In Weekend Wandering this week David asks us "Have we ever felt lonely?"
I think that loneliness is a state of mind and the times that I have felt utterly alone, I have never really been alone at all, but have usually had people with me or around me. I have been in situations where I am completely alone and yet I am at peace with myself and can't say that I feel lonely in situations like that. In fact being alone sometimes can be uplifting if there is peace in your heart.
I remember, as an adult student, being in an art class surrounded by other people yet I felt really lonely. It was my wedding anniversary (I can't remember which one) but earlier that day, my mother had rung me to say that the results of a biopsy had proved she had breast cancer and she had to go in for emergency surgery. That was in the days before the good success rates that we have now. I had told one or two friends of my fears, but they had not reacted in the way that made me feel they understood, and it was just like I'd told them that I had a cold and that it wasn't really very important! But is was to me!
That particular story had a happy ending as my Mum survived well into old age and died of something else.
But I did feel lonely........... before I knew.
I remember staring at the curtains of a waiting room screen. Red and orange and lime green scrolls of abstract pattern. Not a good combination of colours at all but forever stamped in my brain. "It's cancer," the consultant said, as if he was saying "It's an in growing toenail." That was six years ago and Harry had just been diagnosed. We were there together but I felt so alone that you couldn't imagine. I guess Harry felt the same, but he never talks about how he feels, so that makes me feel even more lonely.
One year later we were back again, to be told, "The operation has not been a success, this time we cannot cure it, only treat it." More feelings of intense loneliness in a crowded place.
This is like a repeated pattern in my life. When bad news comes my way it brings intense loneliness. Only when others have suffered the same thing do I feel it is shared to some degree.
Going back to a time when I was only twenty something and I'd just given birth to our second child, our daughter. We were glad to have a daughter it made our family complete. It was just what we wanted and now we had one of each. I'd felt elation after our son was born, but what was wrong with me? I felt nothing! Just excessively tired and uninterested, "Just let me sleep" I wailed, only I couldn't sleep. As the weeks went by the post natal depression washed over me and I felt more and more alone. "What is wrong with you?" every one asked me. "You should be happy." There was even the comment, "You should be ashamed. Well I was, wasn't I? I didn't need to be told.
She was five months old before I could really enjoy her and nearly one year before I felt any thing like I was normal. Depression brings about the worst feelings of loneliness that you can ever imagine if you haven't been there.
These have been my worst feelings of loneliness and it is always good to meet other people who have experienced the same thing as me because then I think "Yes," that person really knows the situation and has been there.
There have been many other times I've been lonely, like when I was lying in hospital after being concussed through being knocked off my bike by an elderly car driver, who ran away when she saw what she'd done. I was left alone in one of the busiest streets of the city, with lorries and cars racing all around me. Well I didn't know anything at the time or that a stranger had helped me and stayed with me & wrapped a child's nappy round my head to stem the flow of blood. The loneliness kicked in when I was lying in hospital without visitors for 2 days and nights, as all the family were living a long way away and Harry was working somewhere far off and couldn't come and see me hardly at all. Looking at other people's visitors made me feel alone, though I wasn't alone, I was in a busy place. But this wasn't as bad as receiving bad news or facing the death of some one I loved. That too can be a very lonely experience.
So true loneliness seems to be when you feel that no one is there for you or there's no one who understands your situation and has nothing to do with being on your own at all. Unless, of course, you know otherwise. In which case let me know.