Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Killing Loneliness

If there's one subject that SSA-strugglers seem to write about a great deal, it's loneliness. I suppose when the potential for a spouse and children seems dim, people tend to put a great deal more worry into whether or not they will end up alone. This certainly isn't exclusive to SSA-strugglers. I have several straight friends (my age, even!) who, for one reason or another, worry about ending up alone and unloved. Worrying about loneliness is simply a human problem, and sometimes very bad decisions come out of a desire to simply not be alone (if you've ever known anyone who can't go two weeks without being in a relationship, you know what I mean.)

I've often heard sound Christian advice given to those who deal with loneliness (of all orientations and walks of life.) It usually goes along the lines of, "Let Christ be your companion in lonely times. Let Him fulfill your desires for intimacy." Now, like I said, that's very good advice. When one feels lonely, instead of turning to despair and cynicism, they should turn to the Bible and meditations on Christ instead. That sounds a lot simpler than it really is (trust me, I know!), but if the advice is truly taken to heart, it works. However, there are other ways to let Christ be your companion, and they don't all involve sitting at home with your Bible in hand.

Over Spring Break, I spent most of my time at home. None of my old friends from high school were on break at the time (and I seriously fault the UNC system for not synchronizing the Spring Breaks of its many branches.) My parents were in and out, and remember that I live in a very isolated neck of the woods, about a mile and a half from the main road on an old farm. Needless to say, I was very lonely and bored.

I realized that my grandmother, who has been widowed now for more than a year (from her husband of 60+ years), might want some company. I visited her, and I have to say I really enjoyed the experience. She's a very tough old woman, but she's sad and lonely for the most part nowadays. Yes, she gets regular phone calls and visits from my mother, father, aunts, and uncle, but apart from that she spends her time alone in her old house, attending to daily chores that she's performed for years and years. I can relate to that type of loneliness in some ways, because I've imagined (in moments of fear and doubt) that it could happen to me. However, can I say I've actually experienced it? No. Not at all.

So I visited with my grandmother and tried my best to ease some of her loneliness. At the same time, I found that my own fears and doubts about ending up old and alone were calmed. The thing is loneliness is a fact of life, at least for those who grow old. You have to deal with it, and I think one of the best ways to deal with it is to find others who are also lonely. It's an elementary solution, if you think about it. I'm sure any Christian knows that helping others often helps the helper as much as it helps those that were helped (enjoy that sentence, why don't you?)

But you can't just sit around and wait for people to find you and fill your life. Sure, my grandmother doesn't get out much, but at the same time she's elderly and many of the people that she would visit have passed on. If I'm lonely, however, there's nothing stopping me from calling a friend or family member. There's nothing stopping me from being there for someone else when they need me. Whatever you do, it will be done back to you. So, if you don't want to end up alone and unloved, then you had best get to easing the loneliness of others and loving others.

To be fair, these ideas aren't all mine. Hitch was noticing my slightly reclusive nature and, frankly, was getting a little annoyed by my constant worries about the future. There's only one future, though, and that's the one I make. I can't whine about being lonely when I'm sitting home alone, unwilling to go out and visit people. He was right there, and I hope to take his advice to heart and spread it around. Take care, everyone!


Carl said...

I'm glad Hitch is still a part of your life. I wasn't sure since you hadn't mentioned him in the last update.

I can relate to what you're saying. We can sometimes take the older generations for granted. My grandmother is always on the go, she has far more energy than I seem to have, and she does so much to help people. I don't tell her enough how much I appreciate her. Thanks to your post I will.

Brandon said...

"Whatever you do, it will be done back to you. So, if you don't want to end up alone and unloved, then you had best get to easing the loneliness of others and loving others."

How true. Very great words of wisdom.

I'll admit, a lot of times I have a bad habit of isolating myself too. Most of the winter I just held up at the house. I wasn't too lonely this go around, but I know I've had the problem before. Sit at home alone and feeling lonely and upset about it when I could have been out visiting family and friends and the like enjoying life a little better and helping others to do the same. I think a lot of times, I'm just afraid of letting people know me. So I distance myself from others.

Anyway, good advice. And something I've been learning myself the last year or so. If I don't want to be lonely, I gotta get up off my butt and go be around other people.

God bless. :)

Ophir said...

Hey Jay - glad you had a good break and happy to be reading new material from you.

My two grandmothers are also widowed and though they're fairly active and keep up their old routines (one still goes to the gym) I'm sure they get lonely often. As we don't live in the same countries its hard to really be a part of their lives but I try to keep in touch by e-mail and phone, though perhaps not hard enough.

I think its natural for people to worry about the future and contemplate loneliness, all the more so for SSA strugglers. Still, I think of my great-grandmother who spent 15 or 16 years married to her husband before he died aged 42 and who spent the majority of her life as a widower until she died aged 101, at least sixty years after her husband. Or I think of a relative who recently passed away who survived Auschwitz but whose wife and son were killed there. He never remarried and I think he was probably very lonely. He spent his last year in a nursing home. That puts things into perspective. Death is a part of life and as we get older its only inevitable that we begin to lose those which have blessed our lives (if they don't lose us first). Of course I'd love to have children and in some way its comforting to know that they'll always be there for us and go out of their way (hopefully) for us, but still they grow up and live their lives.

But the future is far away and so abstract that it does no good worrying too much about these things. The fact is that you're not alone now. You have Hitch, you have friends, you have your family and that's more than a lot of people have. Even if you never marry or have children as long as you remain active and social I don't think you have too much to fear.

I can relate to what Brandon said - I too spent a lot of my time distancing myself from others, also partially due to a fear of people really getting to know me (and having to hide my SSA made me all the more weary of being "exposed"). As a teenager I didn't mind the loneliness too much. But I find that now it's taking its toll and I'm trying to go out more, reconnect with old friends and hopefully share some of my struggles with them.

God bless and peace out.

Pomoprophet said...

sounds like something I would have written in college. Things change after we leave the comfort of the collegiate atmosphere. I miss those times. But different life stages are what they are! I hope I get to know you for awhile and see how things turn out for you :)

yosef said...

glad to read your posts again, Jay!
I started thinking about my grandparents a lot when I started college and moved a state away, and now I'm a whole country away in England. I always fear that they'll die while I'm here (although sometimes I fear my parents, sister or other close friends will too, but not from old age). Not that I want them to die once I go home either of course! But it's unfortunately more likely as the years ago on (they are 81, 81 and 92). Anyway, I have written all three grandparents once since being here, but I think I will write them more. Thanks for the push!

RikFleming said...

It is kind of funny, I have struggled with both loneliness at times and wanting solitude.

My loneliness seems to be cured by punctuated times of close fellowship with Christian families and friends who have sort of "adopted" me.

My desire for solitude seems to be best met by getting way from technology (computers, radio, telephones etc.) and enjoying time out in the forest, riding a bike or spending some time in a quiet library.

But like seasoning a dish, these require balance for I neither want to be a people-junkie or a hermit.