The first friend, is a very brave and strong lady, who by being courageous enough to speak her own truth about loss, has helped many other people, including me.
The second, is a lovely friend who took me out this week to a beautiful place, listened to me, laughed with me, encouraged and inspired me and who I know will write a wonderful book one day!
Thank you both and this blog is in your honour.
Firstly, before I say more, I do realise my blogs are very personal and they may not appeal to everyone.
But I’m not here to dress things up, or appeal to some lowest common denominator, or even to be ‘ liked’.
I’m here to speak my truth and more importantly, if my words help anyone at all on their own journey then that is my life mission!
It is incredibly difficult sometimes, to be spiritual beings in human form, and I do strongly believe it is this way round and not the opposite, as many might think.
We need to help each other whenever we can- and we always can!
There are already a lot of ‘Lifestyle’ pieces out there, and they are very valuable too, but for me, if there is one thing writing had better be, it is personal, otherwise, I see little point.
‘Words are but pictures of our thoughts’ as Dryden pointed out. Indeed.
So today, I want to write about a tricky subject, and that is loneliness.
There is shame attached, somehow, in any of us admitting to this emotional state.
A very special and wise man I know- and again, he will know who he is- once said to me that humans all too often use the words ‘ I’m fine’ as a defence mechanism, when really they are not fine at all and would benefit much more from reaching out for help.
This is something friend number one touched on last week in her brave Facebook post.
She reminded us that the three hardest things to say are: ‘ I love you’, ‘ I’m sorry ‘ and ‘ I need some help’.
I was reflecting on this on Wednesday when I was in central London.
Everywhere I looked, people were staring fixedly at their own little personal screens of loneliness. And, may I say, often walking straight into me in the process!
They were not noticing the beauty of the October day, the majesty of our great capital city with its amazing architecture, nor the eyes of the homeless man who sat in human misery right in front of them as they almost walked all over him.
Now, I know, I am guilty of having my phone with me at all times, and I start to get short of breath if I have no battery life left and there is no charger in sight.
I’m famous amongst my friends for searching out phone charging opportunities via friendly waiters and bar staff all over town!
One of my friends refers to my phone as the ‘ crown jewels’ because of the way I bodyguard my ancient CrackBerry.
Guilty as charged.
I said I’m very far from perfect at the start!
All the people I love the best ‘ live ‘ in my phone- or at least, that’s how it often feels!
And as a natural communicator, I do like to feel I can always be contacted.
But it has gone too far.
I like Facebook. Yes, sometimes I love it.
I admit that it gives me great pleasure to be able to communicate instantly with my best friend Lesley in LA, my dear friend Debbie in Madrid, my children if they are travelling and are over the other side of the world.
I get to see that they’re alright, see their photos.
And it is fun and a little bit of light relief, to see the funny moments on there too, as well as some of the more serious and important posts.
I’ve learned a lot from the wisdom of others this way.
But we do know it isn’t real don’t we?
Often, it can seem from people’s posts as if they are having a brilliant life!
Facebook envy is a very real phenomenon, or feeling that we are the only person not invited to the party!
But often, as my brave friend said, it is those who are hurting the most who post positive things, just trying to keep a smile on their own face and attempting to see the light through the current darkness.
We need to look beyond the pictures to the real heart of the person to see the truth.
This is called being a true friend.
It is so easy now, to hide behind words: emails, texts, Whatsapps, Facebook posts.
We forget that as humans, we are created to interact physically and emotionally, face to face.
‘ No time’, people say. ‘ Too busy’.
But busy doing what exactly?
Emailing and replying to interminable threads and cc ‘ all’.
And scurrying through the day, meetings and more emails and calling it a life?
Yes, there are bills to pay and jobs to hold down. Families to care for, mouths to feed.
But we managed to do all of these things for a very long time without constant phone gazing, and I would argue, made a better and simpler job of actually getting on with the business of living!
We’ve made it so complicated, living through our machines, particularly where relationships are concerned.
Creating a generation of young people who don’t know how to interact with each other properly, or even how to behave during courtship without the aid of a device.
And at the risk of sounding controversial ( I don’t care ! ) I believe men have struggled with all of this even more than women, being the creatures of action rather than words that they naturally are.
So, back to my point. Loneliness.
Is it any wonder that more people than ever before are reporting themselves as feeling ‘ extremely lonely’?
This type of ‘ removed’ communication increases it.
Travelling about all over the place, texting and Tweeting, never looking up.
We seem more connected than ever before, yet we’ve never felt further apart.
As I said to my friend; ‘ London is full of everyone. Yet we talk to no one’.
Yes, strong words, but I believe them to be true.
I hope I’ve caught myself with this just in time.
I’ve always talked to people I happen to meet on my daily path anyway.
Irish blood, we like to talk.
After all, we are all the same, we’re all connected here.
None of us any better or worse than any other, status and money are just facades, our ‘ masks’.
Shopkeepers, bar staff ( again! ) cabbies, doormen, refuse collectors and fellow commuters alike- I talk to people, and I even smile!
And now, I turn my phone to silent ( haven’t managed completely off yet! ) when I’m with someone and I don’t answer unless I’m anticipating some sort of emergency call, or I already know there is an urgent situation that may need my attention.
Everything else really can wait, and constant phone gazing over a personal or intimate meeting or dinner is so very rude!
It is like saying to the person you’re with : ‘ I don’t find you interesting enough to devote my time and attention to you’.
Last week, I was having tea with my son in Brighton.
I don’t see him as often as both of us would like and I was enjoying his delightful company.
Importantly, as I love him very much, I was enjoying also looking at his face and expressions as we spoke.
My phone rang, I had forgotten to switch it to silent in my bag.
‘ Do get that if you want to mum’, he said. ‘ I know it may be work’.
It was 5 pm on a beautiful sunny Friday afternoon, I was with a beloved son who I hadn’t seen for a month.
There was no way I was going to answer it.
‘ No, that’s ok,’ I said. ‘ I’m enjoying your company and that’s much more important.Whatever it is, can wait’.
Soon enough, he went in to get the bill and I was easily able to check my missed call.
By living in reality like this, and truly being with someone in that moment, you are giving them the greatest gift any human can give another and your most valuable resource : your time and your undivided attention.
This is the gift my friend and I gave to each other last week, and it is beyond price.
Both of us messaged each other the next day, yes.
But it was just to say what a wonderful and inspiring evening we had both enjoyed together.
This sort of message just cements what is already there.
I believe if we all spoke to each other more, smiled a little more, took time a little more often, that there would be much less loneliness in the world.
And then when someone asks how we are and we say ‘ fine’, we may actually mean it.
Please do something valuable with that phone you are currently holding in front of you like a shield, and use it to call someone.
Give them the pleasure of hearing your voice, arrange to see them.
And then give them your real, undivided self.
Tonight, I am going out to dinner to a lovely little Italian restaurant with two dear friends.
My phone will be on silent and in my bag…
I will call you back!