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The following was written by my wife Eve and republished here due to Posterous shutting down.

Loneliness

This week, I've had lots of time to think about stuff. This isn’t always the best thing as when it’s just me and my head, I tend to get all gloomy and solemn, but at the end I somehow make sense of the world and all is good.

I have been thinking a lot about the people who I know, who I love, some that I meet regularly, others whom I have left behind miles away and some who have just drifted out of my life. It is amazing, really. This is an era which is beyond anything the humankind have ever experienced before. We can keep in touch with hundreds of people all over the world, almost effortlessly. We have the technology to prolong life, the medicine to heal where the person would have certainly died only 50 years ago. We know how to recycle organs from a deceased person to enable us to save lives. We can print live human tissue onto an artificial structure to create a fully functioning, living organ. We build structures that are bigger, taller and more incredible than ever before. We can take a flight and be on the other side of the planet in a matter of hours.

And yet. People are more lonely and isolated now than ever before. Mental illnesses and depression are on the rise. I have read somewhere that all depression stems from a loss. And in today’s world, loss is on the menu daily. Despite the wonders of intelligence and technology, I want to cry when I look at society these days. I know people who have hundreds of facebook friends all over the world. They are the heart and soul of every party that happens in town. They know all the ‘in’ places to be seen. They are well known as party-animals and are invited to every ‘do’ that happens. Yet they suffer inside, empty and hollow, alone and lonely. I have 284 facebook friends. I regularly speak to none of them. I haven’t spoken to 283 of them on the phone for at least six months. I only speak to two of them face-to-face on a regular basis — those are my work colleagues.

I remember when I was 16, I had no mobile. If I wanted to see any of my friends, the only two options were to phone them on their landline to find out if they are at home or pop round. Most of my friends, however, didn’t have a landline because it was expensive and not always necessary. I would get dressed, get on my bike or go to their place on foot, ring the bell and ask their mum if my friend was at home and could come out (hit and miss!). Yes, I was 16, and my best friend Tina was 19, and I still asked her mum if she could come out (it’s called respect). If Tina said I was to meet her on Friday at 3pm, I damn well made sure I was there, and on time. If something happened and I was late, she would hang around and wait until I turned up. There was no such thing as ‘I overslept’ or ‘I didn’t feel like meeting’. If I was very late, she’d come round to my place to see if I was ok.

I cannot imagine my life without the mobile phone nowadays. It is extremely convenient but it also makes me lazy. I have lost count of the times I cancelled seeing a friend or doing something important because I couldn’t be bothered to get out of bed. It also makes me ill. Wake up with a slight morning headache that some clean water and fresh air would get rid of? Immediately assume it is a life-threatening migraine and cancel all appointments for the day, stay in bed and feel sorry for myself. Nowadays, when a friend makes plans to see me on a specific day, I don’t write it in my mental diary in pen. I don’t even pencil it in. I make a vague note that such-and-such has mentioned they may want to see me at some point in the near future, kinda like a post-it note. On the day, I am fully expecting the person to cancel or just not bother calling to set a time. And as sad as it is, nine times out of ten, I am dead right. I expect it because it is no less than what I would do.

I had planned to meet lots of friends in the last two weeks, and I met none of them. I made a conscious decision to make an effort this time and not cancel on anyone. I was meant to meet Jacquie, who unfortunately had to go to hospital so couldn’t meet up. With Lulu, the downfall was a mobile phone failure and my stupid intrusive belief that my friends don’t really want to be my friends (we cleared that one up). With Erica, her schedule got too busy to meet up. With my ex, well, I have no explanation — he was really keen to meet up, and then just texted to say he doesn’t want to anymore (in the space of two hours, no less). So much for friends. I have emailed lots of facebook friends lately and not heard back from any of them. I wonder why I bother, really. But then you have those amazing friends from a long time ago, almost from another life, who get back in touch randomly just to say they care. It warms the cockles of my heart.

It is The World’s Strictest Parents on BBC that has prompted this post. Some of the families remind me of my own. In Slovakia, I lived in a flat with my mum. There were twenty-four flats in our house, and nine houses in our block. There are about 15 blocks on our estate and several family houses, too. I knew every single person in the house (24 families) by their name, rough age, occupation, and family relation to everyone else living in their flat. I knew every single person on the estate by sight, knew which block they lived in, what they did for a living, and what type of flat they owned. About 90% of these people I knew by at least their family name. I always said hello to anyone I knew in the street and was polite and respectful to my elders. Nowadays I live in a house which contains only two flats, and I don’t know who my neighbour is. I can hear him walk around, I can hear when he microwaves his meals, I can hear him go to the toilet or turn in bed. I can hear him cough right now. Yet I have never seen him face-to-face, and I wouldn’t know him from Adam if I met him in the street. I only know his surname because a letter of his was wrongly delivered to me the other day.

In Slovakia, all the residents of our house were living in each others' pockets. They knew and cared and gossiped if you got a new sofa or car or your child got married or went to university. They knew what grades I got at the end of the school year (only because nana was boasting lol). They knew what church I went to. Yes, it was infuriating at times to have no secrets. To know that if I decided to light up a ciggie behind the garages, someone would see and my mum would know before I even got home (for the record, I never did!). But I also knew that if I lost my keys or a fiver or a book somewhere, someone would know it belonged to me and nine times out of ten, I'd get it back effortlessly (only a few months back, my mum left her wallet behind at Lidl, with her money, and cards, and National ID card with her address on it — an hour later, a gentleman was buzzing her buzzer to say he has brought it back, and this is a man who has never met her before and doesn’t even live in our town). When my nana broke her ankle last year, neighbours were queuing to see her at the hospital and once discharged, they were supplying her and my mum with a steady flow of home-cooked food for months. I mean, come on, if I was ill and couldn’t look after myself, the first anyone would know about it would be when I didn’t turn up to work. And even then I'd be more likely to be sacked than worried about. After I broke up with my ex, and before I met my amazing Man, I used to joke that I may die wedged between the bath and the toilet one day and no one would notice until the smell of decomposing flesh gets too overbearing. Ok, ok, I know I am exaggerating — after all, it was meant as a joke, but these things do happen in today’s society. Old grannies who die and no one notices. Have we really grown so callous and desensitised that we don’t care anymore, or is it just the attitude of leaving people be, not wanting to intrude or seem pushy?

These are the things about today’s society that make me sad. There is no sense of community. I lived in a basement flat for two years in Hove and I only saw my nextdoor neighbour a few times. the only time I went inside his flat was when I locked myself out and was standing in the hallway barefoot and in my pyjamas. All I know about him is his name. I don’t know what he does, if he has kids, if he is divorced or widowed or single, gay or straight, or his age, let alone his hobbies or interests. I lived nextdoor to this man for over two years.

And then there are things that anger me about today’s life. How can it be that there are gangs of youths on our streets that have no qualms about killing any member of a rival gang in a flash? Kids, really, that carry knives and know how to use them. Kids that sell drugs to other, sometimes younger, kids. Kids that are so desperately unloved and ignored that they go on a shooting spree just to be noticed for a few minutes before they put the gat in their mouth and pull the trigger. Where were their parents to hug them close and tell them it’s gonna work out when they needed it? Where were their friends? On facebook, probably, updating their statuses and tagging themselves in their cool photos. When did this shift happen? When did society stop caring about individuals? And more importantly, why did no one notice? And how do we make it go back? And yes, I am painfully aware of the irony of me writing this online. It’s because I have no one in rea life to tell this to (apart from a very few handpicked friends and loved ones).

This world sometimes isn’t a place I want to live in. I have found myself increasingly thinking of a quiet life in a small village somewhere in rural England, feeding off my land and being part of the community. But I think this will forever remain a dream. I'd have to deal with the real life first — pay off my loans, save up money, learn to drive, get organised, find a career that can be executed from the middle of nowhere and pay for the bills, sort out my living arrangements and get the courage to leave everything behind. No, I don’t see that happening anytime soon, definitely not in the next 50 or so years, unless I win the lotto. But it would be nice. A girl can dream. In the meanwhile, it’s the same old same old, clients telling me I don’t care or understand, my boss telling me to do things differently, my friends being too busy, mum telling me to hang in there (on the phone), and then the one blessed day in the week when all these cares and worries float away for a while (when I spend time with my man). Somehow, I feel there is a major flaw in the way I live my life, but for the life of me I cannot find and fix it. So for now, it is just hanging in there and carrying on with what I know. shrug

PS: Actually, I know what the flaw is but am not ready to fix it. The prospect seems too scary at the moment. :(