Monday, December 22, 2008

Pondering Loneliness

I don’t want to be alone anymore.

I want to have lots of friends, close friends who care for me and love me. I want friends who call to check on me, give me unexpected gifts, show up at my door unannounced, and inspire me to live a better life. I want friends who I can call in the middle of the night when I am feeling blue and say, “Whatcha doin” even though I know they are sleeping…and they won’t care. I want friends who notice when I’m feeling sad and try to cheer me up. I want friends who will laugh with me. I want friends who will cry with me. I want friends who will let me show the same love and care for them, too.

However, I don’t have many friends like that. In my 50 years of life, I have had a few friends who meet the description above, emphasis on the word few. For those people, I am grateful. My life has been, and remains, blessed by these good friends.

When I graduated High School, I thought my friends would be there for me all of my life. Yet, over the years things change and the few become fewer still. Life has gotten faster, more disconnected. Job opportunities have drawn us away to distant locations. Children have grown up. We have gotten busier. The strange thing is communication technology in 2008 is far superior to the communication technology of 1977 (my graduation year). Still, somehow, we have become more disconnected than ever.

In the late 1960’s, I watched a movie on television titled My Side of the Mountain. It was about a boy that became angry with his parents and decided to runaway to live on his own. His adventures in the mountains sparked my imagination. He had animals for friends. He fished for his food. He even lived in a hollow tree. I loved the movie, and I thought I wanted to live that kind of life.

Those deeply embedded, childish feelings continued into my adult years, and I suppose even now there are times that living in the mountains on my own without any human contact seems like a great idea…except, I don’t want to be alone anymore.

Not long ago, I watched people coming into my store and sitting down for a meal together. Couples sat next to each other, and instead of talking to one another, they were on their cell phones talking with someone else. Parents brought their children in and sat silently eating their food while their children sent and received text messages. My own staff served their guests with a sense of separation, doing what they had to do in order to get back to their phones and text someone and still get a tip off the table. Across the street from my store is a city bus stop. It is amazing to watch people stand there waiting on a bus either too afraid or too unwilling to talk with one another. They stand yards apart reading a book, talking on their phones, watching a movie on their portable DVD player, listening to their iPod, or staring blankly into space or at the ground. All of this made me feel desperately alone.

Have we gotten too busy for friendships? Are really close friends a lost relic of past generations? Do we think friendships are for children? Do we have to be alone?

It is no wonder suicide rates are up. We have billions of people on earth. We have state-of-the-art communication technology. And, in the middle of our sea of humanity, we are still alone.

I don’t want to be alone anymore.