Loneliness is a big topic in today's society. We seemingly have it all and yet, neuroses, unhappiness, depression and soaring drug use are at record levels - this week it was announced that 700,000 Brits are regular cocaine users and traces of that and other drugs including over the counter pain killers can be found in our water supply.
Picture this: a man sits in the landscape, on a gently rolling hill contemplating his life. This man looks around him and feels a sense of gratitude, a sense of happiness although he has no words to express that feeling other than a passing, fleeting, contented smile falling upon his lips. Although that man may be alone he is relishing his solitude.
We can become so embroiled in our sadness that we forget to retreat not into ourselves but rather away from ourselves. If we were to wallow endlessly in our sorrows we would be incapable of recognising joy. Worse yet, we would be unable to see that happiness however fleeting is a necessary risk that we have to challenge ourselves to feel.
Where we come from is half the journey of where we are headed. One cannot undo the past. Many have become so adept at weeping silently that no one can see their tears. There are those who I observe in church on a Sunday who long after the mass has ended remain seated in the pew, their faces etched with a deep and desperate tragedy, a nanosecond away from the expression in The Scream by Munch. They arrive in church seeking solace and find their tongues subdued, too far gone to find the words to express what they feel. I know some of these people by virtue of observing them every week. Many are married or have families of their own and in spite of this they are overwhelmed in their isolation.
Solitude is that rather obvious thing- an acknowledgement of who we are to ourselves only. Not the public face, not the false persona. But the stark reality which is ours. The realisation that we are full of flaws- aware of a patchwork quilt past which we constantly mended but it still fell apart. No life is ever easy. I am left at times more fragile than the thrush's egg that once hatched remains as delicate as the finest porcelain even though it has become redundant. Each life has value although in despair we can see only the detritus that we think we're worth.
Solitude is that secret place that belongs only to us. Not the TV soap opera version, not the literal translation of the lives of movie stars who we wish we were. Our reflection is the thing we must grow used to liking in order to evade the thunderclap of silence which is loneliness. We read every day of famous people who end up overdosing on drugs or deliberately ended their lives because what they see in the mirror scares the heebie jeebies out of them. The truth is they f....g hate themselves and eventually the lie that is their life, catches up with them.
I was fortunate to see my beloved Uncle Bertie after many years and was struck at how peaceful he is. He feeds the birds every day. His face lights up as the birds fly into the kitchen to steal bananas. Every evening we would sit together, savour a glass of rum and chat about life. My uncle Bertie taught me something valuable- when we pare it all down it's the ability to feed the birds that matters. Just to love. However we can. Put another way, we're lonely because we choose to be. We're sad because we think that's a better option to happiness. We cry because we've chosen not to laugh instead.
In closing, my advice to all those addicted to anti-depressants (that legal scourge of humanity) or the illegal option and who are also averse to laughing out loud is this: maintain a sense of humour at all times and don't let the bastards get you down. Or to quote Scarlet O'Hara: "Tomorrow is another day."
Photo copyright SvD.