I find that present-day complexities make it difficult to reorient myself to the different phases. At times, I find myself revisiting what I initially thought were adequate responses to a seasonal change.
The ‘climate change’ in life’s seasons recently led me to an experimental use of social media. It had elements of adventure and curiosity, and was far removed from my usual world. Why, you ask! I received the following SMS text. Ordinarily, it reads like fair comment. However, the message moved me to act because the sender claims to know me well. Readers may wish to know that as a single parent, I understood the context (and hope) in which the message was sent. Nonetheless, I do not think that I show the loneliness conveyed by the message.
I think loneliness creates a void. A void that comes from deep down your soul. It changes you; it steals away your happiness, and brings a constant sadness that’s only seen when you smile because the smile does not reach your eyes. Only when you fill the void, can you fully enjoy living. I feel as if I am intruding into your life. I have no idea what part, if any, I should play. You honestly don’t mean to tell me that you would still be talking to me if I treated you the way you treat me. I also think I don’t want to portray fake feelings. I am willing to be patient because I understand what you need but I would be doing myself an injustice if I did not tell you how I feel. I don’t mean to scare you. Believe me. I just thought it is normal to worry about someone you have feelings for if they are not well. I am willing to be very patient because I understand what you need but I would be doing myself an injustice if I didn’t tell you how I feel.
I quickly sought the advice of a close and trusted brother. His response did not leave me any wiser:
Intense communications in any relationship can cause a burnout and puncture, feelings to a point of being harassed, particularly where one party bombards another with accusations of why there are delays or indifferences to answering messages.
While noting my brother’s brave attempt to help, the original message still disturbed me. A report published by the WebMD blog on 4 May 2018 says that 54 per cent of “respondents” in a survey said they feel no one knows them well, and four in 10 reported that they lack companionship, their relationships aren’t meaningful and they are isolated from others…the comments echo those of other prominent health specialists, who say loneliness should be targeted in public health campaigns… We live in the most technologically connected age in the history of civilization, yet rates of loneliness have doubled since the 1980s. Loneliness is being fuelled by a variety of things, including work demands, improper sleep schedules, not spending enough quality time with family or socializing with friends, and a lack of me time…
Further, let me ask that you consider this from verywellmind.com:
A lonely child who struggles to make friends at his school has different needs to a lonely man who has lost his spouse. Loneliness causes people to feel empty, alone and unwanted. People who are lonely often crave human contact, but their state of mind makes it more difficult to form connections. Loneliness, according to many experts, is not necessarily about being alone.
With this new knowledge, I hope you will understand why the SMS text alarmed me. I took a free subscription to a dating site. I was convinced it would ascertain the level of loneliness or disconnect which I needed to address. I adopted a pseudonym (which the site allows on condition that the member provides a profile photograph and an abridged biographical note).
It was an ill-advised adventure! The world is full of topsy-turvy relationships. Whether we call them BFFs, acquaintances, connections or partners, it did not take long for me to realize that we need to revisit the whole exercise of why and how we connect. I am not surprised that our communities and societies are laden with suspicion, pretentious, insecure, and sadly, sometimes violent relationships.
Don’t always say yes. Weed out people who aren’t legitimate contenders. People who seem like they are not your type usually are not. Trust your instincts. Put the games aside and be honest and direct about who you are and what you are looking for (Rhonda Milrad at mindbodygreen.com).
Of major concern were the many matches I received. But, I also realized that my short-lived experiment forgot about God’s readiness to guide us. Consequently, I wondered whether I had chosen the correct platform for my curiosity.
Show me your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; on you I wait all the day (Psalms 25: 4 – 5 NKJV).
For I know the thoughts that I think toward you, says the Lord, thoughts of peace and not of evil, to give you a future and a hope. Then you will call upon me and pray to me, and I will listen to you. And you will seek me and find me, when you search for me with all your heart (Jeremiah 29: 11 – 13 NKJV).
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go; he’s the one who will keep you on track (Proverbs 3: 6 MSG).
My adventure was inspired by the words which describe me in the SMS I shared. By the way, I have tried to Google the SMS words, if only to find out whether they are original, culled from a poem, book or song. I have not yet found them. I am still interested in knowing their origin (if the Editor will allow). In the meantime, I wish to confess that the emotion and conviction conveyed in the message greatly affected me. After all, experts say loneliness has a wide variety of negative effects on both physical and mental health (including a predisposition to premature aging!). And so my reflections on my season of life continued with research into what constitutes happiness, fulfilment and joyous living.
In an essay entitled Overcoming Loneliness, Father Ed Broom writes:
Feeling dreary, dark and bewildered? St Ignatius of Loyola would call this a state of desolation. One of the most common manifestations of desolation is that of loneliness – you feel alone in the world and nobody really seems to care about who you are and where you are heading in life. If we do not know how to cope properly with this state of desolation then this state can wreak havoc in our lives and do irreparable damage to our spiritual life and even our natural life. One wrong decision made in a state of desolation could be life-determining. This state of desolation – manifested through a deep sense of loneliness – is all pervasive in all societies and situations today now more than ever! However, we are a people of hope. Our help is in the name of the Lord who made heaven and earth! St Paul reminds us with these encouraging words: If God is with us who can be against us…?
Reading through another essay, this time titled How to Survive Loneliness – 10 Things I Learned Alone by Aletheia Luna, one finds rather stronger words of advice:
Loneliness can be compared to a thick winter’s fog. It stifles and strangles you, pulling you under a heavy blanket of depression, pervading all that you see. Loneliness causes you to filter life through a lens of desolation and deep despair. Your spirit becomes so heavy with the weight of your isolation that you often feel like laying down, and dying.
(But note this, dear reader) – Whether you feel loneliness in a crowd, in your marriage, in your workplace, friends circle, religion, culture or simply by yourself, there is hope.
The perspectives I have alluded to agree that loneliness is not good. Regrettably, my short stay on the dating site left me wondering whether most people still give the gravitas due to friendships and relationships. To a large extent, I got a feeling that the “general seeker” is tired, discouraged and simply trying their luck. Some of the profiles I saw gave the following reasons for being on the dating site.
- Are there real people here – no ghosts or robots please!
- Just looking for friends.
- We can try – you never know!
- Integrity and honesty are very important to me. However, I have come to learn that accepting imperfections is imperative to building meaningful relationships. I am not Mother Theresa though!
- No interest in politics!
- Hair style: it has its moods. Well-behaved.
- I am done with frogs.
- Relationships can only work where there is communication.
- Willing to relocate? For the right person, to the moon.
- No to serious, ever-serious people.
- Perfectly imperfect!
- Looking for my first white lover!
- Curiosity hasn’t killed this cat.
I am perhaps close to being a reflection of number 10! But, more seriously, I have been a single father for twelve years. My cherished friends and dependable Lord have supported me along the way. I do feel lonely at times especially when I feel that my conversations do not always interest my children. However, I am still committed to sharing the Christian life with them; to talk to them about safety issues in today’s upside-down world, and alerting them to the hazards of peer pressure. African-American writer, Frederick Douglass, said “it is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men (and women).”
I have just finished a short confession by a young lady who had her first “serious” relationship at 17. At the age of 20, she was pregnant and the all-to-familiar conclusion came to pass; the boy walked out on her. An unknown woman later began assaulting her with unending calls. The high point was when the anonymous woman stabbed her with a knife when she was seven months pregnant. Luckily, both she and the baby survived. However, she is still haunted by memories of the “deserter” and “attacker.”
Such stories make one realize that “loneliness adds beauty to life. It puts a special burn on sunsets and makes night air smell better.” I am stretching things a little here, but I think the important point is to avoid rushing into toxic relationships. It is also necessary to add that the Almighty remains the rock of ages cleft for me.
True friendship is like sound health; it is seldom known until it is lost. MT