Thursday, May 31, 2012

Trying To Remember...

...what it might have been like to be lonely. As in: greatly desirous of human company.

Thursdays are the closest thing I have to a day to myself. The kids go to school, and while every second Thursday I have to grab them from the bus at 1530 to drive them (and some others) into Launceston for trampoline and gymnastics at the PCYC, on the alternate Thursdays it can happen that all the way to 1825 or so, I might not have other people in my face.

Right now, I've just had a very fine Boags Pure Lager. I've got ABC Dig Music coming in via the TV, which I have just wired to a small amplifier/speaker system because the native sound off the TV was shite. It's dark outside, and pleasantly cool in here, despite the fact that the fire is pootling along cheerfully. I've got a pot of leek and sweet potato soup simmering on the stove, and I've just pulled the bacon out of the grill. When the family gets here, they will have delicious soup with bacon bits and sour cream and chopped coriander.

But you see, there I go: planning already for the return of wife and kids.

What was it like, being alone? I did it, now and again, when I was younger. I took multi-day walks deep into isolated bushland, carrying my food and my gear in my pack. Once I hitch-hiked around Ireland on my own... at least until two very cute German lasses with a car of their own made me a better offer.

Lately, though, I find myself wondering.

Let's be honest: I've never really liked most of the human race. Oh, by and large they're decent enough, but I wouldn't actually seek them out for company. My friends know who they are... but it's an indication of the nature of what I call 'friendship' that Papa Stanley can show up at my house a good seven years after I last saw him, and we simply carry on in much the same fashion as always. We're friends, yes, absolutely. Good friends, I believe - but I know he can live without me, and vice versa.

These days, communicating with the people you want to reach is easier than at any time in history. I have a number of distinct, but overlapping, circles of friends. Some I see regularly and routinely. (Hi, Bruce!) Others I might only hear from once a year or so. (Simone? Julie? You out there?) Nevertheless, I could get in touch quickly, as needed.

What I do not have is that ability to walk away, and experience silence and isolation. I have three kids, and a wife. I have commitments to study, to writing, to family, to teaching, and to the community in which I live. I move from obligation to obligation, moment to moment, breathing in the spaces between, mustering my resources, planning the next engagement on the fly. I may spend an afternoon in relative peace on a Thursday... but nevertheless, I'm tied down, locked in. I picked up snacks and drinks for the kids. I shopped for, and installed, the speaker/amp system so that the others can enjoy TV and games and music. I met the kids at the bus stop, delivered snacks and drinks and paperworks, collected school-bags and books, and organised a few details with my neighbour. Then I went home again, handled laundry, laid my plans for dinner, etc.

And amidst this, if I did feel lonely I have email, and Facebook, and I have a mobile phone too. If I really wanted there's Skype and various chat systems, and the landline. There's the radio. The TV. A backlog of movies and TV series I've been meaning to watch.

I think... I think I might like to walk away for a while. I can't really remember, any more, what it's like to go through a day without confronting other people. I think I might truly enjoy a week, a month perhaps, of genuine isolation. The chance to reflect, to contemplate, to reduce my daily obligations to the absolute minimum necessary for self-maintenance, or self-improvement.

Of course, I can't see it happening any time in the next five years or so. But the fact is that here I am, and it's dark, and cold outside, but I'm warm and the music is good, and frankly, I don't think I'd mind if I could just stay like this for a while...


  1. I think this is why Buddhists (at least some of them) consider contemplation as something to be done after the kids are grown. I'm not saying that elegantly, but sometimes there *are* things that need doing first. I'd love a few days alone, I would. Ain't gonna happen at this stage of life though.

  2. A man with ready access to family and friends who tries to remember what it was like to be lonely is like a wealthy man trying to remember what it was once like to be poor.

    If you were ever truly lonely, you would never forget what it was like. The fact that you struggle to remember, and that by doing so you bring what is good about your life into sharper focus, is a sign that you are one lucky bloke.

    Boags Pure Lager, you say? I simply must have some.

    1. True--lonely and alone are very different animals.

    2. I'd post you some, but I doubt it travels well. Remind me when you get down this way. It is pretty good. It's not as full flavoured as the ales we were drinking in Melbourne - as one would expect of a lager, of course - but it's very clean, crisp, sharp, fresh and tasty.

      And I think you and Sue both have it right... it's not really 'loneliness' by any means. But a sense of aloneness, once in a while, wouldn't hurt. I believe I'd quite like to be alone - really alone - long enough to strongly feel the desire for human company again!

  3. Bit late to this...anyway, at one point I lived by myself for two years in a little country town where I knew noone. And it was the worst time of my life, just after the breakup with the mother of my first three sons. Curiously, I never got 'lonely' as such, being comfortable with my own company...but the circumstances were such that the time sucked a great deal. I did a lot of travelling back home on days off! STill, that time, where I was solely the arbiter of how I lived at home, was interesting.

    Nowadays, I'm a bit like you FH - I'll have a day to myself, will spend part of the day on just doing personal things like say going to the beach, or enjoying the quiet at home. Then part of the day will be getting the washing done, prepping dinner, then collecting the littlest bloke from school. Family is never far away!

  4. Oh, that sounds a LOT like me. Today, though, I take my three into Launceston, to join two others for some bowling. Yippee!