Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Alone for the holidays?



Thanksgiving is less than two days away now, marking the beginning of one of my favorite times of the year. But then again, I’m one of the lucky ones with a family. There are so many this time of year who aren’t so fortunate. So many this year will spend their holiday season on the outside looking in:

The elderly widower facing his first Thanksgiving alone. He’s never cooked before and will end up ordering a pre-cooked dinner from the grocer. But it won’t be the same. Perhaps he’ll fall asleep looking at his late wife’s picture and clutching her pillow, trying to recall the sound of her laugh, the smell of her hair. Trying to recapture the feeling of the days when he was Most Thankful.

The young couple down the street who can’t afford to make it home for the holidays. Perhaps a job brought them to town, or the desire for a new start. They’ll eventually be OK, but this first holiday will be hard as they suddenly realize how much miss their relatives, even the annoying ones.

The single woman in her apartment with nothing but her cats and houseplants for company. She’ll haunt the blogs on Thanksgiving, but there won’t be much traffic; the only ones with time to write will be those like her - the lonely and alone. Over her dinner-for-one she’ll silently observe that another year has ticked off the biological clock as couples her age mark the growth and latest achievement of their beautiful children. She’ll want to be happy for them, but it will be difficult, even as she chokes out a short comment of congratulations. Their togetherness is a knife in her heart. In them she sees the happiness that has eluded her.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with being alone, if you want to be. I know a number of people who truly don’t seem to mind or even prefer it that way. But if being alone isn't your choice, isolation can be a painful thing made only more painful this time of year. The jagged edges of loneliness poke through, causing hurt. And no amount of public denial can’t file them down.

We all know someone like that, I think. They’re tucked away in our own communities but are especially prevalent in cyberspace, where they seek validation and love from strangers they fancy will grow to love them back.

But it doesn't have to be that way.

Perhaps, like us, you’ll have extra food or room at the table to share with someone in your community. If nothing else, fix a plate of food and take it to them. Top it off by sending an email to someone far away, someone whose primary link to the outside world is through their Internet connection.

There’s no need for people to be lonely this time of year. Not if we all reach out. So do it. You’ll be glad you did.

28 comments:

CJ said...

Good post, Morgan. It's a fact that suicides increase this time of year. A lot of people are lonely. I think the Internet is a good resource but I agree that it is no substitute for human contact. Also online romances can be dodgy at best.

Anonymous said...

As a housebound individual your post touched a cord with me. I'm one of those people who feels saved by online relationships. My chronic fatigue syndrome/anxiety disorder limits my access to the outside world. If it weren't for chatrooms and newsgroups it would just be me and the dog all day, pretty much a one-sided conversation.
On the other hand if I could wave a magic wand and cure myself tomorrow I would happily throw my computer out the window and rejoin the real world. Why? Because I suspect the people I talk to online aren't always honest about who they are. I'm guilty of that a little bit. I'm thinner online and prettier and smarter too. I know people can lie to your face but online it's just too easy to create a image that is nowhere near who you are. After a while you run the risk of falling for it yourself and then at that point you realize you're kind of lost in it all.
I had a chance to marry back in the late eighties. I wish I had but I held out for a better offer that never came. Maybe if I had I wouldn't have slid into depression that led to other health/mental problems that plague me now.
I'm trying to get away from chatrooms these days and read more blogs. I like story blogs like yours because they are entertaining. Your spider story was great. I'm sorry she died.
Anyway thanks for this post. It hurt to read it because I saw myself in it but sometimes that's not so bad.
God bless you,
Margaret

Morgan said...

Margaret,

Thanks for your comments (and also the nice email.) I think you and CJ both raise valid points about the downside of cyber-relationships.

The Internet can be a great place to network, get information, earn money and even make friends. But it can also become a substitute for community building.

If I find myself single again, I hope I'll be able to resist the lure of the Internet for companionship. It is seductive, and easy. Just pull a picture of someone else off of Google, slap it up there as your avatar, build a persona around it and Voila! - you're born again not as the wreck you are but as the person you want to be.

So sad.

No able-bodied person who does that can complain about the loss of community when they've so isolated themselves, and I applaud you for at least being able to see the pitfalls of cyber-relationships.

I hope the links I sent you via email will help you along your way. The regional groups may help you link up with people whom you can eventually meet face-to-face.

thimscool said...

When I look at the way that people worship vehicles, clothes, and tabloid melodrama, it makes me just as sad… Think of all the people humping some barstool night after night in a desperate but ineffective search for companionship.

People act in real life too. They wear particular clothes or drive certain cars, to create an image of themselves in the real world.

It may seem easier to hit the reset button online, but not really. From what I’ve seen such people end up frequenting the same old haunts, they’re outed by their old comrades, and re-grafted to the ‘community’, albeit with their status affected.

Anyway, Morgan, while I wish I could share CJ and Margaret’s admiration for the sensitivity of your post, my situational knowledge makes me suspect that the purpose of this post was, in fact, designed to harm someone in particular.

Perhaps you intended to confront rather than harm, but then you would simply be grasping at straws. That would not be for public view

In spite of my reticence above, I must admit that I continue to have an interest in the evolving concept of Internet vs. real relationships/community. But I expect more from you than plausibly deniable, yet thinly veiled and piercingly insidious crocodile tears.

I recognize that the previous sentence was ridiculous, and I hope that this humor can break any ice and get you to search your soul a bit on this matter. I’m openly questioning your morals and motivations, as you have effective done to another, for those with eyes to see.

Morgan said...

Luke,

If you recognize one particular person in my commentary, you are probably correct. I have all ideas we're thinking of the same person and won't bother denying that she came to mind when it occurred to me to write about holiday loneliness.

But I actually had several people in mind when I penned this post and besides, I doubt the one person you reference even reads here anymore, so it would be a moot point to be trying to speak directly to her, anyway. However, I believe the person in question represents a lot of women these days, some I personally know outside the Internet.

I can name several people I personally know right now (in "real" life) who are so adrift in cyberspace that the only perspective they have of community is from their view in orbit. They have a whole community at the ready but as soon as they get home they retreat to the Internet for friendship. One woman I know has pretty much abandoned her marriage for a guy she's never even met. Why? It just seems crazy to me.

You're right that people can lie face to face and be duped, but the stakes are raised exponentially when both sides are being disingenuous about who they are, don't you think? I mean, if Sally sells herself as being a together person when she's really mal-adjusted and needy to Lou who sells himself as tender and kind when he's really a mysoginist, by the time it's all sorted out they may both be a year older and still just as lonely. It's a curious thing that people persist in doing this at all. Ultimately they rob themselves of what they might find in their own community if they'd only look.

So much is lost when the only contact is emails and exchanged photos. I don't really think that kind of communication can replace face-to-face contact.

And no, I don't mind you questioning my motives. I do it all the time. If I can't take it I shouldn't dish it out.

CJ said...

Morgan, I'm not sure what motives thimschool sees in your post but I recognize several people in your description of the widower, my own uncle included. The dangers to vulnerable single women and unattended children cannot be overstated. If you based your descriptions on real people I don't think they are unique. I only wish you had included a hypotheitcal description of a latchkey kid who has no friends other than the ones on his myspace buddy list.

Morgan said...

CJ said:
"I only wish you had included a hypotheitcal description of a latchkey kid who has no friends other than the ones on his myspace buddy list."

CJ,

You could easily be describing my neice by marriage, a pretty but troubled 13-year-old with little oversight in the after-school hours. Her parents went through a very bad divorce and she doesn't get along well with her stepdad, who does his best to keep her out of trouble.

He's long been concerned about Myspace.com and forbade her from putting one up. He found out she had when he checked her email and found naked pictures sent to her by an adult man. When he questioned her he found that the guy had contaced her through a Myspace she'd put up without his - or her mom's - consent or knowledge. She'd lied about her age and said she was 24. But anyone looking at her picture could easily tell this was a teenage girl.

Fortunately my brother-in-law took the computer out of the room and now (finally) her mother is monitoring her online activities. They've also gotten her involved in some extracurricular activities through school which is really the best thing for her.

The trend of kids turning to the Internet for online friendships in lieu of the real thing is especially disconcerting. What kind of adults will they grow into if they enter adolescence selling false perceptions of themselves to other people?

It will be interesting to track how some of these Myspace kids turn out. I think the ones who use the Internet as a supplement to a real social life will be fine. The ones who use the Internet as their primary social outlet are going to have a tough time, I think.

The early teen years are often *very* socially awkward. Kids want to fit in and be liked. The Internet gives them a handy shortcut. But it's not any more real for a 13-year-old than it is for a 37-year-old.

Anonymous said...

Thimscool you don't know me from Adam so I hope you won't mind if I suggest you are confusing hurt and harm.
Before I explain let me just tell you about myself. I used to be pretty but not anymore. I weigh 214 pounds and I've let myself go so much that sometimes I go days without bathing or washing my hair. I sleep so much that sometimes I find I just can't sleep at all. I've been told I have fatigue syndrome but I'm sure I sleep because of depression.
When I read Morgan's post I saw myself in what she said about the single woman except for the part about cats and plants. I'm allergic to cats and every plant I ever had died right away. But holidays depress me, especially Christmas because I can't bear the cards I get from my relatives and former classmates that contain pictures of their kids and updates on their happy lives. The lonely Thanksgiving she described is exactly how I've spent Thanksgiving for more years than I care to admit. The cyber addiction has done nothing for me but add to my misery. The more online flirting I did the emptier I felt.I say did because with the grace of God I have been able to break away from it.
Her description of the lonely woman hurt me because I recognized myself but it didn't harm me. I've harmed myself by letting things get to this point. If I blame Morgan because what she wrote made me feel bad I might as well blame the mirror company for the fat woman I see when I look at my reflection.
You can probably leave the house without feeling terror but I can't. I need to be reminded that subsituting virtual hugs for the real thing is not healthy. I don't want to die alone but if I don't get better I will.
I'm taking baby steps to get better. Therapy and medication help but so do reminders not to retreat to the safety of my computer. These days I make sure to read and respond to things that are uplifting and real.
I don't want to bore you anymore as I've probably bored Morgan with the emails I've sent her but I am glad she wrote what she wrote. The truth hurts sometimes but that's not always bad.
God bless you,
Margaret

sammyray said...

I love you Morgan.

Morgan said...

Awwww, sammyray. I love you, too!
(Thanks, I needed that.)

Morgan said...

Margaret,

You did *not* bore me with your emails. I'm actually in awe of you. If it were me I'm not sure I could stay in the fight.

Thanks for your comments about "hurt" vs. "harm." I won't elaborate beyond saying that you hit the nail on the head.

Ironically your reaction was exactly the opposite of the person in question. In our P.C. society we're being trained not to question or criticize what we observe; if we do the message becomes the issue. It's pretty rare when someone is able to read something and say, "Hey, that's me" without getting angry. I've had my share of friends in my life whose painful honesty made a postitive difference.

To CJ:

I was thinking after I wrote about my neice that a person doesn't have to be alone to be made lonely through cyber addiction. The married co-worker I mentioned who has the cyber/chat addiction is very lonely, I think, and so is her husband even though they live in the same house. The more I think about it the more I could expand my list of lonely people.

Anonymous said...

You are right Morgan. People can be alone even if they live in a family. My parents lived separate live even though they were under the same roof. This was before the age of computers but Mother lost himself in soap operas and game shows and Daddy lost himself in the bottle of alcohol he kept in his garage. I sometimes think even with all my problems I'm less lonely than either of them.
I'm just glad I realized that the kind of relationship they had wasn't normal or healthy. I hope to get my act together and have a partner one day. But it will have to be someone who wants to be with me or else I'm better off alone.

God bless you,
Margaret

CJ said...

Morgan, I'm heading out to the in-laws for Turkey Day. Hope you and your family have a good one. Margaret, you're on my mind. Hope you continue to improve. I'll be praying for you.

thimscool said...

Hmm. I think I see what you are saying, Margaret. It might hurt to get smacked in the face by a rake you step on… but it doesn’t harm you if you heal and learn from the experience.

Except that no one ever questions the motivation of the rake…

I see your point, yes. But still I find it interesting that each sentence of the description of the single woman was chosen so deliberately to resemble Morgan’s vision of the circumstances of someone we know. I suspect that there were other sentences, even more piercing, that got edited out after due consideration. But had I been the editor, I would have left out the bit about choking on congratulations and the knife in the heart…

But that’s just me… I don’t like turning knives that are already stuck into the victim’s stomach. It violates my primitive Christian instincts.

Morgan said...

Geesh, Luke. Cry me a river, already.

I reserve victimhood for true victims, not for people whose choices put them where they are.

No one person on this planet is chosen by God to be the receptacle of the Universal Pain of Loneliness. I am quite sure that everything I wrote could apply to more than just that one person. Or how about this: It may not apply to her at all!

If you think it does, then why are you even here? Why not do what I suggest and drop her a supportive email. Hopefully she won't be there to get it, and will instead be with family and friends.

But you seem to be stuck on my motives, which is fine if that's what you want. It's an open forum and I can't stop people from obsessing. If nothing else, I'm just happy knowing I gave you the chance to cloak yourself in Christian Superiority. It fits you surprisingly well. Consider it a early Christmas present. :-)

Anonymous said...

Thimscool, with all due respect you seem to still be missing the point. If someone points at me on the bus (if I were brave enough to ride a bus) and said FATTIE! it would hurt but it would also be true. So would I be better off focusing on their motives or trying to lose some weight?
I don't know the person you think Morgan is describing but if it is an accurate description of a real person she was troubled long before Morgan wrote what she wrote. Focusing on motives instead of fixing herself won't do anything but delay her misery. That is something I have learned the hard way. I hope you never have to walk in my shoes but believe me when I say I might know a bit more about this than you do.
And I won't make any comparisons of morality or who is or is not a better Christian. I'll only leave all of you with wish for a Happy Thanksgiving.
God Bless You
Margaret

Morgan said...

Margaret,

Thimscool is welcome to his opinions; I just find it interesting that he takes me to task for what he sees as an unflattering and hurtful observation and then turns around and implies I'm not a Christian.

Indeed, he and I do have "situational knowledge," but mine is far deeper than his. If I were to completely divulge what happened, I believe he might have to rethink his definition of "victim." People who act vulnerable and caring may in fact be predators in disguise. If I have committed any sin, it is the sin of refusing to be so easily duped.

Andrea said...

People sure are quick to tell you how Christian they are, Morgan. Why is that?
As for the Internet Drama in question, I admit I'm nosy as hell and would love to know the juicy details, but what would be the point of that? Doesn't have much to do with your thoughtful post on holiday loneliness so I don't get why it was brought up in the first place.
Anyway, hope you had a nice Thanksgiving.

Morgan said...

"People sure are quick to tell you how Christian they are, Morgan. Why is that?"

I tend to bring that out in people, Andrea, owing to my stubborn insistence of having higher expectations for self-professed Christians and Healers. If you preach love and unity while seeking to come between people then, sorry, but you're not really a nice person. And you're not a "victim" if someone points out that what you're saying isn't consistent with what you're trying to do.

The incident of the gay-bashing preacher recently outed for hiring a gay prostitute comes to mind. For so long that guy stomped up and down a stage, preaching to his mega-church audience about the evils of homosexuality while he himself had a guy on the side. Sorry, but that guy is not a victim, either. The people who outed him haven't questioned his Christianity, only his right to preach a messge he refused to follow.

Without going into specifics, I'll only tell you that there are some parallels between the gay preacher and the person thimscool thinks has been victimized through my observations.

People who come here can expect to find an imperfect person who readily admits her imperfections. The avatar you see on my homepage is my actual picture, not something pulled from Goggle to project an image created in an attempt to court and confuse. I don't dispense advice here on how to live. I don't pretend to possess higher knowledge. I do share my very strong opinions and observations based on what I've seen. It's a blog - an open forum. People are free to agree or disagree at will without my feeling victimized.

And if someone disagrees, I hope that my friends will have enough sense not to become so offended on my behalf that they slap the "victim" label on me.

If they did, I'd be terribly embarrassed.

Morgan said...

And yes, Andrea, I did have a very, very nice Thanksgiving that ended with out traditional Christmas Tree decorating party. The only glitch is that our ancient fake Christmas tree which has seen us through many seasons broke this morning and fell over on the cat, who got tangled in the lights and panicked so that she drug the whole works six feet across the floor.
So I'm off today to pick up a replacement. Replacement tree, not replacement cat. She's fine although I fully expect her to stay away from the next Christmas tree.

Andrea said...

I understand...people claim victimhood way too easily. My husband tends to lapse into that mindset sometimes, and I have to remind him that our current crappy situation is because we keep making pisspoor decisions, not because we're victims.

It does seem like victimhood and hypocrisy go hand in hand frequently. Haggard is a good example.

Poor cat - I bet she did learn her lesson:)

thimscool said...

Margaret,

I’m not a Christian. I’m agnostic. “primitive Christian instincts” is a phrase I borrowed from Hunter S. Thompson. As Morgan eventually divined (after giving me an early Christmas present), this was meant to get her to consider her actions within the context of her Christian beliefs. Do you think that’s wrong?

I have no way of judging whether or not Morgan’s description is accurate here, or elsewhere on this blog and others. I was questioning Morgan’s persistence and vigor about this issue, and her apparent ‘obsession’ with hurting (rather than harming) this person.

~~~

Morgan,

I am trying to understand you.

By your own words you think this person will never read this. So you can’t possibly be trying to hurt her to help her, as Margret has asserted you have done in her case.

In any case, you know that some, such as myself, read your blog and were here when that scene went down. Perhaps you expected that we’d all stay shut, and think our thoughts. But I’m the fool that would go ahead and ask why you’re doing this… You have repeatedly stated that you have washed your hands of the situation. But you return to it, nevertheless.

Again, let’s assume you’re right that she is not a victim and should be ashamed of herself… Why are you the one to shame her? Does she need someone to tell her she’s got her just deserts? Why is that you? Even if she is not a victim, I wonder why you’re twisting the knife she put in her own belly.

You think I’m protesting because of my concern for Pretty Lady; but in fact, I am here now because I am concerned about you.

Morgan said...

Luke,

If you say you are concerned, I believe you. However, while you probably won't give me the same benefit of the doubt I was not trying to hurt or harm the person in question when I loosely adapted my description of the lonely single person on her.

As far as your contention that I'm obsessing, that's a rather thin charge, unless you think all my spider posts were also meant to target her. In fact, I don't think you can point to one single post I've written that's mentioned what happened since the initial parting of ways. You're free to search the archives if you think I'm wrong.

I think we're all impacted by the people we meet along our way. When I wrote the post about loneliness, I thought of people who are lonely through no fault of their own. They are victims of fate or god or whatever. But there are people who are lonely because of their own doing. When I reflected on that Lady I was compelled to write something that warned people in her situation that time is fleeting; the more one wastes time pursuing questionable relationships through the Internet the more the increase their chance of narrowing their real-world options.

Now, if PL were the only person in this boat I'd say you were right and I was being a snake, but I don't think she's in any way unique and I believe Margaret addressed that point quite well. The description I wrote could apply to a lot of women, including a co-worker of mine who has carried on a yearlong "relationship" with a married man she's never even seen face to face.

From my email and comments section, not a ton of people read my blog but there are regulars and more coming on all the time. You are the only one who has spoken up about this person and the only one who has decided to use her name. I hardly believe that many people care, and like I said I'm sure she doesn't even visit here anymore. I believe both of us mutually cringe when we think of the other, and that's fine with me. I made a mistake ever thinking she truly saw me as a friend, anyway. I was a tool and nothing more. But I am often a really, really, really bad judge of character and am vain enough to believe if someone says they like me it's because they really do.

And as far as your being here when this all "went down" I'd respectfully submit you don't know the whole story, which is far less Pretty than you think, and which I don't intend to share in full.

I think the difference is that the things I do I do up front, which gives my critics something to question. Not everyone does their bad stuff in the light of day, Luke. You might be just as concerned about other people if you really knew them beyond their personas.

You're still free to be concerned about me, or question my Christianity or whatever. I can't really do much about that.

So thanks for caring. And I really mean that, whether you believe it or not.

Morgan said...

Andrea,

You're very wise to have figured that out early. I know people who still blame others.

I went through a period in my life where I blamed every bad thing that happened to me on everyone else- be it my parents or God or society. Things only got worse for me. And then my life got so fucked up and the weight of all my mistakes pressed down on me so hard the only way to remove it was by finding the strength to accept responsibility.

That meant listening to some good advice and criticism that I'd not wanted to hear. I try to remember to keep listening, even today. Friends like Luke help keep me grounded. It's good to have someone care enough to tell you you're making a big mistake or behaving in a way you should not do it.

I have five kids now and what lessons I've learned in this life I try to pass on to them the best I can. I find there's a bit of resistance when I give them advice they don't want to hear - there's more from my oldest son than from my oldest daughter, but still less than there was from me at their age. That they listen at all gives me hope that they'll find the maturity to solve their own problems rather than waste time blaming others for their plight, or the messenger for telling them what they don't want to hear.

On a different note, I hope the pregnancy is going well. I wish we were closer, I'd babysit for you so you could go treat yourself to a facial; it's kind of hard to do that when I'm so far away. :-(

Anonymous said...

Thimscool no I don't think you are wrong to question Morgan or anybody else and I was not trying to be rude to you. So I am sorry if I came across that way.
Morgan does not appear to need anyone to defend her position so I will only say that she made a good point about how people can be deceiving. Sometimes a person who seems soft and sweet on the surface is hard and mean underneath. I think Morgan may seem hard and mean on the surface but is soft and sweet underneath. She is blunt and aggressive in some of her opinion sometimes but the majority of her writing has entertained and uplifted me. I've been afraid to comment on these blogs because I've had some bad online experiences and thought I'd just stick to reading but whatever her point was in writing about the lonely single woman it struck a cord and compelled me to right and I'm glad I did.
I've been going through her archives the past few days to catch up on her early stuff I missed and can not find where she has obsessed over this person or any other so I share her confusion in that.
I have enjoyed reading your thoughts on the matter though. You write well.
I consider myself a lapsed Christian edging towards becoming an agnostic although I was raised in a religious home. My parents were Catholic but as I grew I got away from the church for a variety of reasons. The child molestation scandals were the final straw for me. Even though I questioned the doctrine I always believed that the Catholic church was THE church. After all the stuff about the coverups came to light I decided I was wrong. Now I don't know what to believe.
Not to harp on my problems with depression but losing my faith has made it worse. My religion was one of my last comforts. Now it is gone. I still believe in god but now I don't know where he is.
God Bless You,
Margaret

Andrea said...

Margaret,
Bless your heart. I'm a lapsed Christian too. I wish I had some advice or encouraging words for you, but it's something I'm struggling with too, so all I can say is that you're not alone.
Hang out here! I think you're already seeing that Morgan is a very understanding person. No, she doesn't take a lot of crap, but why should she? She's a much better person than she's given credit for, and who wants or needs the acceptance of sanctimonious coldhearted people anyway?

I'm enjoying reading your comments here. Hope you stick around.

Andrea said...

Morgan,
I'm doing ok for the most part...I just feel like a big cow and I'm tired of being pregnant. Still have two months to go, but I have a feeling he'll be born before his due date.
A facial (and a massage!) would be awesome. Hey, if you ever come out this way, definitely let me know:)

Morgan said...

"Who wants or needs the acceptance of sanctimonious coldhearted people anyway?"

Andrea, I think that's another thing that just kills me about some people on the Internet. A lot of the networking revolves around personal neediness. People can go online and be told they're smart and desirable, and for someone who doesn't feel much worth in the real world that can be addictive. And people will do anything to keep it going, even if that includes sending money and gifts to total strangers who've bestowed a little positive attention on them. I've seen this happen and then watched as those people got cast aside like an old shoe.

That's why there needs to be some balance. I can't see banning or censoring someone who criticizes me or whining if they take me to task for something I write in a public forum. I've had trolls come on here and call me a bitch, a whore and a cunt. But so what? Who are they? Who are any of us? It's all opinion and I might take it personally if I didn't have a life outside the Internet, but I do so I don't let it bother me. More often than not, I find it amusing. All that hand-wringing over a difference in opinion. It's silly.

To Margaret: I share your and Andrea's struggles. I have to remind myself daily that the people who claim to speak from a spiritual perspective - whether they are clergy or just a lay person - may be no closer to God or godliness than I am. The proof is ultimately in what we do, not what we say. I know I fall short, which is why I don't claim to be in a position to advise others along any spiritual path. All I can do is openly question things or offer up anecdotal evidence of people and situations that have touched me in a positive way, for it is thos people and situations that I feel the presence of God.