” Silently and steadily the weight pressed on him. It was like no pain that he had ever felt before. It was there, but it wasn’t. How could he explain it? It was like a cloud or a fog enveloping him. Smothering him. Causing his lungs to ache with the extreme pressure that was being placed on them. Yet there was nothing there. During the daytime, it wasn’t as bad. He could work and focus on something else. He could breathe. And he would breathe deeply, knowing that as the sun began to fall he would begin choking. Yet there was nothing there. Nothing that he had ever experienced had prepared him for this battle. For this enemy. How did others cope? How would he survive? No one had ever taken the time to talk to him about this. They had preached about God. They had taught him about sex. Someone had even taken the time to teach him about love. But no one had ever taken the time to teach him, or even warn him about this invisible enemy. And like death, everyone eventually faces this battle. And this enemy known as Loneliness.”
It has been two weeks since I started this lonely path. At first it was absolutely awesome. I had much to do. Much to clean. Much to make how I wanted it. But as the days progressed, and the work became less and less, I found myself wanting. Wanting to come home and find something where I didn’t put it. Wanting a dish pan full of dishes to wash. Wanting to cook for more than myself. Wanting to touch, to feel and to talk. Nothing had ever prepared me for this. And that is the point. Loneliness and death run on parallel planes and no one wants to talk about them. And when they do, it’s usually a stupid or unfeeling comment. “I know how you feel.” Or ” It will get better with time.” Or maybe my favorite, “Go out and find someone new to occupy your time.” It’s like those who are trying to advise you have no concept. Probably because they don’t.
It’s really funny though. I’ve always prided myself on being a loner. I like to go fishing by myself. I like to work by myself. Grass cutting, hikes, back packing trips, long highway trips. All these things I like being alone. Why? Because I don’t have the patience to teach others. I don’t like stopping for a bathroom break every 100 miles. I don’t want to have to cook and clean for everyone in the woods when I’m relaxing. And I don’t want to put the worm on YOUR hook. Do it yourself. So in a way I would just consider myself to be selfish. And recently my selfishness was pointed out to me. By several people, most of which I couldn’t care less. But one in particular cut me to the core, as she always does. I was more preoccupied with my own “pity party” to consider what she was feeling or the gamut of emotions she was going through. And she was right. She also took the time to warn me of this enemy that I call Loneliness. But nothing prepared me for the full onslaught that was to follow.
At first it starts out slowly like a small wave crashing on the beach. Or like when you are in the woods and suddenly all the birds stop chirping and the crickets get silent. It is a sign of something out-of-place. Something that is just not right. In my case, it was noise. The fact is, I’ve NEVER been alone. I lived with my Mom and Dad, went to prison and lived in a barracks with 100 other guys, then to my brother’s house. From here I traveled to Tennessee where I lived with a man and his family that I was working for. This is where I met my first wife. After we separated I went back to my brother’s until I met my second wife. Over the next 24 years we had 4 children and had multiple families staying with us for undetermined periods of time. It was never silent. Then last November I left and moved in with my friend, her children and 3 dogs. Once again I was surrounded by noise. It has been the common factor in my life for the last 46 years. But suddenly, it was quiet. However, quiet is just one part of the issue with loneliness.
I had never thought much about the things that I did around the house, unless I was complaining about it. And that went for any house that I lived in. Why could all of the dishes not be clean? Why could the laundry never get done? Why was I always cooking for an army? Wait a minute, if I am the only one working why am I having to do any of these things? I always said if I had to do everything, I may as well be by myself. And now I am. And I miss picking up behind the children. I miss washing tubs of dishes. I miss cooking for an army. But now one thing is certain. If I do any of these things, I do them on my terms. I am no longer forced to do these things out of necessity. However, it is still lonely.
The thing I miss the most that makes the loneliness so hard is touch. Not necessarily the sexual kind as you may think, but touch in general. The welcome home kiss. Holding hands as we sit at the table talking. The children giving you a hug and kiss at bed time. Bumping into each other in the kitchen as we cook together. Long soaks in the tub with a glass of wine discussing the day as it melts away. The children sitting on your lap watching a movie. All of these are memorable. And all these memories are cherished.
The first gift that I had to combat the loneliness was a 65 pound “puppy” named Bacchus. I balked at the thought. He is stubborn and hardheaded to a fault. He chews everything. In general, he’s a pain in the ass. And he is becoming my best friend. Through our time together we are forming a bond to where we understand each other. He has stopped using the bathroom in the house and now understands what the word bed means. He used to fight it. Now he goes with no argument. And I have learned how to notice his body language and to understand when he tells me (growls) that he needs to use the bathroom. Second, for both of our benefit, I have gotten a radio that plays 24 hours a day. That way the house isn’t silent when I walk in, and he can hear noise while I’m at work. Many nights we sit and watch one of the ten movies that I now own. When I lie on the couch he tries to join me, but his is not the touch I want to feel. Service has been a hard issue also. It seems like when my children come to visit me that they want to bring me supper. I can’t complain. It feels like they are giving back to me for all the past years. When I get really bored, I pull all of the dishes (1/10th of what I’m use to) out of the cupboards and wash them. 45 minutes of washing dishes makes me remember why it is my most hated job. And as I said before, touch is the real issue for me. To combat this I have watched my grandson one night. I have seen my children several times and gotten hugs from them. It helps, but it’s not the same. They love me, but it’s not the same. I wake in the morning hugging the pillow. I then have to remember that this is the first day of the rest of my life, and I get up and start all over again. But it makes me feel for those who have been married for years to have their “true love” die. How do they carry on? Who can truly understand how they feel? Do we care, or are we too busy with our own lives or loss? I am moving on one day at a time. That’s all I know how to do. If anyone has suggestions, please feel free to comment
” Have you ever experienced the kind of loneliness that I have discussed here?”
” If so, how did you combat it and move on?”
” Have you checked on a lonely neighbor or family member lately to see if they need anything? You may find that all they need is someone to listen and give a hug.”
Thank you for taking the time to read and comment. I would really appreciate any good suggestions. Finding out who you are is hard enough without having this extra battle to fight. And just remember to tell those you love just exactly how much they mean to you every day. You never know when they will be gone.