“Remember, we’re all in this alone.”
— Lily Tomlin, American actor, comedian and author
“It’s try to, not try and!”
It was time for Mickey’s weekly visit to the radio station writing department (and accompanying grammar lesson). Mickey was a retired newscaster and though he had been out of the business for almost a decade, he still wore the old blue station jacket he had received some 20 years prior.
My fellow writers took to calling Mickey the Grammar Cop because a visit invariably included a five-minute tirade about how our department was “mangling” the English language.
It seemed that all Mickey did was ruffle feathers. He had a notable dislike of people, especially women.
Despite his aversion to people, he seemed to enjoy chatting with me. One day he asked me about VCRs.
“Have you ever hooked up one of those gadgets?” he asked.
I told him that I had.
“I bought one and it doesn’t work,” he said. “Would you come and have a look at it?”
A couple evenings later, I was over at Mickey’s modest (yet exceptionally clean) home, attending to a tangle of cords and cables behind his television set. After a time, I had everything working.
Afterward, we shared tea and cookies. He asked me if I was married and I said happily with four children and another on the way. He scowled and shook his head. He told me women were unreliable creatures.
Apparently, his wife “ran off” on him 30 years before.
“Good riddance,” he said. “Nothing but emotional warfare!”
A week later, Mickey reappeared in our department.
“I don’t know what you did,” he said, “but that VCR is not working! You’re going to have to come over and look at it again.”
A couple days later I was back at Mickey’s house and once again behind the TV. It took but a moment to discover that one of the cables had come loose on the back of the VCR.
When I explained the issue, Mickey shrugged and said he must have bumped it while vacuuming. He had tea and cookies ready so we sat and talked about my family and my children. He told me how he had met that “accursed” woman.
“Deceitful creatures,” he said. “You can’t trust them!” A couple weeks later, I was back again. I was beginning to see a pattern unfolding. It occurred to me that more than anything, Mickey was lonely and craved companionship.
This time the VCR had come unplugged, apparently (Mickey claimed) during a moving of furniture.
Mickey and I had tea and cookies again and we talked for nearly an hour about relationships. This time Mickey reluctantly admitted to me that he missed his wife. His pain had become his shield thus preventing any new relationships (or resulting pain) from developing.
Low self-esteem and loneliness often walk arm-in-arm.
People who have low self-esteem frequently have difficulty connecting or being open with others. Low self-esteem may prompt people to avoid social settings, isolate themselves and leave them with the impression that no one cares about them, understands them or is there for them in a time of need.
It seems to me that the longer someone is isolated the more difficult it becomes to reconnect. Loneliness can create a downward spiral that can lead to a state of depression. We may begin to feel bitter and angry (and not a lot of fun to be around) which simply serves to broaden the gap between us and others and ultimately deepen our state of loneliness and despair.
Here are a few steps you can take immediately to start turning your loneliness around.
Bring awareness to how do you talk to yourself. Ask yourself, “Would I speak to a friend this way?” Remember, our thoughts create our reality. Give some serious thought to how you commonly think about yourself. Do you treat yourself with kindness, respect and compassion? Do you berate yourself for being foolish, stupid or unlikeable? As challenging as it is, there is gold in staying alert to your self-talk and letting go of judgments that don’t serve you.
Frequently, people with low self-esteem stop doing the things that they love to do. Begin to participate (once again) in activities that you enjoy. When you get involved once more in your favourite hobbies, the experience will curb your loneliness and help boost your self-worth.
Consider the emotions that arise while you’re alone and especially those that surface when you think about stepping out and reconnecting. If you’re filled with fear, it might be beneficial to investigate the reason – have you (like Mickey) been hurt or abandoned by someone?
And keep in mind, there is a difference between loneliness and solitude. We all benefit from alone time – it helps us to recharge the batteries and gain perspective. Loneliness, on the other hand, often depletes our energy, causes us to lose perspective and to give up hope.
I’m not sure what became of Mickey – I moved away shortly after our VCR visits began. I hope the enjoyment he derived from our visits prompted him to develop other relationships.
“The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being,” wrote Peal S. Buck, winner of the 1938 Nobel Prize for Literature. “His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.”
Feeling lonely is largely created by our perception of not being connected to the people around us. The good news is our perceptions can be changed. And the better news is that we can change our perceptions by introducing self-awareness and honesty into the equation.
“Never tell me the sky’s the limit when I know there are footprints on the moon.”
Murray M. Fuhrer – The Self-Esteem Guy