At a time of the year when it seems compulsory to be with family and friends, as we watch Kay jewelry commercials about a kiss com and diamonds commercials, let’s be honest and admit not everyone has a family and many are not all chocolate and diamonds …
This thought prompted me to write this post, as I am about to leave my friends in Florida and fly back home to PA, where I do not have a family, but am not alone.
What is the difference…
I was in a marriage of 20 years but was lonely, yet not alone. I had to adjust my needs to my family’s, but when I was trying g to communicate at a deeper level with my husband… well… it wasn’t happening. I felt lonely, yet our host Mas tree was there, the presents, the ham etc. Oh and how could I forget, the family and friends.
Years flew by, my daughter’s flew to California, my husband is no more, so… am I lonely.
The story I am going to share illustrates the difference best.
I went to a new doctor. He said, So, you live alone, do you feel lonely, as in depressed.
I don’t live alone. I live with three rescue dogs and Max, my African Grey, who every morning tells me, I LOVE YOU. If I don’t answer back, he asks, WHAT Are YOU doing…lol
I am alone by superficial human standards, but not lonely.
To the joy of having the unconditional love of my pets, I derive soul companionship from connecting with my community and people life sends my way for a reason.
The artist on the plane, the homeless by choice who offers free bracelets on a Florida beach, the beautiful blonde woman on the beach , who dedicates her life to autistic children.
Perhaps, I felt more lonely when I was in meaningless relationships, than I feel now, when I live alone by the superficial doctor’s intake form, yet I’m not lonely.
Loneliness is a state of our minds, not of what TV commercials feed us.
With Thanksgiving behind us, we are one step ahead to walking yet another year through the labyrinth that is “politically correct” labeled now, “The Holidays!”
We still have to walk through the narrow corridor of Black Friday and then the frenzy of getting whatever is left over if one didn’t wake up at 2:00 AM on Friday to get the technological gear in fashion and demand this year! What would our child say? Imagine the disappointment experienced and the life-lasting trauma of not having whatever game, jewelry or piece of clothing one wished for… Forget war caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD!) The trauma of not having exactly what one wished, when they wished it! That IS real trauma!!! Yes I am sarcastic because as a society, in general, we lost perspective of what is really important in life and it would be nice to regain perspective!
Perhaps, our peace of mind is possible if we only take a few steps in the opposite direction.
The Key to our sanity could be easier than we think:
STOP! THINK! ACT DIFFERENTLY THIS YEAR! SEE HOW IT FEELS!
What if, instead of stuffing ourselves with 3500 worth of calories at the Thanksgiving table, we eat on a SMALLER PLATE. What if we also participate in one of the many projects organized by churches and communities everywhere and feed the homeless. It is the truth that there is more joy in giving than in receiving, if we would only have the courage to try.
What if instead of beginning the endless chase for more “things” which tomorrow will be forgotten in a corner, we give gifts from our true heart, not as much our pockets.
Let’s give a book of services one could perform himself or herself. A massage? A cooked meal on a night our partner is tired? A gift of a trip to a near by park and pick nick when spring arrives. How about those chores she expects you to do and you say “later” and she ends up doing them? Yes, I am talking about taking the garbage out!
How about if like me, you are an empty nest? What the hack does that mean? Empty?
Once a doctor asked me, “Do you live alone?”
“No,” I responded.
He looked at me puzzled: “You circled divorced, on the form…”
Yes, divorced, not alone.
“I live with three dogs and a parrot. Every morning, when I go in the kitchen to make my coffee, Max, my African Grey, greets me with, “I LOVE you!” And he means it!
How many people are that lucky, to be told how much they are loved, sincerely, every morning? The KEY to this blissful relationship is that I say it back to him: I love you too!
Oh, and the benefit, African Grey live to be 80 years old, so this is a long term blessing and joy which I will pass on to my daughter, unless I live to be 150!!!
Next week I will travel to see friends in Florida. I could not afford holiday prices, so I settled for the cheapest travel, between the two major holidays, when plane tickets doubled. I assure you the ocean will be equally beautiful the day before Christmas.
It’s all in our minds!
Any day could be what we make it to be! The key of being content, peaceful, dare I say… happy and staying on track, OUR personal track, not that of the big corporations, is to have confidence in our ideas and to not be afraid to have the “traditions fit our needs and not us fit into the traditions!”
How many times, as a young woman, I was told to go to a certain doctor because the clinic or hospital with which the doctor was affiliated are conveniently located? How many times was I told to see a doctor because he or she was a friend’s friend, or had a short wait list, or no wait list at all?
The concept that a doctor is a doctor, is a doctor, could be compared to the idea that I could paint as well as Salvador Dali, or sing like Adele or act like Sally Field, and the list goes on and on…The truth is, I cannot! I wish!
After the publication of my Memoir, ‘The Gypsy Saw Two Lives,’ a High School friend from Romania, asked me: “Where did you learn how to write in English?”
He truly didn’t understand why having had the same teachers of English, I ‘learned,’ but he didn’t! He, on the other hand, was an architect. Geometry and drawing and the gift of design came easy to him.
How could I explain to my friend that each person enters the journey of LIFE with a gift. We all do, but many have difficulties finding ours. It does not mean we don’t have a gift, it only means it is hard to detect it, or we don’t try enough, or many times those responsible for our development and choices of careers direct us forcefully in the direction they wish. Many times, a parent couldn’t follow his or her dream and forces the child to fulfill the dream of the parent. This could result in confused or even worse, unhappy lives. Many times, at the end of the journey, a person looks back and has to admit in horror that nothing was accomplished of what they would have liked! Their dream turned to dust!
Such sad endings don’t mean the person wasn’t born with a gift. It only means the dream was lost somewhere on the way. The possibilities of lost dreams are many. There are cross roads and dead ends, and clearings with lakes or running rivers, or oceans and seas …
A brief description would be: TEMPTING!!! to get lost, easier to take a short-cut.
Yes, it is tempting to take an easy way, or to avoid taking the responsibility of a path. When one makes a choice, there is the possibility to win, to be happy, successful, but there is another possibility we all fear: to fail, to be sad, unhappy, to feel one failed!
Who would wish such an ending: to have lived and to reach the end and look back to see nothing… or even worse, to only see scenes one dislikes, or hates or worse… feels ashamed of!
How do I know so much about the winding path of life, one might ask?
The answer is simple:
I was one of the manipulated, I was pushed ( read forced) to wonder on various paths which weren’t mine. They were my mother’s. Today, as I approach the stage of life when soon I will have to look back and draw a line and the sign = ??? I see my mother who was a doctor, a good but unfulfilled doctor, simply because to be a doctor was not her dream! Her dream was to be an Architect and she projected her dream on me!
Today, I’d call what she did, “manipulation.” At the time when it happened, I called it motherly love. It was such a warm, comfortable feeling to feel loved by my mother. However, the price for that feeling was a confused youth. Changing careers so many times, I lost count…
Ultimately, after my mother died with her dream of me being an architect unfulfilled, I re-positioned myself, took off the blindfold and started to try various paths which were hidden from me. Soon I discovered my love of writing. It is true, one could ‘learn’ how to write business letters, essays for school tests. This was not the type of writing my architect friend was asking me about. He wanted to know how and where I learned how to write so that many others don’t get bored and throw my writing away after reading the first two lines. That answer was simple: A gift from God and work!
Late in life, I also discovered that my dream, not my mother’s was to be in the helping profession. This was how after I finished my B.A. in English and Romanian, I went to graduate school, and earned my Master of Science in Counseling and Clinical Psychology.
I am sure, by now, the readers of this article might ask themselves, Why is she telling us all of this and how does it connect to being a good doctor?
If you made it so far into this post, please bear with me a little more…
It is only human, by my standards, to look back and contemplate my life and accomplishments before I have surgery, especially when it requires general anesthesia. This was what I experienced yesterday, a fairly difficult surgery which triggered the thoughts I share with you now.
My kind neighbor dropped me off and picked me up from the hospital. I entered the hospital alone. I walked the long corridors alone. I pressed the button in elevator D, alone. I was in the waiting room alone. I made the mistake to check around me and I was the only person unaccompanied by a family member. When I realized that, I felt not only alone, but LONELY and SAD!!! I promised my readers to always tell the truth: My heart was broken, what was left of it.
The staff at Pinnacle Hospital made up for my lack of family. I cannot speak any higher of their kindness. Perhaps they felt sorry for me, but the well of tears had dried already.
After having been asked a few times, my age, why was I there, and the question I like the most, on what side will I have surgery, I was wheeled in the operating room.
My surgeon, Angela, Soto Hamlin, M.D. came close to me, as the intravenous, general anesthesia medication started to flow towards my fearful body. Then the miracle happened. Dr. Hamlin reached out and held my hand! In a fraction of a second, my sadness, fear, but especially loneliness disappeared! Her hand expressed a million feelings and one more, but in one sentence, I would describe how I felt as a GIFT FROM GOD!
The last thing I recall before I fell asleep, was her touch which spoke to me: Don’t worry, I am here, I am with you and everything will be fine. You are not alone or lonely.
When I woke up, two hours later, I could still feel my surgeon’s wonderful touch on my hand.
I could still feel it NOW, because her touch will be in my heart forever, a gift from God, when I needed His reassurance the most.
Is Dr. Hamlin a good surgeon? She is an exceptional surgeon, but what would make me follow her no matter where she’d work is her sensitivity as a human being. Her Godly touches from all points of view, when I needed them most.
P.S. Late at night, after reading tens of reassuring messages via Facebook and texts, my friend, whose love and purity of feelings have supported me all my life, wrote after she called first, to tell me, my daughter, a M.D. and OBGYN, sent my friend a brief email upon learning about my surgery:
“I will pray for her.”
I felt so lucky, with her busy schedule, my daughter had found the time to write the email and pray for me, her Mom. What I truly hoped was that she would hold a stranger’s hand, just like Dr. Hamlin held mine. I hoped that stranger, because of my daughter’s reassuring and honest touch would feel less lonely.
There is a price we pay for everything in life…
Is that good or bad? It depends on our deeds.
Thank God for Dr. Hamlin’s Heavenly touch and her heart of gold!
It was a Friday evening and I was alone. I decided this was not going to stop me from eating in my favorite Italian Restaurant.
The line was long enough that required the hostess to hand vibrating devices to the guests, so they would have the convenience to wonder in the Mall and when the device vibrated return to the restaurant.
Unlike most times, I was happy to wait, may I dare say, I was grateful at the opportunity to “kill time.”. There was no other place to rush, no one depending on me, no kids to drive anywhere, no hungry husband to feed or wash to do. I was just responsible for myself, a new odd feeling, as if it wasn’t right, as if to be in charge of only myself, was not enough. However, this was the reality of that particular evening: I was alone and lonely. I felt incomplete after years of pouring my love and focusing on others, now I was forced to look inside myself to determine if “the container of ME” was empty, and if so, what would it take to replenish it with love of self…
This was happening after my divorce, and I was determined to not fall into the stereotype of “rebounding,” of diving head first, numb heart, into the arms of the first available male, so on the surface I wouldn’t be alone, yet feel lonely inside.This time, I was going to do it right: Get to know myself first, take my time to understand what I really needed, and more importantly, what I could offer an eventual new life- partner. Above it all, I was determined to have the courage to be alone, in the physical world, until I was comfortable enough and love myself enough to not feel lonely!
Going out alone, on a Friday night, was a first small step, which felt huge at the time…
“”How big is the party you are expecting?” the hostess asked, handing me the “call back vibrating device.”
I breathed in, I breathed out, slowly…
“Table for one, please.” I asked the restaurant hostess.
She handed me the “call back” device hesitantly:
“For a party of ONE, the wait would be longer…”
I assured her time was not a problem and grabbed the call back device.
In time, it got easier and easier to be a “party of one.” Many times it was a game I played counting how many other parties of ONE were in a movie theater for instance, and if I were the only one, I’d treat myself with ice cream, after the show, to celebrate being a party of one and feeling better and better in my own company.
After a few months of being alone and getting used to myself, I had to admit that in the last years of my married life, I was not alone, but I was lonely most of the time.Whose fault was it? His? Mine? I settled for both. Relationships are two-way streets and the grey areas are predominant. There is no such thing as his or her “fault.” When a relationship starts to deteriorate, the key is unmet expectations on both sides.
The lesson I learned is to identify my own unhealthy patterns, the “whys,” of my actions, so in the future I would be able to change repeating the same mistakes, into life lessons, from which I learned and will never repeat.
Most importantly, I understood that the only behavior and attitude I have the right and the power to change is MINE, and before I’d say “I love you,” to somebody else, I need to look in the mirror at myself, say “I love you,” and mean it.
“Party of one, please, and I don’t care how long it takes!”
Today I am alone, but by no means lonely!