The face of loneliness . . .
• The old man reading yesterdays paper telling yesterday’s news
• The old girl with dirty hair and tattered clothes carrying everything she owns in two carrier bags
• The old war hero with all his medals. One more forgotten hero in a world that doesn’t care
Why are we, as a society, so obsessed with loneliness and being alone? I know that mankind (humankind) was created to be social beings and that women were created as a companion for man not to live alone, however, through the centuries that have passed since Biblical times, many men and women have lived comfortably on their own.
Why is it so difficult to understand that some people (like me) are comfortable enough with themselves to live alone? When people hear that my mom has died the first question they ask (with a very petrified look on their face) is: “are you living alone now?” followed by: “why don’t you get someone to move in with you or move in with someone?”
My question to them is: “why?” The assumption made about my life now is “you must be so lonely without your mom”.
Why do I have to live with someone? Why do I have to share my space with someone? Surely if I was not comfortable with living on my own, in my own space, by myself, I would think of getting someone to live with me or I will move in with someone? Do I really need others to tell me this?
Their argument usually is: “but don’t you get lonely?” or “are you ok living all by yourself?” Really? What’s wrong with living all by myself in my own space? I can do as I please, when I please, how I please. I don’t have to dress up for anyone. If I choose to sleep all day or watch TV or read a book all day or walk around in my pyjamas all day, I can do just that. I don’t need anybody’s permission. I don’t always have to “look decent” to respect others who are in my space.
People often confuse loneliness and being alone. You don’t need to live alone to be lonely. You can have a crowd of people around you and feel like you are totally “alone”. On the other hand, you could be quite comfortable living alone without feeling “lonely and alone”.
So what is this loneliness or being alone everyone is talking about? Why is this so scary for many people? I love silence. I am comfortable in silence. I love my own company. Silence gives me the space to be more mindful, to be at one with my thoughts, to make sense of the noise inside my head. Silence gives me the space to get organised – organise my thoughts, my space, my “to do” list for the next day/week/month.
If the physical silence around me gets too much, I can turn on the television, the radio, listen to music but I can also choose not to have any gadgets on. I cannot wait to leave the noise of the office and the commute to and from work to get home where I can have as much silence and solitude as I need.
When I have the need for human contact, I have the freedom to phone someone and ask them to come around for a visit, or I could visit them or invite them for coffee. Sometimes I treat myself to coffee at a coffee shop to be surrounded by humans. I have an obsession with observing human behaviour so I find immense pleasure in sitting in a coffee shop or at a mall just observing people as they come and go.
Lonely? No, I don’t have time to get lonely. I’m always busy doing something – I can always find something to do. What do I do when I’m alone I hear you asking.
I read and respond to e-mails or catch up with what’s happening on social media. I have a pile of books I’ve been buying (and keep adding new ones) ever so often in the hopes of reading them one day. I am trying to set up my own “work from home” business so I can stop this daily commute to a noisy office. I so badly want to get back to my crafts I used to do (I used to do fabric painting, I love making my own cards, I used to play piano – all things I’ve not had the time to do for a very long time.
Socially I have friends and family who want me to visit or have coffee or want to visit me. I’m studying part time (BA Criminology degree) so all in all, I don’t really have much time on my hands to even think about being lonely.
I hope this answers your questions?
What do you do to stop yourself from feeling lonely?
Do we place too much emphasis on being alone and loneliness?
I would like to end this post with a song sung by Roger Whittaker which, for me, perfectly sums up what it must feel like to be lonely. Reading the words to this song makes me realise that life is not so bad after all. If we spend less time focusing on ourselves and on what we don’t have, we will see how truly blessed we really are.
Streets of London
By: Roger Whittaker
Have you seen the old man
In the closed-down market
Kicking up the paper,
with his worn out shoes?
In his eyes you see no pride
hands held loosely at his side
Reading yesterday’s paper telling yesterday’s news
So how can you tell me you’re lonely,
And say for you that the sun don’t shine?
Let me take you by the hand and lead you through the streets of London
I’ll show you something to make you change your mind
Have you seen the old girl
Who walks the streets of London
Dirt in her hair and her clothes in rags?
She’s no time for talking,
She just keeps right on walking
Carrying her home in two carrier bags.
In the all night cafe
At a quarter past eleven,
Same old man is sitting there on his own
Looking at the world
Over the rim of his tea-cup,
Each tea last an hour
Then he wanders home alone
And have you seen the old man
Outside the seaman’s mission
Memory fading with
The medal ribbons that he wears.
In our winter city,
The rain cries a little pity
For one more forgotten hero
And a world that doesn’t care
Music: “Streets of London” by Roger Whittaker (iTunes)
Artist: Roger Whittaker
License: Standard YouTube License