Monday, August 28

An empty room or an empty heart?

Sorry--I'm dragging more things out of the past. I'm on vacation, although I'm checking in periodically. This is an old one--from 2006. It's been on Senior Women Web and likely somewhere else, too, but it's still the same for me. I still love alone time, and still--whether I like admitting it or not--fear loneliness. Being alone is an empty room--being lonely is an empty heart. Have a great week. 

Have you ever thought about the difference between being alone and being lonely?  I have, this morning, when I’ve sat here working, alone but certainly not lonely.
When it’s just me at home, writing or sewing or baking — all things I really like doing — I’m never lonely.  If I want noise, I turn on the TV or music, but usually I like the silence.  Not that it’s silent in the country; it’s not.  For one thing, our house creaks.  I don’t know that everyone’s does, but ours certainly does.  The furnace runs periodically, or in happier months, the air conditioner does.  From outside, the birds talk and scold and sing and the cats worry about them, mumbling meows as they climb the trees, ever vigilant against the feathered marauders.  Sometimes I’ll be so involved with what I’m doing that if the telephone rings, I’m startled, and look around for the unannounced intruder into my space before my mind grasps that it’s the phone, dummy, and I should answer it.
And then there are other times, when the hours I’m going to be alone stretch before me as though they were days.  I answer the phone before it finishes its first ring, and scan the TV looking for a show that will be company.  That’s when I hope Andy Griffith will be on, because I’ve known those people for so long it’s like having family members in the room with me.  It is during times like this that no amount of noise will fill the silence.  This is when it’s lonely.
Anyone can be lonely.  I remember when a girl I knew a long time ago was anxious to be married so that she never had to be lonely anymore.  Another one couldn’t wait to have her first child because then she would always have someone who belonged to her.
It doesn’t work that way.  Sometimes, even if your marriage is strong and healthy, you look at the other person and think, What am I doing here?  You sit in the same room, perhaps touching, perhaps making conversation, and yet you are lonely.  This doesn’t mean you don’t love the other person or that you don’t want to be with him or her.  What is means is  stay with me here; I’m almost sure I’m right  you’re not supposed to depend on him to fulfill your every need.  She can’t always kiss it and make it better.  Sometimes — gasp!  it’s just up to you.  This is hard and this is lonely and this is, thank goodness, not the way it is most of the time.
There are your children, who belong to you, right?  After all, you gave them life, fed, watered, and housebroke them, and spent much more than you could afford on their clothes.  You did, you may feel free to proclaim dramatically, give them the best years of your life.  The least they can do is be there when you want them to be.  So that you won’t be, you know, lonely.
And, oh, no, it doesn’t work that way, either, because they have lives of their own, and if you raised them right, they’re out there living them. 
Sometimes you’re just left sitting on the couch, staring out the window at the empty birdfeeders, and being lonely.  The silence closes in on you and the clouds  it’s always cloudy when you’re lonely  all have dark linings.  You have regrets.  You don’t feel very well.  You’re hungry.  Andy Griffith isn’t on.
It’s time.  It’s time to fill the birdfeeders, read a good book, volunteer at a place that benefits those less fortunate than you.  Call a friend.  Take a walk  if it’s too cold, go walk at the mall and make friends with someone else doing the same thing.  Or don’t.  Just walk along and smell the roses.  No roses?  Find some.  Go to church.  Call the school nearest you and ask if there’s someone you can read to.  Go to a nursing home and hold someone’s hand and listen to their whispered, disjointed stories.  Sometimes no one ever touches them  you want to talk about lonely?  Find something to laugh at, even if it’s only your own ineptitude at learning something new.  Count your blessings.   
It comes down to choice.  When we’re alone, we choose it.  And we relish it, enjoying our own company to a disgusting degree, and feeling mildly resentful when someone comes along and interrupts it.  And when we’re lonely?  Well, I think we choose that, too.  At least, most of us do, most of the time.  There are, of course, times of grief and illness that create a lonelinessthat’s not self-induced and can’t be so easily fixed.  Those aren’t the times I’m talking about, although I wish I knew some magic words that could fix them, too.
There’s another part to this, too, where if you know someone else is lonely, give them a call, go see them, ask them out to lunch or to go to the grocery store with you because the aisles are more fun when you’re talking all the way from produce to the deli.  C. S. Lewis said“Friendship is born at that moment when one person says to another: ‘What! You, too? Thought I was the only one.’ ”  You could do nothing kinder than let another person know she’s not the only one.

Till next time.

13 comments:

  1. This is a great post and says it perfectly!!! I am ALONE 15 hours per day while hubby is off saving the world. But...as a writer, I am NEVER ALONE!! You hit the nail on its proverbial head, my dear.

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    1. Thank you! I had to learn more about this when we were both retired and had too much together time. It reinforced the value of alone time for both of us.

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  2. Love this, Liz! Thanks for sharing it again. :D

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    1. Thanks, Kristi--it's good my memory is so gone I don't know where I've used what. :-)

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  3. This reminds me of when I lived in Morgan County in the late 90s....I was counting down the days til my baby started kindergarten. A neighbor's child began Kdgn the year before, and on day #2, she called me in tears, saying she was so lonely w/o her last child at home. The following week, she'd agreed to be a room mom and babysit for someone else. I just could not comprehend that attitude! When my own finally went off to school (and this was before kindergarten was all day), I tolerated the fact that I had to watch the clock. But that first week of 1st grade....boy was I ready! I threw myself a party by going to lunch on day #1; going to the state fair by myself on Day #2; then spending all of day #3 getting the house spotless. On Friday, I settled down in front of the computer, turned on the radio, and wrote from 9-2, with a break for lunch. This would remain my routine until the end of the school year. I kinda miss it, lol....

    Like you, I enjoy being alone, but am almost never lonely.

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    1. I always worked away from home, so when I'd have a day off, I'd get up and fix the kids' breakfast and try to help anything they needed. All they really needed was for me to stay in bed and not bother their routine!

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    2. LMAO! I don't remember this, but one day Mom came home from work early, eager to spend time with my sister and I. According to her, we were none too pleased to see her until her 'regular' time! Normally, she'd arrive around 5:30. I still think it was my vocal sister who told her to go back to work....

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  4. I'm ready for some alone time--life with the 5-year-old is wonderful, but sometimes wearing. I keep dreaming of complete and utter silence... Great post, Liz! Enjoy your vacation!!!

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    1. You'll have silence soon, and you'll be missing him...

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  5. I live alone and understand what you mean about the difference between the two definitions. Reminds me of those song lyrics - where ever you go, there you are.

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  6. The last census results in Canada said that more people are living alone now then ever before. I'm guessing some of those people are lonely. But as you said, there's no reason to be. There are so many things to do, so many places to volunteer. Unfortunately, sometimes we don't know how to help ourselves. Great subject, Liz.

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    1. Thanks, Jana. In truth, I hope I never have to find out about the alone part--Duane hopes the same thing, but I know we can't call all our shots in life.

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