It was a pretty lonely period of time sitting next to my dying husband’s bedside while he was sedated, in the ICU room with nothing but the machines keeping him alive for company. And it was a pretty lonely walk down the aisle in the church following is casket.
There are other memories of loneliness that have come across my thoughts while I consider the question, “when was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?”
While the above were very lonely times which lasted a varying amount of time, the last time I felt really truly lonely was about a month ago.
It had been about 4 months since I was unceremoniously laid off my job of 15 years. After taking a week or two and pretending I was on vacation the days starting getting longer and quieter. The minutes stretched to hours—to—days—to nights. I wandered through my home looking for distractions. I tried to read and couldn’t. I’d turn the TV on for “noise” or company but discovered I was just staring out the window at what….my future? My past? My present? Nothing?
The loneliness wasn’t obvious at first. It sort of seeped in slowly a little each day. It crept up on me while I wasn’t looking. I didn’t bother cooking any food as there was no one to eat it. I didn’t bother showering daily because there was no one to bring to notice my lack of hygiene.
One day I found myself sitting outside on my back patio looking at the wildlife that has taken up residency in the yard. I sat and watched them thinking nothing. I got up and sat on my front porch for a while. I watched a car drive by occasionally and wondered where the driver is going or coming from. I remembered I used to be someone who had some place to go.
I contacted a couple of friends of mine. Ones that had fallen on hard times in the past and I was there to help see them through it. In part I thought they’d rise to the occasion and realize that this is a time to reciprocate but also I just called them to chat. I left messages. No response. I text them; again no response.
I called my brother who lives in another state; no answer. That’s ok I didn’t really want to talk to him because he’s crazy and I find him tedious.
I wandered around my house. Going from room to room looking at what I have collected throughout the years of my life. Nothing gave me comfort. Nothing gave me solace. Nights were no different from the days. The only difference is whether I needed a lamp or not. At times I’d wander around the house in the dark. I didn’t want to look at my loneliness. I didn’t have to I could feel it.
I pondered the question, am I just depressed? Or am I just lonely? Am I depressed because I’m lonely? I’ve been depressed before I knew “this too shall pass”. But the loneliness…it hurt! I might have even been scared in a subconscious way. Will this loneliness abate? Or is it now my constant companion? If it is I told myself, I’d better find a way to make friends with my loneliness because right now I’m not liking it.
I finally gave up that day. I laid on my bed and thought, “oh my God I am lonely!” I KNOW no one to reach out to. I HAVE no one to reach out to. My friends have gone…when/where/why I had no clue. I just knew they weren’t there or here. Did I have friends at one time? Or did I just have acquaintances? I decided I didn’t want to explore that topic while in the midst of my loneliness. Of course once that thought introduced itself to me I couldn’t leave it alone.
I could feel the loneliness like a wet wool blanket in the midst of summer weighing on me. One friend finally text me back. I told her I was lonely and alone. I took the risk to put it out there. To really tell it like it is. No sugar coating no playing off the loneliness. I am lonely! We made plans to get together two weeks later. Ok, two weeks? I was kind of thinking NOW. But two weeks is the first day you’ll have free time. I get it. I guess. I figured I’d feel better by then as I needed company today. Two weeks. I told myself I can look forward to that at least. It will give me something to think about other than this oppressive loneliness that refuses to leave. I saw Facebook postings of this friend going out to dinner, to bars, to wine tasting, to here and there having fun. No spare time for me for the next two weeks. I get it.
I contacted this “friend” a few days before the agreed upon day to get together. She told me she has something else to do that she’d forgotten about. So that meeting never happened. I haven’t heard from her since; even though I had clearly told her my emotional state. During those days of being completely alone and lonely I took a real hard look at my life. Who I know or used to know and decided enough is enough. I’m done. I can’t do this solitary life anymore. The people of the town I live in rely on their families/relatives, their spouses/significant others, their few lifelong friends to keep them company. I have none of those. I have no family, no significant other, no lifelong friends. I decided it’s time to move from here. This horrible lonely town is not where I want to live the rest of my days, no matter how many or how few they may be. I also explored the “why” behind this feeling of loneliness. When my husband was dying he often told me that he was worried after he died that “they’d one day find me surrounded by cats and books”. I told him he was ridiculous as we have 3 dogs and only 1 cat. Since then one dog died and I’ve gotten 2 kittens. There are over 3k books in my house so maybe he was warning me. Maybe he knew something I didn’t know or didn’t want to admit. Which is: I am not overly fond of people in general. I am not tolerant of self-centeredness or selfishness. I have no patience for stupidity. I know I have to become patient and accepting of those poor qualities if I expect to have people in my life, but it is hard to ignore bad behavior on a day-to-day basis. My husband knew these things about me and it didn’t bother him until he received a death sentence in the form of a cancer diagnosis. Then he began to worry. I didn’t because I didn’t care. I didn’t think he would die either. I thought he would get treatment and we’d dodge that bullet. I was wrong.
I asked myself if this loneliness was self-imposed. Had I done something that pushed people away? Do I send out signals to people to stay away? Haven’t I been kind, responsive to others, compassionate to others, generous? If so, where are all those people now that received those parts of me in the past? Is it me? Or is it them? Or is it a combination of both? Maybe it’s a little of all of the above. Or maybe it’s that people never view me as needing anything or anyone. I’ve been told 100s of times that I’m strong by others. Because I don’t crumble in an emergency; because I don’t fall on my knees sobbing when told my husband is going to die; because I don’t panic when we get an evacuation order due to wild fires….does that mean I don’t need people? No. Does it mean I can handle anything and everything the world throws at me? Well ok maybe, but not alone. Sometimes we just need people. God knew that Adam would get lonely didn’t He? So He made Eve to keep Adam company. From the beginning (if you believe that theory) man needed company. That need has never left us.
But now, in retrospect maybe I should have paid better attention to Mike’s worry, his thinly veiled warning…because it’s a horrible feeling to be so alone and lonely that it becomes almost impossible to function.
Though none of the circumstances that cast me into that lonely, lonely day have changed, the loneliness has abated somewhat. I cannot say what helped ease it but I’m glad the dark cloud has blown away with the wind.