Written by LA Jamison
Have you ever been in a place where a song is all you got left? Elton John is lesser known for his song called “Sad Songs”. It is essentially about the songs we go to when we are sad and what they mean to us. I’m not sure this song of Cher’s called “The Song of the Lonely” is really a sad song as it is something of a low chin lifter for me. Still, these words are powerful:
Well love don't need a reason
She can pick you up or leave you bleeding
I've seen a strong man cry
I know the reason why
We all forgive we all forget
We just keep believing
This is a song for the lonely
Can you hear me tonight
For the broken hearted, battle scarred, I'll be by your side
This is a song for the lonely when your dreams won't come true
When you hear this prayer
Know that someone's there for you.
I’m always reminded of how relationships change and your life changes. Nothing represents this more in nature than our change of seasons. Some people in the northern states start to experience something called the “winter blues” or as the new age term “seasonal affective disorder”. I know I qualify. Without the modifications I make, I would be walking around all day like Tammy Fae Baker and even so, it still isn’t a walk in the park for me that time of year.
However, as we enter this winter season, something strikes me that is different in this day and age than others. That is our growing loneliness which is being replaced with creature comforts and media instead of actual people and relationships. Even robots loom on the future horizon to take over jobs and computer programs in place of actual schools. We might need a department that defends our need for social capital because science shows human interaction is necessary for good health. I am very serious!
Friendships change and family dynamics change over time but that can’t be replaced by any form of mechanics. I was reminded of this even more pronouncingly by my own sense of winter isolation and changes in relationships but also in talking with an older man tonight. I saw him smile at me with his crooked smile curling up his discolored wrinkled skin and revealing a disjointed set of front teeth that was somehow child-like despite his older age. His eyes were playful as two sugar cubes dancing in a cup of tea. They shifted, bounced and said “I’m happy to see you. Please come and taste my soul for a while?” So, I did. Though I’ve seen the man on several occasions, I’ve only ever heard him tell him jokes or give sarcastic jabs for a chuckle. Tonight I heard more, much more.
Behind his smile and playful eyes (which he kept on the entire time he talked with me), he revealed that his wife died 5 years ago and she was the love of his life who held the family, including in-laws, together. His decision to honor her wishes, after she developed a brain tumor and became virtually a vegetable, and he ultimately “pulled the plug” was met with such hatred that none of his in-laws and one of his sons will have anything to do with him. His neighbors no longer talk with him (who knows why but it still that sucks), and his kids feel he should essentially stay home rather because of his age and leg condition than do something like take a class to meet people. Besides going to the gym and church, he says he is forced to sit home and look at the walls. All his friends have passed away and what he has left is busy children taking care of busy grandchildren. Something like the holidays is good for him, but the conversation eventually gets around to “mom” and things go quiet and somber again. It is essentially one of my nightmares to end up aged and so alone, which is more common here in America than in other European countries.
I felt overwhelmed for this man. He was even bored with exercising (he had been two times that day) and leaves it out of sheer boredom. He said he thanks God every morning for his blessings but also cries out “Why am I left here with nothing to do?” How is it that someone can be left so lonely? How do we let so much time and love wax cold for family that we only let re-ignite at holidays, funerals and weddings? Only to allow it extinguish days or weeks later? I know for myself I work 2 jobs with additional third freelance delivery job on top of any writing I do and choir. So my routine is often work eat and sleep or work eat Netflix/media or what have you.
So as we approach this winter season and we face a deluge of how things are going wrong with America, I’m choosing to focus a little more on family and building relationships than every tweet Trump makes. And really there is no better time for us northerners because winter makes for a lot of time indoors. This man reminded me how important it is that we don’t give up because things change or life gets hard. I think we often need to vent but we just as often let it end there. That really does us a disservice.
There is another song out there “Love The One Your With”. We truly need to value those we are with and what is, even if it is different or smaller. “We all forgive, we all forget, we just keep believing”, Cher sings. It isn’t easy to keep going on knowing in some sense we are leaving the memories of loved ones on the back burner to keep going—otherwise, we couldn’t function. It is not easy to “keep believing” but it is that or we give up and we know our loved ones would not honor that.
I remember years ago that visiting my sister was emotional because I hated when we had to leave her. I remember wishing we lived all together like many families do in European countries. At the moment, I’m living that dream without ever planning to, ironically enough. There’s pluses and minuses living together all under roof as a family. I’m living with her and yet now that the first year is behind us, we now pass like ships in the night. It is so easy to de-value the gifts around us because they are there every day or we want other things now that we have “that” secured and in the bucket. But, let me just say, when those gifts are people? People who care about you, you better start giving them some thought and time because as this man stated, one day that will change. One day you could be staring at the walls if you just follow the ways of the world. It is worth the while to make the effort to love on those around you and let yourself be loved by them. That means spending time together.
It is not easy breaking yourself out of patterns that keep you lonely. Media is entertaining, you can come and go without being disturbed with few relationship burdens, but you are also walking around with a discouraged, sagging soul that often reveals its own frustration with over exaggerated reactions to life’s inconveniences and over focusing on other’s faults—securing this notion that you aren’t “people who need people”. It is important to keep yourself in a position to be meeting new people or knowing where to go to meet people as relationships shift and people move on either in this life or the next. We live so separated from each other. Social Media has become so much of “look what I have”, “look what I’m doing and with whom”. I’m guilty of it too. We are compelled to compare and try to figure out why I wasn’t invited or why so and so don’t like my posts as much as other people. A major struggle for some people I have met was that very thing, thinking I was intentionally ignoring their posts when the reality was FB algorithms just no longer brought their posts up on my newsfeed as often so I missed a lot of them. Still to this day, for some of them, I can’t convince them it wasn’t intentional and we no longer communicate. I think as much as social media gives us the quick communication we desire (convenience), it excludes the connection we down deep need and desire. It often times is a facade of connection or a drop in the bucket. Our psyche is convinced people who won’t take the time to meet up with us in person really “lauged out loud” and really care because I sent a LOL or heart emoji. Instead it simulates a connection but in the real world it isn’t enough of one and it is so convincing, so much easier to dance with the facade, that we can be in a room of people and half or more are attached to their phones rather than interacting with those around them. It is leaving a lot of people feeling lonelier.
So what I am saying here? I’m not entirely sure. I guess I am looking to change not only my receiving love factor but giving love factor. I’m not sure what it will look like but hopefully I encouraged you to give it some thought. The man I spoke to left with the biggest smile I have ever seen because I gave him my ear and a listening heart. I wonder what he will do with what I said. I wish for him to at least know a song like this one or a higher power to guide him.