Tuesday, 6 June 2017

A Jar By The Door



I spoke to someone recently who spent their birthday alone.
Without a hint of self pity they mentioned that they had received just one Facebook Birthday greeting and shared that their birthday treat to themselves was a coffee in a city cafe where the waiter was kind.
Loneliness seemed to seep out of them like sweat

I'm fifty five years old and I have never really experienced loneliness. I am lucky...so very lucky
Today, in the churchyard a man sat quietly on a bench in the blustery weather. He was visiting the grave of his wife. I waved at him as I fed the bachelors and he waved back.
He once told me that loneliness was " worse than cancer". 
His wife died of cancer.

Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, picks up the rice
In the church where a wedding has been
Lives in a dream
Waits at the window, wearing the face
That she keeps in a jar by the door
Who is it for
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Father McKenzie, writing the words
Of a sermon that no one will hear
No one comes near
Look at him working, darning his socks
In the night when there's nobody there
What does he care
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?
Ah look at all the lonely people
Ah look at all the lonely people
Eleanor Rigby, died in the church
And was buried along with her name
Nobody came
Father McKenzie, wiping the dirt
From his hands as he walks from the grave
No one was saved
All the lonely people
Where do they all come from?
All the lonely people
Where do they all belong?

97 comments:

  1. So many who could use a kind word and a friendly smile.

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    1. Indeed some more than others

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  2. I often think of "the face that she keeps in a jar by the door" do we all have that face that we show in public?

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  3. Well, we all have a face
    That we hide away forever
    And we take them out
    And show ourselves when everyone has gone

    Billy Joel, The Stranger

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  4. I am often alone but I don't suffer loneliness. My mother was often alone on birthdays and Christmas Day being a widow for 40 years. Usually being on her own on these occasions was of her choosing.

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  5. I know there are times when I love to be alone, and wish I lived out in the middle of no where, but then I know I am very lucky to have people around, like family and friends. it's always nice to at least greet everybody for you never know that may be there only interaction.

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  6. I walk a trail every morning and always say good morning to everyone I pass. There is a man,maybe 80, who I stop and ask "What's for breakfast?" He said to me a month ago, that often I am the only person he has spoken to for days. I balled my eyes out all the way home.
    There are so many people who are just alone.

    He had eggs for breakfast this morning.

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    1. I think all of us know a man similar

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    2. Oh, Jane. You've made me cry, but you've also made me happy for that man, to have someone who cares how he is. Thank you for this.

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  7. Loneliness is so real and on the rise it seems.

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  8. Like Rachel, above, I too am often alone - nearly always, in fact - but am hardly ever 'lonely' as such (and I'm not falling back on the ever much valued presence of my pussycats as substitutes for human presence). I've always preferred it this way though now advancing yet further than my 70 years, am getting increasingly apprehensive about time approaching when I can't manage to live a basic life without assistance and support. The prospect of that situation coming about is, frankly, terrifying.

    Btw: Re the song, John Lennon once claimed that he helped Paul McC write it, to which the latter retorted "Yeah, half a line!" without specifying which. I've always thought that it just has to be this "(Wearing the face) that she keeps in a jar by the door". Even before John L said what he did, right back at the time it was released I thought it was a very Lennon-esque phrase and image.

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  9. I read a great book one time on the profound difference between being along and being lonely. I like my alone time, but I need other people in my life. It is a fine balancing act.

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  10. I really thought that social media would help ease loneliness, and for some it probably does. But we've all seen people with their cell phones ignoring the people they are "with" for their Pavlovian response to a bell on their phone. Maybe it has created a new form of loneliness or "alone-ness"

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  11. Very interesting subject. I have known people who have never been lonely. I have also known people who cannot be alone for a whole day.

    For myself, I've been physically alone many times and not been lonely at all. On the other hand, I've had times with many people in my daily life, but often I felt very lonely - which for me, feels like a sad yearning to fulfill something inexplicable. Maybe the degree of closeness we feel with the people in our lives, determines whether or not we feel lonely. I suspect loneliness is tied to our overall mental health, personality and ability to cope. Which is closely tied to the "face she keeps in a jar by the door".

    Oh dear, I need more caffeine!

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  12. I am experiencing the loneliest of times.
    My husband has disappeared into
    the abyss of Alzheimer’s.
    The person who has overtaken his
    body, and lives in my house is a complete stranger.
    So many lonely people.
    What can we possibly do?

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    1. Janet, I am very sorry that you and your husband are going through this. Is there no-one you can turn to for a bit of help, family, friends, etc.?

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    2. Janet, i think you lie many in your position grieve well before your loved one has physically left you
      Hugs

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    3. Yes, Nana. Thank you for asking.
      I do have two amazing
      friends who shore me up often.
      The time at home with husband
      is however, most lonely and painful.
      As John says.......I am grieving his
      passing, (and angry over the personality
      that has replaced him).

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    4. Janet, I feel for you - I was in that position and know what it is like. I was lucky as six months after my husband went into full time care I was introduced to a man whose wife had recently died after he had cared for her 24/7 for many years. A great friendship developed. My husband died in October and a month ago I started a new life and marriage. There is light at the end of the tunnel although it often doesn't seem like it.

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  13. Of course there is a difference between solitariness and loneliness. It is quite amazing that in an overcrowded world, people can often find themselves isolated, unrecognised and unloved. A kind gesture or a few kind words can help a lot. You never know who you might be talking to.

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    1. What a thoughtful comment, YP. People are so busy with their own lives these days that they have very little time to devote to anything or anybody which might stem their life flow and slow them down. The word 'lonely' fills them with dread and they are unable to see that perhaps it will inflict them too, one fine day.

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    2. We have many lonely people calling samaritans ....all need an ear, a friendly voice, some warmth

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    3. One of my daughters-in-law is doing her Samaritans training at the moment.
      Freddie Mercury once said that you can be in the biggest rock band in the world and still feel lonely.

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  14. Difficult to post after the last comment. There are support systems for the carers. A dear friend was in a similar situation and found great solace from meeting with others going through the same, they all had their partners or cared ones with them.. I for one enjoy my own company. But speak to everyone on my daily walks. Some are so shocked to have someone speak to them. So sad.

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  15. Interesting subject. I could write reams about it but I'm not going to. You could always 'friend' that person on FB and make sure they get more than one birthday greeting next year??

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    1. I want to read those reams x

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  16. I've been alone most of my life. I often pride myself on saying that I'm alone, but that I'm not really lonely.
    It's not true - I am very lonely.

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    1. Liv, thank you for being so honest

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  17. I like my own company but rarely feel lonely, if I do, I make sure I e-mail or ring a friend to make contact with someone. Not everyone is in that position and it does worry me that particularly the older generation can be very isolated. Our society has changed so much in the last few decades with families living and working hundreds of miles apart due to commitments but it is very sad.

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    1. I think i am very much like you

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  18. My first husband once admitted that he quite often felt very alone, even when surrounded by people, which I found quite heart-breaking.

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    1. Was it him? Many people who are borderline depressed, autistic etc can feel isolated

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    2. I can echo the ex husband. Sometimes I can be in a room full of people and feel lonely. It is because I was terribly shy as a kid and although I blog, I find it bery hard to speak if I dont think I have common ground with a person. If its about work, I am fine. In a social setting, I struggle. Yet when I get to know people I am very social. My friend says I lack self confidence. I feel quite overwhelmed in very loud places with lots of people sometimes. Maybe he felt a lot like me.

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    3. You sound a lot like him Sol. He was very sociable with people he felt comfortable with. But, yes John, later in life (I met him when I was 16) I realised he was on the autistic spectrum,

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  19. When I was working many of my clients were the elderly and alone.
    It didn't take much effort on my part to chat to them if I had a few minutes to spare, often I was the only person they would see that day.
    Since I retired I've made sure to keep in touch with as many of them as possible, and I quite enjoy spending an hour or so drinking coffee and chattering/listening every couple of weeks. It doesn't take a lot of effort or time on my part, but it makes a hell of a difference to them!
    Even if it's only a matter of chatting to someone in a supermarket, or at a bus stop, or on a train, we could all do more to ease loneliness.
    It's a shame more people don't try!

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    1. Perhaps we all now will do more after this lovely post reply

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  20. Loneliness is the plague of our age and of our fragmented society.
    I have spent large parts of my adult life alone but have been lucky in that I have rarely felt lonely. I can understand, though, how it could eat into one's very soul. It is something we desperately need to address but I am in no way certain of what the solution might be.

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    1. I agree.....no one should know the pain of isolation

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  21. Such a difference between Lonely and Alone . . .
    I like alone time, often prefer it . . .
    Although . . . there are times when I am alone, and I feel very lonely.

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  22. My husband of 43 years died four years ago. I have never felt so alone. He was my life. I know no other way.

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    1. Gail my brother lost his wife of 50 years suddenly last year - no warning. He very hesitantly joined a widows and widowers group and now 18 months later he would NEVER miss it for the world. While he misses his wife he has made amazing new friends who understand him. I wish the same for you if possible. Anna

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    2. Hugs to you both

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    3. Thank you, Anna. Wise advice. When I thought I was clearly losing my mind, I contacted Hospice for grief counseling. Even though those sessions ended, I still meet regularly with friends made who share my insanity and truly understand. We still prop each other up when the going gets tough, seems to come in waves and unexpected.

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  23. Loneliness happens to us all when our partner dies. Or if there has been no partner then when our family dies out or we lose contact with them. But it is worth bearing in mind that there are ways to combat some of it by going out amongst people, volunteering for things, joining things - that is what I try to do. My loneliest time is at night, once the doors are shut and people are with their own families. I think when you live alone it is impossible not to feellonely some of the time.

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    1. Painful weaver.....but beautifully put x

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  24. Being a hardwired, somewhat misanthropic, lone wolf, has its advantages....sometimes!

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  25. I try and remember that for some of the patients I see, I might be one of the only people that talks to them all day. But there are a few who no matter how hard you try they are just not having it.

    Having said all that I am lonely. My husband is not the easiest of men. It's a very strange position being lonely in a marriage. Luckily our sons care about me.

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    1. I was in that marriage too. I have been so much happier since I am out of it. I became isolated from friends because of him so I know exactly what you mean about being lonely in a marriage. Good luck to you. Anna

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    2. This is more common that all of us would care to admit to

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    3. I get the whole 'lonely in a marriage' experience as it is, unfortunately, mine as well. :(

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    4. To 50, Treaders and Bea, I too was was alone in my marriage. It got worst as the years went on.

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  26. Thought-provoking post, John. I don't think I've ever been lonely in my life but I have seen much loneliness in others, especially in the Old Age Home where were used to live. When you pop your head in to greet an elderly person in her room or in bed in frail care, she will always call you closer. Just a word and a hug makes such a person's day. I've just had a sad time losing the two horses I learned to bond with over the past eight months. If you'd like to check my blog today you will see how devastating this was!

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    1. I read this earlier xjox

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  27. This topic has brought so many touching comments; I started to reply to them but realized I would need to do so for every single one. I have come away with a different point of view on speaking to those I see while I'm out walking. I am too shy to speak most times but will make a bigger effort now.

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    1. Yes as usual the comments out class the original post

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  28. Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely. People can be alone but still feel connected and fulfilled. The fact that your Birthday Friend was not self-pitying means they are probably one of those. On the other hand, people can be absolutely surrounded by other people (including spouses and family) and yet still feel desperately lonely.

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  29. One of the most beautiful and haunting songs ever recorded.

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    1. I never realised that before

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  30. I was never alone. The beloved child of a very young mother whose siblings and grandparents loved me .. spoiled me .. I got a baby brother when I was 10 .. I adored him .. he was never alone if I had anything to say about it !
    I had a best friend as a roommate when I lived in San Francisco, in Hollywood I had housemates, in NY I met my husband practically upon arrival, we were married for many years .. then suddenly he was gone.
    I had no friends, he was my friend.
    My children lived too far away. I was alone .
    I have been alone ever since.
    I was a bit clingy with some people who were online friends.
    I thought they were there to comfort and at least let me have someone to talk to .. email talk.
    But no, one not so nicely told me that I wallowed in my grief.
    And that woman was a "friend" !!
    So now I keep to myself more and while I will tell a story, I ask for no comfort from strangers ... or "friends".

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    1. I am so very sorry to read this. Hugs.

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    2. You have friends here old chum x

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    3. that person was no "friend" and that sux. you have real friends here!

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    4. You can message me anytime you like ... and you can wallow all you want. Online friends are some of the best Ihave ever made. xx

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    5. I agree with Cherie! I am house bound a lot since I care for my Mom. It gets lonely, I'd love to hear from you.

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    6. You have so many friends here. I always look out for a comment from you on John's blog. xx

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    7. Sometimes it's hard to make the right friends, especially on the internet. Sorry you were so let down. Lots of contacts above now, and you can add me too.

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  31. Loneliness can be devastating can't it? I notice on our crisis line that a LOT of the callers are lonely, and suspect you find the same when you are being a Samaritan.

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    1. Loneliness makes other problems so much bigger me thinks

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  32. When my husband left me and my kids had moved out I started going on "solos" trips because I love to travel. On my first trip I found one of the older ladies to be a bit "sour". I always said good morning but it never went any further. On the flight back to the UK I ended up sitting next to her and for 4 hours we yacked for Britain. Turns out she just had an "unfortunate" resting face making her look stand-offish, and she was actually quite shy. One of the saddest things she said to me was that "my children are very good but of course they are working and sometimes I can go a whole week without speaking to someone"! I should get myself a portable garden fence so I could just set it up anywhere, lean on it and chat to someone over the other side. Probably my ideal job to be honest. Anna

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    1. I have a friend who talks to people only at work....never at home

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    2. And I ... talk to everyone. The shop clerks, the checkout people at the supermarket ..now they probably run when they see me coming lol

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  33. A smile can make all the difference to some.

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    1. A hug too, sensory deprivation is common especially in the elderly

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    2. oh god, that makes me even less excited about becoming "elderly" LOL

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  34. I went on a page-long brain dump talking about my experiences with loneliness (lucky for you, I deleted it). In any case, it's why just talking to people you come across in your day can make such a major difference.

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    1. I wish you hadnt

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    2. Mitchell ... I totally agree, exactly what I think too. I chat to store people and try not to take up too much of their time but often I am treated to a hug or someone just making me laugh .. talking to strangers isn't all that bad :)

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  35. I have never suffered loneliness, which being an only child one might think that's more common. I'm blessed to have friends and now a hubby of almost 18 years. I do love my time alone when I get it and I make the most of it. But as for the face by the door, I am pretty much the same in or out. I go out of my way to smile to people and say hello and make conversation in the elevator etc. I had a customer at my office tell me once "I want whatever you're taking". I said "what do you mean?" she said "you're always so upbeat and happy". I told it was life, I just enjoy life, it's too short to be unhappy and if we can share that with others then so be it.

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  36. Some of us cannot, for whatever reason [I know what mine is, not my fault or choosing] reach out to groups or classes or people in the grocery line. The loneliness is excruciating, and very different from those time when I am enjoying being alone.

    lizzy

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  37. I was never really lonely until I moved abroad. The job I had prior to moving was VERY social. I was never really able to replicate such a thing abroad. I'm back in the home country & struggling with loneliness now and again. Turns out when you move away for six years, life just carries on without you. Adjusting to living life back in the states is a bit like trying to jump on a fast-moving carousel. Wheee!!

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  38. I recently retired and while we have friends together I have yet to make personal friends I can truly confide in. My husband hates it when I talk to people in the store. I just realized how lonely I really am. By the way I love the idea of a portable fence to chat over as Treaders/Anna suggested.

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  39. Too close to the bone for me to comment on..like many who have, feeling isolated is not uncommon.
    What I have found saddest is when so called friends that you have known for years suddenly dump you ...for no apparent reason ..just no communication, nothing! I have racked my brain at our last encounter..was I such a pain in the bum??? Was I far to straight forward with my opinion???
    So I am wary now of trusting 'friends' and now really only have acquaintences. If you are fortunate to have a friend that is sincere ..value them & let them know their friendship is appreciated.

    I am fortunate my husband is also my best friend and I tell him so regularly

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    1. In reading your post, I see some of my own experiences mirrored. Friends have just popped away, and I have wondered 'Was it something I said or didn't​ say?'

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    2. Oh honey, that happened to me too. People were all over me with sympathy and offers of whatever when my husband died so suddenly .. about 2 years later, with me not accepting any offers or using my sudden loss as an excuse for being needy ( I am just needy regardless lol)
      I had 2 different people just drop me. No emails no cards no nothing ... I kept my dignity and never wrote again but it never made sense.. why be all over a person when they are grieving then disappear in so abrupt a manner ... adding to sadness .
      I am learning as I go ... I wish the lessons would stop already .. I think I can manage now ~

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  40. There's an elderly man I pass on my walk with Elsie. He stands at his front door waiting for a taxi. He reminds me of my dad who used to stand at his front door waiting for a taxi to take him for kidney dialysis. I wonder if this man is doing the same? I always give him a wave.

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  41. While working at the green grocers I served many customers who had lost their other halves. The men were the saddest as the women tended to keep busy, see friends, join clubs, see family. One man broke down & said he was lonely with his wife gone. We talked about all the groups to join in the village including a befrienders group.
    Sadly the green grocers closed down last Saturday leaving customers & me very sad as it was a life line for some. Hopefully it will re open under new owners.

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  42. A very poignant post. I suspect many people are lonely now. I always natter to people when I'm out.

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  43. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  44. We can all reach out, touch a hand, share a cup and just be kind. We can be the difference.

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  45. I am happy to be alone, but am rarely lonely. I think I am just a very self reliant content soul. The last few years with LH working away through the week has meant that some days I do not speak to a non-furry or feathered person at all, and it really does not bother me. In fact sometimes I get annoyed if a phone call breaks through my self imposed silence or a caller comes to the door.

    But I do recognise loneliness in others and always when I am out I look for the sad face, the lonely person, the person needing help and try to initiate an exchange of even a couple of words. The amazing smiles I get sometimes bring such sunshine to my day and hopefully the person I have spoken to feels for a moment or two that they are not quite so alone.

    My Mum has the lovely ability of being able to talk to virtually anybody and has befriended all the 'little bus drivers' that take her here there and everywhere on the small bus that runs along her road (yes it's the busses that are small NOT the drivers). She makes them smile and is often found chattering away to them when she's the only occupant for a while.

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  46. Gosh what a thought provoking post and what truly sincere (perhaps emotional)fascinating heartfelt comments. I feel lucky to share my life with my best friend (my husband of 31 years) and therefore do not ever feel lonely. These comments have just made me realise how very lucky indeed I am. I also go out of my way to speak to strangers, on my walk to work, in the supermarket etc. It's nice to be nice and it's nice to have a polite conversation with people you don't even know.

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    1. Louise, I married my husband when I was 21. we were looking forward to having wild twenty-something sex on our 40th anniversary lol

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  47. I've been lucky in this regard too, though I think a large part of NOT experiencing loneliness is developing an ability to be alone. A lot of people never get very good at that. I actually enjoy doing things alone, and that's helped me at times!

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  48. You stirred everyone up with this.
    I'm very lucky now, but once long, long ago I was very lonely.

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    1. As long as you are now x

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  49. I think long ago as a young person when my family had moved to various rural areas, I had to create entertaining activities for myself. On subsequent occasions, being alone has not generated feelings of loneliness for me. Probably a good thing, since my husband's sudden death over a decade ago, coupled with increasing numbers of family and friends moving away, dying, and both, plus adult children living across country, closest friend some distance away, I have lots of alone time -- especially since I stopped work a couple years ago. Haven't really found an interest group with members who socialize other than during the meeting, so have yet to acquire new friends. Think that becomes more challenging the older we become when we outlive so many -- in my case, even many much younger than me. Can't really establish replacements for the long time relationships lost -- possibly one of the most difficult aspects of aging. I don't fret, just enjoy what I have -- don't mind going out alone.





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