I remember, many years ago standing in a local park, recently divorced, my mental health on a downward spiral, heading towards a devastating nervous breakdown which changed my life for ever, with my then toddler, around me were other mums, huddled in a tight group, they were young mums, the perfect hairdo’s, the perfect buggies, the perfect clothing on their children, perfect nails, perfect bodies..in fact I remember thinking, they were everything I was not, (even though at that time I had for the once and only time in my life…a pretty perfect body!)
The loneliness I felt then will stay with me forever, as I sat, a good 10-20 years older then these girls with my life falling apart I did not know what was to come, I did not know that one day after much heartbreak and trauma I would come back to this park with another toddler and be the one huddled in a group laughing and joking with other mothers ( though our bodies may not be perfect we all think our kids perfection pretty much makes up for it!)
So I want to talk about loneliness, about how debilitating and harmful it can be. I am feeling lonely right now, it started about a week ago, in the exact same park, on the exact same bench. As I sat looking around it seemed I was completely alone, I felt no one could reach me, no one would connect with me and an overwhelming sadness enveloped me, one which I still have not been able to shake off completly.
I have a wonderful, supportive, caring husband who is my best friend. I have a large family, filled with nieces and nephews of all ages, I have friends and aquantanes, my friends are like a second family to me and I love them all to bits, so I question myself, why do I feel lonely?
I keep on asking myself this question, and have come to the realisation that no matter how many people we have, sometimes we need people to be there for us, and not us for them, this may sound cruel, this may sound selfish, but when you give, and you give the giving will eventually come crashing down around your shoulders and you will be exhausted.
A very sensible person who I hold in the highest esteem often tells me to be mindful of my edge, we all have our edges, that point of no return, when we constantly do for others, and by saying yes to them we say no to others, for example our families or ourselves.
I have learnt that we can be surrounded, we can know deep down that we are loved and valued and cherished, but unless those around us remind us, show us our value to them, show us they are grateful we can get lonely, so very lonely and so very tired.
As I have experienced the pain of looking outward and feeling sadness so very deeply inside,I have learned to do a few things, when I go to a park, if there is someone sitting alone, I will try to sit with them and strike up conversation, we never know just what a few words can do. I once heard a great story, there was this postman, every day for years he delivered his letters in the same area, no one noticed him, it was almost like he was an invisable part of their existence, the letters dropped on the mat as if by magic, for years he walked his lonely route. One day as he was dropping a letter through a door, it opened, there stood an elderly lady, she smiled at him and started to talk ” For years you have been delivering my post, I see you daily, yet I realise I have never once said thank you, if not for you I would not have so much of what I have now, the letters I hold so dear to my heart from friends who have now departed this world, so thank you sir from the bottom of my heart, I want you to know you are appreciated” . The postman put his bag down and hugged the elderly lady, he wiped his eyes and he said ” Today, I decided that this would be my last day on earth, I am so very lonely and have felt that my life is not worth living anymore, no one notices me, no one would care if I lived or if I died, and so I planned to do one more route just to say farewell in my own way and then go home and take an overdose, you, have just saved my life, you have given me the strength to know that I am appreciated, you have noticed me, and because of you I will not be taking my life today” … now whether this is a true story or not does not matter, what matters is, that we notice those who are invisable to us and let them know we see them.
When I am at a wedding, a party, anywhere I try to notice those who are alone and make a point of talking to them, and the reason I do this is because I have been one of those invisable people, a while back I went to a synagogue I have never been to before, I sat down, smiled at the lady next to me and complimented her on her head scarf, the pain and hurt I felt when she looked me up and down and then turned her back on me was physical, it took my breath away. Are we so shallow that we will only talk to someone who looks the same as us? dresses the same way as us? goes to the same kind of school we send our children to? makes as much money as us? Do we want to be those people who turn our backs and make someone who may be crying inside for just one person to notice her give up?
Today I had a client, and elderly lady who has no children, she threw her arms around me as I walked in to the door, telling me she had not seen or spoken to anyone for 4 days…! How does this happen, in a society where we are in constant 24/7 contact with anyone we want? Are we surprised that the people who turn to Facebook, Instagram, snap chat etc to post every detail of their lives and usually the most lonely? Or do we have to realise that it is those people who feel the most invisible, they are crying out to be noticed, but sadly they are only noticed on a screen and not as a person. How many stories do we hear regarding teenagers, who post on Facebook messages asking for help, putting pictures up stating they are about to kill themselves, yet we look, we stare, we shake our heads and mutter “not my problem”
The world now has more means of communication then ever before, yet we live in a time where loneliness is at a higher rate then ever before. I think its time we rethink our priorities.
Lots of love
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