There was a comment on Friday’s blog, that highlighted part of a subject that I have often thought about. I say part, as it is actually also part of a much bigger picture of our lives. It doesn’t take a genius to spot that there are a lot of isolated and lonely people who have a chronic illness. Our health often locks us in our homes, stop us working and slowly all of it destroys the majority of friendships we ever had. I have in the past written a couple of blogs as to why I believe our friends stop calling and slowly vanish totally from our lives. Of course, I just searched for them, and couldn’t find them, but I know they are there, somewhere. Anyway, I am almost certain, that I only very briefly touched on the one in yesterday’s comment, “We don’t have anything to say”. As odd as it may seem, as I can sit here and write forever, I actually rarely have anything to say, to anyone these days. The more isolated you become, the less there is to talk about, outside of what’s on TV, or your past and both those subjects are extremely limited, especially with people who know you well.
“We don’t have anything to say”, is actually a very simplified way of bottling the truth. If I think back to my life 20 years ago, I know without a doubt that when I was out socially, what I talked about was mainly work, shared acquaintances, anything I had done of interest outside of that and our shared history. I had two groups of friends, those I knew through my current job, and those who I met through my past one, but it didn’t matter, our conversations usually still centered around those few subject. Well, unless something amazing had happened in the news. If for some odd reason, one of them decided to pick up the phone and call me right now, after I had updated them on my health as it is now, I would have nothing to say. Why? Well, it’s simple.
a) I no longer work.
b) I go nowhere and do nothing.
c) I have no updates to share with on other friends, as I have none.
d) I have no gossip to share.
e) I have no reliable memories
Would they call me again? Probably not, especially if you add in that the phone confuses me, and that would have caused me to stuttered my way through what little I had to say, I doubt I would have said nothing to inspire them to call again. Even after 9 years of not having spoken to them, I would still have nothing to say. Is it really that surprising, they don’t keep calling?
In the past, when I have written about losing our old friends, unlike most people, I have never held to the theory that they couldn’t stand watching us going down hill. I still don’t, but our lack of ability to interact in the way they expect, without a doubt, plays a big role in our isolation. Over time, we just become that person who pops into their conversation occasionally, and a few may wonder how we are now. We have become like so many other people we once knew, just infrequent memories. Life moved on and we, well we were left behind.
I for one can say in total honesty, that conversation even with the only friend who I am still in contact with, is hard. He, though, is a total angle as I know without a doubt, that before he calls me each week, he makes a list of things to talk about, before dialing my number. We have been friends now for over 25 years, and he is the closest thing I have to family, outside of Adams. Jake found himself in the position about 8 years ago, of having to be the sole carer for his father. Over the couple of years, he spent looking after him, he learned how to approach a conversation with someone without a dynamic life. It took me a while to spot it, but once I did, I found myself being able to tick off the points where his preparation came into use. When I go silent or start to freeze up badly, he always jumps in taking the conversation back into his control. He often has newspaper articles there by his side, so that he can read sections, or tell me the gist of the story. He tells me everything about his life, who he works with, what they do and say. He saves up silly stories to share with me. Tells me what he’s been cooking and allows me to respond, even when that means waiting for it to eventually come out of my mouth. He never gets upset if I can’t remember things we once shared, nor offended if I tell him I have to go, I can’t cope any longer. He’s a rare gem and there are few of them around. I’ve learned from him, but it’s too late. If I had done the same years ago, then maybe, just maybe, I might have kept one or two of my other friends. It doesn’t take that much work in preparing to talk. To have a few notes, prompts for stories to talk about, just being ready to be a friend, or, just tell them the truth, tell them just what it’s like to be you and how to help make a conversation work, for both of you.
For the average person, holding a virtually one-sided conversation is hard work. Adam too has learned that that is just the way it often has to be. He knows when I go silent, or appear to not be following what he is saying, that I am, I’m just not up to responding as most people would. I don’t need anyone to tell me that talking with me, is hard work, too much hard work for most people. Long before I was housebound, I had already lost most of my friends. They too found it hard work, even when they still saw me around, the fact I had nothing to say, meant they either avoided me, or spoke for a few minutes, then found an excuse to go. If there is one truth about today’s world, it is that people expect their entertainment and recreational life to be easy and to be fun. That is something that as our health progresses, we are without a doubt the total opposite of. We, are hard work, not just to talk to, but to just be around. Is it really such a surprise, that our friends are either few and far between, or just not there any longer, at all.
Please read my blog from 2 years ago today – 12/03/2014 – Don’t look
Often I am set off on my daily post by a comment that appeared on twitter in response to one of my tweets, but I had to totally love one, out of complete understanding that I read this morning. I had posted a picture on Facebook and put out a tweet something along the lines of “how nice it is to have the entire bed to yourself”, the response came from another who suffers with chronic pain, “especially when parts of your body choose to sleep in different directions”. I immediately saw myself lying in bed, yes on my back but with both my left arm and leg stretched across…….