sorry that I left the relationship but I had to do it. She made me feel not valuable even though I can do almost anything around the house. Her opinion of me changed once her boy came back from college. And her daughter decided to move back home after trying to wreck daddy's new marriage.

    She was my priority; I became her option (and not a highly rated option). I know I deserve better but I couldn't let her treat me that way. The loneliness is horrible. She has her children back; I have nothing. At 58, I fear I may never find another woman to love me that I have some attraction for. At least you still have someone. Enjoy what you have and morn loneliness if and when it comes.

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    Replies
    1. Anonymous,
      Thank you for your comment on this older post. I am sorry that you are lonely now, loneliness can be one of the most harmful experiences a human being can face. I am fortunate that I have Bill, although he often says he's lonely even though I live with him. There are times that I like to be by myself but I am glad I am with someone. Last year I met my soulmate. He's from Canada and found my blog. We met up last August and have been in touch daily ever since. He's visited me three times (and is about to make another visit). So at this time of my life (72 years old) my cup actually runneth over. Something I didn't expect. So I guess the lesson is, never give up. You just never know where that soulmate will come from. But believe he when he (or she) does come, you will feel so "complete." That's the way I feel now.
      Perhaps you should start blogging if you haven't already done so. Have you considered blogging? Good luck in whatever you do and thanks again for commenting.
      Ron

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