Tuesday, 23 February 2016

owner of a lonely heart

Copyright: <a href='http://www.123rf.com/profile_sam74100'>sam74100 / 123RF Stock Photo</a>

I'm sure we have all felt lonely at some point whether it was as a child waiting to make friends in a new school playground or the climb up management ladders that often leave silences when you walk the staffroom or the first few nights at home after the end of a relationship.
The Loneliness series across the BBC was a moving eye opener .Society will often presume the lonely are usually the old; unmarried or widowed. But the programmes presented various sections of our communities that get bitten by the lonely bug at some point in their lives.

There were the long married couples that had made it 'til death did indeed part them but what struck me about them was the honesty and the resilience. Then there were the new arrivals in new town/city/country and the new mums settling into their routine - silent until the baby cries. Everyone had a tale to tell and I was often in tears, especially hearing the 100 year old Caribbean lady telling of how she was alone day after day with only the telly for company (apart from the carer who came to wash and feed her).

I was pleased to see that the programme makers dealt with a range of lonely people; of every age, gender, race, class. Lonely can strike at any time and anywhere. 

So in addition to the lonely situations mentioned above I think there are other types of  loneliness that you can feel when you are physically alone - a Valentine's Day (if it matters to you) when you are recently broken up or a Mother's Day when you're estranged from your kids or spending nights alone when a partner is constantly working late. Some people are comfortable in their own company and living alone is a pleasure but for others this may be tantamount to misery.

And then there is the loneliness you can feel when you are surrounded by people. You know when you feel you just don't fit in or you fell you are being ostracised or bullied. This is not just a playground situation either. Or the loneliness you may feel when you feel trapped, maybe in a job or friendship or relationship.

So the programme got me thinking about how I've come across loneliness in my own life. Strangely, even though my weekdays are spent writing for hours on end on my own (bookended by the GeordieLad and the 3G in their work/school day hustle and bustle), I don't feel particularly lonely. The transition from a full time teacher in busy secondary comps to solo creator had its bumps but I suppose knowing I usually have a mate on maternity leave round some corner or other, or that the hours do fly when you're having fun I aim not to waste time until the school run.  And as someone who hates being the new girl I still wouldn't put moving schools or starting new jobs as lonely.

I worked out that my loneliness time was actually during the busiest time of my life. As a full time working mum of three small children, head of a pivotal department incorporating 15 staff, doing both nursery and school runs, filling the schools hols with oodles of activities to alleviate the working mum guilt, I barely had time to breathe because then I had planning and marking to do. I was surrounded by people all the time except for a 5 minute car journey between work and the nursery. . And yet I felt so incredibly lonely because I would work through lunch breaks, speed off at the school and nursery gates, avoid the hellos at kids events, work in the early hours of nearly every day that I created a massive gap between me and the people who cared.

There is a form of loneliness that comes with the internal negative voice that tells you that you are not good enough. This would be shouting loud and proud during my working days yet I would smile, laugh, make jokes, be assertive, be creative, be supportive but looking back I wasn't making proper time for me or anyone else. I didn't have the ... what we call... headspace. So then I became lonely amidst the company.

And now, meshed into hours of silence except for the scratching of pencil on paper I find I am not nearly as lonely as I thought I would be. I have found myself talking to more people because I answer texts and phone calls and emails and invites like never before. I make time to visit people and renew or strengthen friendships that I had always put off for another day (not everyone, mind, I'm working on it!).