Because this is so the subject of loneliness has been on my mind recently. Before I explore the nuances of loneliness, I want to figure out something that's bothered me for quite some time.
For years my son who has brain injuries has been visiting me on the weekends. Sometimes I take him to Subway because that's what he's craving for lunch. He sells one of his video games, and then uses the money to buy lunch for himself, and one of his brothers.
I've watched as time after time he's come out of Subway carrying two sandwiches, one for him and one for his brother. There have been times I would have loved a sandwich too, though Subway isn't my favorite place to eat. But I've been hungry enough to where even one of their sandwiches sounds good.
One day, as I watched T and his brother wolfing down their sandwiches, I couldn't hold back.
"Why do you always get your brother a sandwich?" I asked.
T said, "Because he's my brother and I don't want him to go hungry."
He went back to eating while I mulled that over.
"Okay, that makes sense, but what about me?"
"What about you?"
"What if I'm hungry too!"
This came out of me in a rush of hot words, indignant on my own behalf. How could he ignore my needs time after time, and see only his brother's?
"Oh," he said, "I didn't think of that. Do you want half of mine?"
Instantly I felt guilty for making him feel bad, for that wasn't my intention. I wasn't even sure what I meant to say to him, but surely something beyond the simple assertion that I might be hungry too.
I've given all of this a lot of thought because it's created a lot of confusion mentally, and emotionally. On one hand I know that T loves me dearly. He wouldn't deliberately do something that would make me feel bad. And yet . . . how do I reconcile his love for me with the way in which he consistently overlooks my needs?
As I ponder the subject of needs I am instantly focused on my childhood, for surely in that land of trauma and sorrow I was taught that my needs--if they existed at all--were selfish and insignificant. It wasn't made clear to me what to do with the needs that I couldn't help feeling, except that I was not to burden others with them. I wasn't to speak of them or assert them in any manner. I was to demur, always, to my stepfather, then my mother, and then my younger siblings. I was low man on the totem pole, and if any of my needs that went beyond a roof over my head and food on the table were met, it was always a fluke.
Light dawned on me as I considered all of this. As a child I became an expert at erasing myself. I existed to serve others, and it's clear to me that this extended years later to my years spent raising 5 sons. I didn't spoil them, but I also didn't make clear to them that even their mother has needs that should be considered. How could I? I'd forgotten myself that this was so.
T never offered to buy me lunch because I've come across all his life as being self-sufficient. He's not selfish, he simply didn't have any way of knowing that I wanted to be included in his generosity.
So what has my loneliness got to do with any of this? Suddenly it is so very clear to me that it's a sign that a huge need isn't being met. Because I'm such an expert at hiding my needs that even one of my sons doesn't recognize that I too might like a sandwich, my need for human companionship has simmered on the back burner, as ignored as a redheaded stepchild.
I feel a lack of emotional connection most when I experience something--the reading of an emotionally stimulating novel, or watching an uplifting movie--and there is no one to discuss it with afterwards. The necessity of stifling my needs has created a degree of solitude I believe to be unhealthy. I've always enjoyed my own company, but when taken to an excess being solitary begins to wither the affections and heart.
I've felt something was off for quite some time; it feels rather silly to say it's simply that I'm lonely! I wonder how bad loneliness must get before it turns into a kind of soul rot?
I think a first step for me is to be more vocal with my needs when they arise, and when appropriate. There is nothing wrong with letting my son know that I'd like to be in the loop too. I don't really have to wait until indignation compels an angry outburst. I can speak the truth calmly in a non-confrontational manner.
What a delicious realization! I not only have the freedom (if only I'll take it) to express my needs, but I can do so without making others somehow to blame for those needs not being met sooner. I can speak up on my own behalf--and it doesn't have to be in the abusive manner of my childhood abuser.