“Loneliness, it’s a coat you wear; it’s a deep shade of blue; and it’s always there” – these are the first lines from the song ‘The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore’ recorded by the Walker Brothers, amongst many. They came to me last night as I got ready for bed. The weird thing was that I wasn’t feeling lonely, but I was thinking about loneliness.
I went to see the new Danny Boyle film yesterday: ‘127 Hours’ – the story of Aron Ralston – the guy who got stuck in Bluejohn Canyon, Utah and had to free himself by cutting his right arm off. It reminded me of a similar tale, in different, but equally extreme circumstances: ‘Touching the Void’ – the story of Joe Simpson, Simon Yates, the cutting of the rope and Joe’s incredible story of survival in the Siula Grande in the Peruvian Andes. Both stories show unimaginable courage, pain and the ability the think in the most extreme of circumstances. Equally, both stories examine the process of loneliness and of facing the possibility of death. Often people don’t get the chance to think about how they will die, an accident or medical condition will take their life swiftly away, but for those who have to think about their deaths, it must change your mind set profoundly.
More common is thinking about loneliness. The process of loneliness is really a matter of time and place. For Ralston and Simpson it was tempered with location and extreme circumstances, for most of us it is coming home to an empty house or perhaps doing the weekly shop alone. Sometimes you can be in a relationship and feel lonely, when that feeling of connection is lost. When you are in a family, at least in my experience, you never get this feeling. There is too much noise around or the hubbub of movement, the feeling that there is always someone in the house. In these circumstances you can feel like you never have enough privacy or there isn’t the peace that you crave. Those quiet moments when you can let your brain settle and you can find yourself coming back to a centred position.
When you live alone it’s a totally different feeling. Sometimes it’s the best as well – no noise, after a busy day, bliss. But sometimes silence is all you hear. You put on music or the tv or a radio or watch a film, but often there is that feeling that you are merely masking the silence. Over the past few years I’ve had chats with parents who’ve children have now left home and they have to rediscover who they are as people. For year’s they were known as ‘Samantha’s mum’ or ‘Paul’s dad’ and now they have to find their true identity again. It is a strange feeling and takes time. Combine this with a relationship break up and you have a new sense of loneliness that you didn’t feel before. If we go back to the Ralston and Simpson situations we find that many things, infact most things, are survivable. Whether it’s hacking your own arm off or surviving a horrific leg break 20.,000 feet up a mountain you find a way. If your loneliness comes from losing the person you thought you were with for life or letting the children go, for all life goes on and if you’re lucky life is once more filled with love or personal fulfilment. It’s all a case of focus though. Think about how lonely you are and you will stay wearing that coat, look to life for possibility and the answers usually appear. Whilst you feel that emotion it’s sometimes hard to imagine, I can only speak from my own experience and say that for me time has given me the answers.