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.