ONLY THE LONELY
| LOVE SONGS it seems are rivalled only by lonely songs. Maybe there are as
many lonely people in the world today as there are lovers? Perhaps even lovers can be
Loneliness can be particularly noticeable at times like Christmas and New Year - those family times when everyone gets together to celebrate. Perhaps you are the only one without family, on your own overseas or having problems with a partner? It all serves to make us feel cut off.
But we don't need to be in a foreign land for loneliness to catch us in its cold clutches. We can be in the middle of a crowd and still feel that distinctive pain. Sometimes the pain is self imposed - other times it can be helped along by the insensitivity of others.
Maybe we feel different or out of place - perhaps we feel conspicuous because we don't have a partner like all the other people at the dance. Could it be we're justtoo damn shy to do anything about the situation? Loneliness - the bringer of the kind of private pain that can make us feel like a battle zone has been set up between us and the world.
So what happens to the person who doesn't want to get caught up on the social merry-go-round? To those who have no wish to push themselves forward as candidate for the "nice-person-to-be-with award". What if we don't feel like playing the social games that are so often necessary for others to notice us?
Loneliness isthe fear of becoming a fringe person instead of being one of the group, a fear that the real you doesn't matter to anyone. Evangelist Billy Graham once said that loneliness is the greatest problem facing humanity today. (The late) Mother Teresa of Calcutta described it as the "heart hunger" and claims it is easier to relieve material poverty than this "poverty of the soul". Even Jesus experienced loneliness as a great weight - a sorrow which needed to be shifted.
And loneliness is not selective about who it chooses for its victims. Albert Einstein once wrote to a friend describing his inner hurts:"It is strange to be known so universally and yet to be so lonely."
Joan Crawford, the film actress ended her own life with the newspapersdescribing her as "lonely, bitter and reclusive".
Loneliness is the gulf between who you are and who others think you are. It is the gap between what you can realistically do and what others expect of you.
Often loneliness is a jumble of feelings. It is the sense that you only matter to people for what you can do, not for who you are. For some it goes even deeper than that - it can be the anxiety that you do not matter at all
[INSERT (minidrama): "If I died tomorrow, no-one would even notice. I'm sure they just take me forgranted...]
Loneliness attacks the senses. You feel isolated, rejected, abandoned, like no-one really understands. But still we can learn things about ourselves. It can help build something into our character that few other experiences allow.
Mostly loneliness teaches us that we all need love; to give and receive love.
It is particularly important for elderly people, who may have lost many of their friends, to have regular contact with other people and to have lots of interesting things to keep their minds occupied so they don't become bitter.
A lot of elderly people - a lot of parents and grandparents who are getting on in years - who are past retirement age, begin to feel they are not wanted, that they are little more than a nuisance. And sadly many of these people in their golden years are also too proud to ask for help even when their health beings to fail them.
Most of us work hard atwallpapering over the cracks caused by loneliness. We over-work to try and convince the world of our worth. We flit from one superficial engagement to another to give the impression that we are popular, although deep down we know that we are just making things worse.
Sometimes loneliness may become so intense that we just end upbursting into tears for no apparent reason. Some people get beyond tears - their form of loneliness becomes an empty room in which they hide. The room is dark and there are no windows and worst of all no door. No-one can get in and eventually it seems impossible to get out.
Instead of pain loneliness becomes so familiar that it resembles numbness - almost as if we were dead.
Often when we're afraid of being hurt we build walls and end up locking out the things we most desire - love and companionship.
We must be careful not to confuse lonelines with aloneness. we do not have to suffer loneliness when we are by ourselves. Rather than running away from our own company we need to set time aside when we can just be me, myself and I alone together.
There's nothing wrong with being alone. Many great men and women have spent a great deal of time alone thinking,
reading, writing, making music, forming their theories, testing their experiments and
calculating their equations. It is good to spend time alone collecting butterflies, stamps
or just your thoughts. It is alright to sit alone and think it alright to just sit.
We all need to know that we are not alone. To feel that we are connected, plugged in and part of what is happening. To be unplugged is to feel isolated, powerless and alone.
Loneliness is not some rare incurable disease but it does affect us all in varying degrees. It affects us all whether we are teenaged, middle aged or elderly.
What a terrible predicament. Elderly people have so much to give back to society if only we would recognise this. What sort of a world would it be without grandparents - without the kindly wisdom that rejoices in the company of little children and relishes in telling stories about the old days. That's the stuff history books are made of but too often we're too busy to pay any mind. We are too concerned with our own affairs to listen to the wealth, wisdom and insight of grey power.
Too many old people feel too old to matter any more. They feel like they are on the social scrap heap. They need to have contact with other people who understand in order to make them feel important again.
Without mental stimulation and the sense of purpose which comes through helping raise children or sharing memories many elderly folk just give up and fade away in cold rest homes. They become forgotten people, and often even their families visit less and less until all that is left to do is squabble over dividing up the belongings after the funeral.
No matter what our age there are many clubs and organisations are actively seeking new members: social clubs, service clubs, arts and crafts clubs, night schools, courses to learn new skills, sports clubs, church organisations. Even joining the library or subscibing to a new magazine or taking a mystery bus tour can help break out of the routine and monotony which loneliness creates.
Even a friendly smile or a short conversation on a bus can mean so much. All of this brings you in contact with other people and sooner or later you are going to click with someone who needs to know someone like you. Soon you'll be sharing not onlyconversation but confidences and companionship.
Good friendships don't come easily - they require work - they need tending to like gardens, and in time they bear fruit. Good friendships need commitment even through the tough times. Good friends talk through difficulties and problems and when the air is cleared good friendships become deeper through honesty.
Curling up in front of television every night and day of the week is no solution. Writing letters is a start. Talking to people on the phone is even better. Making the effort to get out of the house to meet with people face to face is the stuff that sets loneliness back on its heels and opens the door for the warm rays of friendship.Let's take a look at another example of loneliness - the kind of loneliness which can result from being a social outcast. Perhaps you were made fun of at school because you had too many freckles or wore big thick glasses or had buck teeth.
Maybe the kids called you unkind names and picked on you because you had braces on your teeth, walked funny or couldn't speak as clearly as others. Maybe there was a learning disability or a physical ailment that prevented you from doing all the things the other kids did.Rather than letting life's leg pullers, spoil sports and show offs put you on an eternal downer take life by the balls and make an impression. There is a strange justice that sometimes lets you have the last laugh. The least likely to succeed often do - mainly because they got fed up with being teased or being put down they do something about their lot. They work to get new skills, find their niche in life and excell beyond the name callers.
Don't let other people limit your potential or stunt your gro person. You find your own level and go for it. Don't stop until you are happy with the kind of person your are becoming and then look around and see where everyone else is. You might get a pleasant surprise.
So what is this loneliness all about? it seems to be much more than just being alone, although it does seem to stem from the fear that things might be that way forever. Loneliness is the dull aching that throbs beneath the soul. It is a despair that only needs a listening ear and caring companionship to dispel its spectre.Because of fears and hurts many people feel it is better to ignore signals of friendship and to restrict those they put out.
This protective shield mindset has caused many hearts to become hardened.
Such people when alone with their own thoughts are truly alone. They have let no-one in to see their deeper needs or share their hurts.If the problem is caused by wrong relationships or a lack of relationships - which can be the same thing - the answer has to do with right relationships.
Having God in the big picture has to help as well - he's always there no matter how lonely we may feel but he mainly works through people.
Right relationships, no matter how fleeting, are a healing thing. The more we interact with each other, the more we become involved in each others lives and our inner lights begin to glow brighter with each reassuring word and kindness shared. Special considerations are reciprocated as we hold each other in mutual regard. Association between people sharpens the mind, broadens the outlook and tunes the heart.Communication is the beginning of the end for loneliness. - ends
If you are in New Zealand and urgently need to talk to someone now try these phone numbers.
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