Friendship needs no words – it is solitude delivered from the anguish of loneliness. ~ Dag Hammarskjold
Loneliness and the feeling of being unwanted is the most terrible poverty. ~ Mother Teresa
Loneliness is about the scariest thing out there. ~ Joss Whedon
There was a time when I was a single mom. At that time I had only one child. She was adorable as can be… and she also had ADD, with VERY strong impulsivity. I knew she had ADD when she was just 18 months old (yes, I am trained to notice these things by profession, so not a shock that I picked up on it right away). My daughter was cute as a button, but also loud, active, and likely to break a number of items in any home we visited. We got some dinner invitations, some real and some pity invitations…. I could usually tell the difference (but not always). I also got uninvited to some events when people realized that I would be coming with my daughter. I was trying to be a good mother, trying not to be resentful (it was not my daughter’s fault she had ADD) – it was hard.
I went to a religious service once where the community was small and there was no established nursery with volunteers. I sat down, wanting to connect with people and wanting to plug-in spiritually, as I felt so depleted. My daughter wiggled, my daughter asked questions…….. people looked at us and stared, how dare we interrupt their worship experience. Our presence was destroying the “holiness” of the service. They could not commune with God if we were there. I was in the midst of a group of people and I never felt more alone. The irony was that this was a group of people who should have embraced a single mother within their community – a group of people who should understand that a loud child in their midst and embracing a single mom just might cause their service to be holier than any prior service…. they did not understand this. After about 20 minutes an older women came up to me and pointed out that there was a toy room outside the sanctuary off the lobby. I took my daughter there… no one else was there. The toys were old and beat up, we had nicer ones at home – I did not come to seek community to be on the outskirts. I walked out and never went back.
During those years it was easier for me to get take out or delivery when I had those twice a month moments when I did not feel like cooking. Going to a restaurant with my wiggly toddler made me feel more alone than choosing to stay home. In a crowd I would see all the people who were linked together, all of the families, all of the support…… it was easier to not see it, less painful. I felt so fortunate when I was blessed enough to meet my partner and loneliness became joy, companionship, and a life journey.
I am ashamed to admit, once I was no longer lonely I did not think about loneliness very often and also did not think of the other single people around me who may be experiencing the same depth of pain and sorrow of disconnection that I once felt.
Today, 236 days ’til 40, I long to be more aware of those around me who are lonely, who need someone to reach out to them and include them, be with them, assure them that they do not have to journey through this life alone. Reaching out is a gift that changes lives.
June 30, 2012 at 00:12
If we don’t crave to be left alone, then loneliness is the worst possible thing that can happen. I really hope that people like you ,who know what it’s like to be lonely, what its like to have no one to share your feelings, no one to lean your back on in times of need, reach out to these lonely souls and help them get through this tough time in their lives. I think that’s what these abandoned souls need the most: someone who genuinely cares about them.
June 30, 2012 at 14:52
A good point… on a few levels… first, sometimes we crave being alone and that is okay and even good in those moments….. but when we do not, as you say, it is torture and we do need to make sure we are reaching out.
June 30, 2012 at 00:38
Sigh….your words today hit a chord. I don’t want to elaborate. For me the day is 399 until that mid-life age. I just wanted to let you know it had meaning to me.
June 30, 2012 at 14:50
Thanks for letting me know – hang in there.
June 30, 2012 at 00:58
Thank you for this lovely thoughtful post. It is nearly 3 years now since my marriage of many years ended. Being older – and with independent children – I have found out how quiet life can be. People say to me: “Oh how lucky you can do what you want when you want.”
Somehow going places isn’t much fun without a companion. When I was part of a couple there were many dinner invitations and social events. Now I am the third wheel, or the fifth wheel. I upset the symmetry of the dinner table with my singularity of being.
June 30, 2012 at 14:49
Wow, some people are clueless with their comments, aren’t they? I know they *think they are helping, but they are not. I also find I get more invitations as a couple then I got as a singleton.
June 30, 2012 at 02:16
With this very post, you will have reached out to someone, if only one. That’s a good thing, 400!
June 30, 2012 at 14:49
Thank you for your kind words!
June 30, 2012 at 04:07
Reblogged this on thechinesewatertorture and commented:
(re-posted from “400 days ’til 40” blog, which is excellent.)
June 30, 2012 at 09:11
I cannot understand why the religious community reacted like this, but I’ve experienced something similar in a religious high school. They ask me to change my behavior because I used to follow sport classes despite my disability, and well thinking parents found it was pretty disgusting and disturbing for their poor little children. I moved to another school for the last year before graduation. I still feel pain when I think about it. They might have been more positive, and cheer me up in order to continue to do sports. High school time was one of the worse time of loneliness in my life.
June 30, 2012 at 14:48
Wow, what a horrible thing you experienced! When will people learn? I hope that you were able to realize that it was the people around you, not you, who had the problem.
July 6, 2012 at 08:58
yes, thanks a lot for your kind words 😉
June 30, 2012 at 11:11
It’s a shame you felt so loney as a single parent, though I can see that the extra demand of your daughter’s ADD would increase that feeling. It can be horrible when you can’t do things because you are single with a child, or you are the only person who hasn’t brought their partner. However, there is also an awful lot of loneliness within relationships….. it was always just me and my daughter as her dad would not engage with what we were doing at all, and wouldn’t let us into his life.
June 30, 2012 at 14:48
Very good point…. sometimes someone can feel very lonely with a person right next to them. Sometimes that makes it even worse.
June 30, 2012 at 16:44
Harder to change perhaps!
June 30, 2012 at 16:37
I can relate to this very much and have struggled with it all my life. I crave the company of people but because I am so sensitive and empathic to other peoples emotions and energies I can’t be around large or even small groups of people for extended periods of time. Thank goodness for blog sites and other public media options.
June 30, 2012 at 23:53
I understand. I hate being lonely, but I also can really appreciate having my hermit moments!
June 30, 2012 at 23:14
I’ve seen religious communities like that, where they got angry at a father for bringing his few weeks old newborn to give his wife some much needed sleep. These are communities that I just don’t get.
Thankfully, our community loves it when my husband brings the children with him, and the kids feel at home there. That’s one of the main reasons we stayed there – because it really is a community, not just a place you go to pray.
I’m always amazed by single parents, as I really don’t understand how you manage to hang in there without losing your sanity. The few weeks a year my husband is on business trips cause me to hold single parents in awe 🙂
It’s a pity they made you feel that way, and I’m so glad you’re not lonely any more!
June 30, 2012 at 23:50
It sounds like you are a part of a wonderful community! That is great! 🙂
July 1, 2012 at 06:01
We had a young single mom in our little church today and her youngest started yelling uncontrollably…for about 10 minutes of the gathering. Thank God some of our elderly folk reacted quite differently and went over to see whether they could help the mom. She stayed and boy was happy again afterward – think he might have been hungry. But teaching was on grace…just imagine the incongruence and hypocricy should people have responded differently. Im so sorry that little church hurt you 400. Us Christians are at times nothing like the Lord we claim to follow. Accept my sincere apology.
July 1, 2012 at 22:21
Wow, what a great comment and I am so happy to hear that your church reached out to the single mom – that is what family and community is all about – they “got” it. 🙂
July 2, 2012 at 00:09
Thanks for posting that Gideon. I was just working out how to say the same thing.
July 2, 2012 at 12:26
July 1, 2012 at 23:33
hang in there, really we are not alone…have a good week…
July 2, 2012 at 19:02
Yes, we really are not alone.
July 3, 2012 at 01:49
thats the way to look at it….we are all in this together…
July 3, 2012 at 03:35
July 3, 2012 at 10:48
September 10, 2012 at 04:23
It’s a powerful story for two reasons. One, it is true, and two, it comes from the heart and you really touch the pain of those years and the things you went through.
Going back to your time at the church, I must admit I was a bit taken back, though my experience with any church has been that of conformity of being left out, no grey area. A place of worship which seems to always underline family values, and children’s best interest, loving them and educating them to become better people in a harsh world should not see a child as a distraction from communing with their God. That is like saying, we accept you as long as you sit down and shut up unless there’s praise to say or sing a hymn.
I’ve lived alone for almost 15 years, away from my family and with very little friends. It has become second nature to actually seek out the comfort of my apt than actually go out and meet people. It takes a lot out of me to actually engage with people I don’t know, so I understand. I’m most times alone, but rarely lonely, after all I have quite a nice community here on wordpress to keep me company and stimulate my mind, just like your open heart writing just did. Hug Luc.
September 10, 2012 at 19:31
Yes, your comments indeed chronicle my own deep frustrations with that moment…. that I would only be accepted (and my daughter) if we shut up and obeyed by their very linear expectations. You are so correct that it is very hard to put yourself out there with other people – and when you get in the hermit habit/ pattern of staying home it is even harder to reach out and put yourself out on the line. Yet, I find that when I do I often receive very special gifts of new friendships. Like you, my whole community, at one point, was just online – many still are, and they are a huge gift and joy in my life. i am trying ot balance virtual friends with in person ones too….. sometimes it is easier than others! Also, I can talk to the virtual ones at any time of day, in my pjs, etc – it seems less demending! 🙂
September 11, 2012 at 04:39
Indeed it does seem less demanding. Yet, I’m more of a loner by choice not by nature, since I never seem to find myself with the people I meet.
I find solace in my loneliness and most of all solitude, I find peace there, and I finally get to listen to what my person is telling me to pay attention to, my needs, my desires, my dreams. People pity me for living alone and being alone most of the time, I tell them not to worry about me but themselves, since they seem to be more in need of some time alone. They always complain what someone else did, a friend, a confidant, a close friend, a bf and so on. So why not pull the plug for a while and try solitude for a size?
September 11, 2012 at 19:23
I do think there can be a balance and, like you, sometimes I like being along and do not want to be pitied…. I choose and enjoy it at times…