Search This Blog

Saturday, March 18, 2017

Loneliness is such a sad affair

It's amazing, we live in cities with tens of thousands, hundreds of thousands or millions of people, yet we somehow find a way to be lonely.  I'm not necessarily saying lonely all the time, but you know we all have our moments.  For some people, the moments are occasional, but for others the moments are lasting and seemingly without end.

The anniversary of my marriage was the other day.  We were pretty low key about it.  It's not that we didn't consider it important, but we consider it a step in a lifelong process. In my first marriage, we focused too much on reaching and celebrating the milestones and not enough time on the health of the relationship.  So, for me, I look forward to us working together and letting the milestones come naturally and then taking time to celebrate them rather than making a production of reaching and planning them.   We've had many really good moments in which it all seems to click, but we've also had growing pains.  Unfortunately, blended families rarely work as smoothly as The Brady Bunch.  There is a period of time it takes for everyone to get know and trust each other  Anyway, our schedules do not always permit us to spend us much time as we'd like getting to know each other and/or discussing what we need to.  Any married couple with two working parents, I'm sure can relate.  This leads to moments of loneliness in which we feel the other can't always be there for our daily life challenges, concerns or triumphs.  So, it is our goal in the next year to find enough or make enough 'us' time to help with that.

This all got me to thinking about loneliness.  I believe everyone has times of loneliness in which they realize it is just them and their Higher Power (God).  For example, my wife is aware of and empathizes with my current neck injury and I her knee injury, but neither of us has experienced the specific injury problem/level of the other.  Therefore, there is a certain amount of loneliness we have in dealing with our injuries.  I imagine when a spouse has cancer it is sort of like that too.  You support him or her as much as you can, but ultimately, they have to be the one who battles it.


--


So, how would I classify the types of loneliness.  Based on what I've experienced, on what I've seen in others and on what I can surmise, here is a breakdown of loneliness.


Relational
  • Where you miss the closeness of family.  The following are circumstances that could lead to familial loneliness. 
    • Your family of origin is not very close-knit.  For whatever reasons the bonds you see in 'perfect' families never fully took, stuck or were available.  
      • You never really knew your family--this can either be immediate family (such as a missing parent) or extended family (such as aunts/uncles/cousins/grandparents).
      • You knew them but for whatever reason or dysfunction there was a lack of closeness.
    • You family of origin is scattered or busy.  Getting together can be an undertaking in some circumstances.
    • Your family of origin has been decimated.  As we get older we lose those who have been a fixture of our family.  This can secondarily lead to a breakdown of remaining family.  Unfortunately, for me, this type of circumstance has hit close to home.
  • Where you miss the closeness of friends.  The following are circumstances that could lead to this type of loneliness.
    • You have few if any friends.  
      • No man is an island.  We all need to be part of a bigger gang.
      • People are generally social creatures and best thrive when surrounded by friends.
    • You have few close friends
      • You may have a lot of acquaintances, people you see at work, church or wherever.
      • However, at the end of the day, you may not really have much of anyone to be able to call on.  To me that is the definition of closeness.
    • You have close friends, but they are often unavailable.
      • They have a busy schedule and it is hard to find time with them.
      • You are separated by significant distance and it is hard to get together easily with them.
  • Where you miss the closeness of a romantic relationship/marriage family.  The following are circumstances that could lead to relational loneliness
    • You are single and unattached.  While being single has its perks, one of the drawbacks is not having someone to curl up with and hear "I love you".
    • You have a relationship/marriage which is by strife and disconnect.  Relationships on balance are meant to be a safe place for us.  One where we can share our joys, fears and all other feelings in between.  When this is limited or nonexistent in a relationship, it can feel vary isolated.  Isolation of course can lead to the disintegration of a relationship.


Existential 
  • Where you wonder about your role.
    • Sometimes we might seem like we are just another cog in the wheel at our job.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we were not present, would anyone care that much.
    • Sometimes in our group (friends/family/etc), we can be just another voice and not necessarily feel like an important one.
    • Sometimes we might wonder about our role in the cosmic scheme.  That is do we matter to or in our Higher Power's universe (God).
  • Where you wonder about your impact.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are making a positive difference in the lives of others.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are raising our children in the best way.  That is are we being the best leader.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we are doing anything significant in the world are or we just replaceable?
  • Where you wonder about your legacy.
    • Sometimes we wonder if we were gone if we'd be forgotten or missed that much.
    • Sometimes we wonder if after we are long gone will there be any sign that we mattered.
      • Lasting impact in the lives of others--lives that we positively changed.
      • A 'monument' to what we left behind.  It could be things we built or created, ideas/concepts/writings that we shared, a marker that we mattered somewhere.
  • Where you wonder about your eternal destiny.
    • We think about this during our lives, but we might consider it more as our health starts to deteriorate.
    • We might wonder if we be 'punished' or 'rewarded' for the life we lived and the ideal we tried to follow.
    • We might wonder if we will see those we lost along the way.
    • We might wonder if we will even have any sense of self or awareness after the final curtain has gone down.
    • We might wonder if there is any real existence after this life has passed.  (All we are is dust in the wind?)

--


As I indicated previously, I believe that everyone experiences loneliness of a sort at some time or another in their life.  I think it's unavoidable and can even be beneficial in that it can help clarify who or what really matters in our life.  As social creatures if we feel too much loneliness, I believe we have a tendency to try to assuage it.  That's not necessarily a bad thing, I believe we have to keep a few questions in mind when trying to lessen or assuage loneliness.


  • Is the amount of 'loneliness' we feel reasonable to expect or feel, especially relative to our situation?  
    • Is it excessive and indicates a mental health issue?
    • Is it excessive and indicates a need to interact or connect more with others?
  • Are we spending too much time, effort and trouble trying to 'remedy' it and not enough effort accepting it as 'part of life'.
    • We can recognize some loneliness is okay and doesn't need to be 'cured'.
    • We can recognize our efforts to 'cure' our loneliness may be way out of wack with the extent of loneliness we are feeling.
      • Just because we are feeling kind of lonely doesn't mean we have to go out every night looking for others to 'cure' it.
  • Are we mistaking the type(s) of loneliness we are feeling?
    • If we feel too much existential loneliness, trying to deal with or 'cure' it with a relationship is probably a mistake.
      • Family/friends can support us, but they can't be our reason for being or our crutch to avoid dealing with existential loneliness.
      • If we focus on using relationships to solve our existential loneliness, we may end up with too many, too new, too involved, too entangled or some other unhealthy relationship issue.  Ultimately, while others can help support us and help us walk through life, it is up to our and our Higher Power to work out the existential questions.
    • If we feel too much relational loneliness, trying to 'cure' it with an 'existential' solution is likely a mistake.
      • While it is important for us to feel like and be driven by a purpose in life, a purpose will not replace the benefits of healthy relationships with others.
      • While it is important to focus on our purpose, we can't necessarily focus on a purpose 24/7/365.  Even if we throw our lives into a purpose, there will be downtimes in which it will be hard to relational loneliness.
    • Like resentment, we can only ignore or suppress relational loneliness for so long before it blows up in our face.
      • We will search for an outlet to 'fix' it and it may not be a very healthy one.
      • Our purpose may very well suffer if it has to compete with too much relational loneliness.


I guess my takeaway on the matter of loneliness would ultimately be this:
  • Some loneliness is okay and even expected.  It can also be a positive driver for change.
  • It is important to know when work on changing it and when to learn to accept it (serenity).
  • It is important to recognize the type and degree of loneliness you are facing so you can address it the proper way.
  • At the end of the day, after we strip it all away, it is between us and our Higher Power, but we are given the gift of family and friends just as Adam was in Genesis to support us in life.

Loneliness can be such a sad affair, but like much else in life it is how you choose to deal or cope with it when it is present that can help determine just how sad it is.




This is one of the most hauntingly sad songs that I've heard.  Knowing how she lived and died and how alone she must have felt as she struggled with anorexia