He Says He’s Always Lonely

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We were getting our travel trailer settled on our campsite on Lake Michigan on Monday and I noticed a man, about my age, sitting on a bench in front of his big motor home on an adjacent lot. He was sitting there watching us, just as we watch people setting up their campers. I talked to him, we laughed about him having a front-row seat, he said his wife had kicked him out, I replied with some lighthearted comment – maybe something to the effect of how lonely he looked, he said,

I’m always lonely.

I didn’t respond because, with my therapist trained brain, I didn’t know how to respond. I didn’t know enough about his life story to know how to respond. But JB and I have noticed their comings and going over the past 24 hours. It is difficult not to notice because they are less than 50 feet outside our dinette window. We noticed they have an electric chair and a fancy walker under the awning.

JB and I talked about how much respect we have for this couple because they are getting out and living life even though both have mobility problems. I haven’t seen much of him or his wife since that initial conversation when we arrived. The only time I’ve seen them is when they were leaving to visit the people at a neighboring camp site – they have been there all day except for short trips back to their motor home to get something. He has been with people all day long. I’ve been wondering what he means when he says he is always lonely.

His statement that he is always lonely didn’t match his reality today – unless he really is lonely when he is around other people. This would mean that he has closed off his heart, his being, and isn’t accepting the caring and nurturing that comes with being with the people he chooses to be with. People who have been really hurt in a previous time, when they were vulnerable and didn’t know how to protect themselves, build walls around themselves as a protection to being hurt again. That could be it but I would need to know a lot more about him and this is not the topic I want to write about today.

What I have been thinking about is what is going on in our brains that we don’t think about. These self messages that are just there, reinforced by years of repeating them to ourselves, without thinking. It could be that there are times that he is lonely – he may be an extrovert and when he is closed up in the house during the long, grey, cold Michigan winters (he said they never leave the state), he is lonely. Could it be that he is overgeneralizing – isn’t letting the reality of a summer day camping with friends intrude on his self message, or self definition, of being lonely?

I have been watching sunsets over water for many, many years. We have spent a good part of our camping days over the past 50 years on Lake Michigan and Lake Superior watching the sun set over the water. During the past 7 years we frequently watch the sun set over the Gulf of Mexico. Every time I watch the sun set, I feel a sense of sadness because another day of my life has finished. This evening we were sitting by our campfire and could see the sun beginning to set so we walked up the grassy dune to watch it. It was quiet and beautiful and I began to think about the loss of another day – gone, never to be lived again. And I began to feel the sadness.

But I stopped myself from thinking my version of “always being lonely” or whatever. Instead I thought, “What a beautiful end to a wonderful day.” I’m so glad I had this day to live with my husband. We did some fun exploring, relaxed, ate good food, took a wonderful nap, and watched a beautiful sunset. I don’t have to bemoan the loss of a day because I lived the day simply but well.

I have more to say, but it is getting late and I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep to refresh my mind and body. Friends will be joining us tomorrow and I look forward to sharing another day well spent with them. And I want to make sure to think about my thinking – so I can update my brain with current data.

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23 Comments »

  1. You got me thinking, was that the point? I never thought of the sunset as an ending, but instead I marvel at the sunrise and sunset that occur in all their glory whether anyone is watching or not. Every day. I would calculate the number of days that I’ve been alive but that thought would be depressing. So many sunrises and sunsets that I was too busy to notice. But I notice now.

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    • Yes it was Michael – except I had a crazy dream about my youngest daughter getting married because she was pregnant. She’s now pushing 50 with 3 adolescent daughters. I think the dream was my brains way of integrating the post I wrote just before going to bed. Our brains are such a miraculous organ.

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  2. whom I feel no connection; no shared values. that is much more isolating that being in a country where you do not speak the language yet mange to connect with people.

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    • Interesting observation. I scanned a couple of editorials written by people who are ultra conservative and I felt that pang of loneliness – just before I felt the anger that people could be so selfish. They were about our healthcare “reform” that is really a transfer of wealth upward. And our conservatives are so against transfer of wealth (when it means downward).

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  3. There’s a knack, I think, to learning to enjoy one’s own company, of enjoying (appreciate) one another’s humanity when it feels as if that’s all we have in common, and of learning not to pull away from other people. Perhaps lonely too is a learned “skill.” reinforced by self-talk. We’re always going to be alone sometimes or sometime. We’re always going feel alone facing a world gone mad. Question is: how do we turn lonely into the gift of solitude. I think you point to all of this in your post. Sixty-seven and still learning. 🙂

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    • Amen, Jamie. I am an extrovert so it took many years of hard work to let others in. Now I can truly enjoy my solitude because I carry the warmth of being loved.

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  4. Pausing a bit to think about one’s thinking. I like this! I’m at a writing conference and just took an hour to lie down, close my eyes, and let thoughts arrive willy nilly. With fresh ideas, I can now get back to writing.

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  5. How do we know when we ‘catch’ ourselves playing the real and honest tape, and simply change our words to make things look ‘positive’ that we haven’t just lied to ourselves and to those hearing our ‘nice’ words. For me, it’s about finding out what works and what doesn’t work and then examining my beliefs to see if the are serving me and how. When I notice and see conflicts or things I do NOT really believe anymore, I can change those, or ask for help. Really meaning them. (sometimes in this process i then beat me up for doing it in whatever way I have chosen to believe is ‘wrong’ lol)

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    • It sounds like you have found a way that works for you, Elisa. Life sure is smoother when we find what works and serves us well. But you are also right, it sure can get complicated.

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