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Alone Vs. Lonely


Alone Vs. Lonely

Let me make it clear upfront. This is not a pity party, and I'm not trying to set a Facebook record for "Care" emojis. All my life, I've encountered new ideas, new feelings, etc., and I try to understand what is happening and how it changes the people around me and me. When I think I've discovered something, I try to share it for whatever benefit it might be to the next person. And, so, it is with the feeling of being alone or lonely that I share this stor

Some background that many of you know and others may not. I grew up quite alone as a child; that deserves some explanation. My parents separated when I was an infant. I went to an aunt's house for a year or so, and I remember not being welcomed there; she had three preschool kids of her own and didn't need this squalling baby boy. My next stop was my paternal grandmother. I recall her with kindness and even sitting on her lap in a rocking chair. But Grandma was elderly and sick, so my next stop at age five was a home for orphaned or abandoned boys needing a home. From that point on, I was usually alone and taking care of myself.

I was surrounded by other boys and adults charged with taking care of us and guiding us on the straight and narrow. We were well treated, and if we were seriously injured, we were taken good care of. But, if we were upset or sad, no one hugged us or told us it would be okay; we had to find our own way to deal with these emotions. I grew up alone because there was no emotional support, but I was never alone with all the boys, some friends, and some not so much who surrounded me every day for ten years. Without the emotional connections that hopefully are formed for most children in a loving home, I didn't know how to be lonely; you need to feel loved and then lose that feeling to be lonely.

Fast forward sixty-five years to 2022. I've been married to the same woman for 48 years and together for nearly 51. This is the first anniversary, Christmas, and probably New Years' Eve that we've not shared together. My wife, Gale, injured her back and had surgery; she's still recovering in rehab. I saw her yesterday, Christmas Eve, our 48th anniversary, and again today for Christmas, but that was in a medical facility. As I prepared the anniversary and Christmas card for her yesterday, I think I felt lonely for the first time in my life. I was taken aback, sad, and confused a little. It was not an emotion I was familiar with.

I realized that being alone is a state of being that I was accustomed to, even though I like being around people. Being lonely is an emotion I don't believe I've felt before. Several times, I've said and written about the importance of making those emotional connections when children are small. Whenever you hug a child or kiss their booboo, you make a love connection that fires something in their brain and yours. You form a bond with that child that is not only emotional but an actual neural connection in the child's brain that is vital to their development as a thinking and feeling human being. I didn't realize that over all these years together, at least some of those connections were finally made in my old brain, and I didn't know until this holiday season what it felt like to be lonely. While the loneliness was painful, the knowledge that I had learned to feel that emotion was a triumph.

Hug those children every chance you get and make all those wonderful connections.