Recently the Minister talked in her sermon about the family, the community that we had in the church.
I told her that has not been my experience. She replied "You told me that already."
I went on to say "Especially with the holidays and my having no one, it feels even moreso."
There was more to the conversation but her remark, "you told me that already." started me thinking. It was dismissive, of me, of my feelings. (I don't think she realized it; this is not a 'smite down the minister post.').
Maybe aloneness, and lonliness, are not be all that distinct from chronic pain; both are invisible, subjective, and foreign to the experiences of most people.
You say "I am in (physical) pain." You will be believed, at least at first.
You say "I am alone." You may not have family, because they are far away, or deceased. Maybe it is a new city, you have not had the chance to make friends.
Three months later you say "I am still in pain." The looks become one of suspicion. "Really? It has been three months already." Six months and the questions, and disbelief, start. Years, even decades later, the disbelief often remains, friends and family gone by the wayside, we preferring not to remain with people who doubt the shaky waters on which we now live, they maybe deciding to abandon us first.
You say you are alone, only now it is months, years, maybe decades. The questions come, the above notwithstanding. "What did you do to make your family turn on you?" Despite my explanations, no rhyme or reason, a friend still said "Well, you had to have done something." No. It is freudian, but it is always easier to believe that people don't behave that way, without some reason.
"Why don't you have friends?" I know some of the reasons. I moved to a new state right before the pain started. I became virtually housebound, only able to go out for doctor's appointments, groceries, the bank. You cannot make friends if you rarely can leave your apartment or are in such horrific pain that it consumes you.
The first surgery worked. Completely. I got a job as soon as I was able and immediately made 2 friends. We had a lot in common and just plain liked each other. Three months later the pain came back. I was completely disabled by it again. The friendship evaporated, not having been alive long enough to sustain what the pain did to me and my ability to be 'a part of'.
Other friendships, most often one at a time, started primarily from proximity, and often equal instance of need rather then commonalities and like. They grew into like but over time the end of need became overshadowed by the awareness that need was what had kept us together and was no longer there, (irony at its best).
My last major friendship is still alive but she now lives 5 hours away. Phone is good but seeing, feeling, and being with is so vital to life, and so lacking in mine.
I have mentioned my nephew who bucked the family and on his own sought me out. He lives many states away. I am so very grateful to have him in my life but the lack, again, of someone to touch, see, feel is very hard to bear.
A reader of the blog asked how I cope with the heartbreak and marginalization of and by family.
My coping mechanism is not a healthy one. I try to deny it until something like the holidays come and then it hits me, hard, in my heart and in my soul.
Some people find they have lost family because their siblings and others do not want to deal with the constancy of the pain, and disability. Having pain makes them different, hard to fathom, accept, or believe.
In my case the pain has (had) nothing to do with it. I do not understand how siblings with whom one grew up, no matter what the relationship, can turn their backs on a disabled family member, can look the other way as they embark on brain surgery 1,2, and on through number 12. How they still see it as a fake and laziness. It is hard not to try and look for an answer, the answer, but sometimes that is the healthiest response. To accept that sometimes there is no answer.
The sad fact is that even when the relationships were good there is something about pain that can turn you into a pariah rather then the beloved sister,brother, aunt, mother, etc, you once were.
I wish I had the answers as to why, and how to overcome, the splitting off, of being cast aside..
I think being unable to partake in life, for me not being able to work, be where I can make my own family, is not an answer but at least an explanation. If the family into which we were born deserts us, if our friends walk away, we have to find new ways to replace them. Hopefully church, a workplace, a community center, school, or other places where folks congregate can lead us to the people who will embrace us and who we are, foibles, pain and all. And we can be there to embrace them as well.