Tag Archives: Loneliness

Where’s the Joy?

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It seems that I have dropped into my – almost annual – birthday funk.

It is not my birthday yet…but it’s coming.

There have been a few years where the day has come and gone without the usual feelings of depression and sadness   but they are a rare exception.

It’s not the age that bothers me.

Sometimes it’s the lack of accomplishment, though that was more pertinent when I was younger. I had a whole list of things I had hoped to accomplish by the time I turned thirty – or even forty – but I never really thought I’d have anything left to accomplish if I was still around at this age (I’ll be turning 63), so I am not disappointed. Still being here, I guess, is an accomplishment!

Sometimes it’s loneliness. My mother used to say I was ” the most anti-social” of all of her children (I’m sure she meant that in the nicest possible way!), and she was probably right. Usually, I’m not bothered by being alone; often I relish it. Not on Christmas, though, and not on my birthday.

Sometimes it’s just that I am generally overwhelmed and exhausted.

Sometimes it’s remembering other years, and the losses that have marked the passage of time.

Sometimes it’s just habit.

I have just had an entire frenzied month that included two trips to the mainland, an open house, a class reunion, a memorial for a dear uncle and three weeks with my granddaughter here on the island. All of my sisters have been here for a wonderful, fun week, as well as nieces and nephews and friends and cousins…and I’m tired.

This is a busy time of year here on Beaver Island. The Fourth of July festivities were followed in quick succession by the Beaver Island Music Fest; Museum Week, including an art show that I participate in; “Baroque on Beaver” concerts and activities; a Bike Fest; “Meet the Artists” at Livingstone Studio, which I also participate in; Home-Coming Weekend, and now Jazz Fest. Add to that the people that come for birding, kayaking and camping, or just the basic warm weather and  beautiful beaches. Visitors to the island mean customers in the stores. Though we appreciate the business and love to see the people come, all who work in the service industries feel the strain by the time August rolls around.

Clearly, I have too much on my plate. I wonder about my sanity in taking on the Beaver Beacon. Even with good help – and my partners are wonderful – it is a huge responsibility that seems overwhelming much of the time. I cut my hours at the hardware to make time for the news magazine, so my income hasn’t changed – except for the things I’ve had to purchase and the times I’ve had to supplement it’s bank account out of my personal funds – but my stress level certainly has.

This month, that features many birthdays and wedding anniversaries in my family, also holds the sad memories of many losses. Both of my parents died in August. So did my sister, Sheila. My Grandma Thelma died around the end of August, when I was a child.

Though I loved my Grandma, I was a selfish child. Her death affected me mostly because I didn’t get a birthday party that year. My poor, harried mother – with seven little children and another on the way, with a husband who worked long hours and didn’t like hospitals, with no brothers or sisters to help, with her mother dying in the hospital – gave me a hug, handed me an unwrapped chapter book (my precious Heidi, that I treasure, still) and said, “This year, this will have to do…happy birthday!”

What?! No party? No balloons? No festivities? Does nobody love me? Does no one care? Am I the least favorite child in this whole family? I embarked on a major “Feeling Sorry For Myself” jag that became so enjoyable in it’s intensity, it became habit, and an almost annual tradition. It is with me, still. I recognize it, and even laugh at myself most of the time for my childish mournfulness (“My sisters will all be gone by my birthday, and I’ll be alone…and my kids will probably forget to call…and I have to work…”)…but I know to be careful, too. What starts as a little self-indulgent self pity can turn into a major depression if I let it go on unchecked.

Clearly, I have matured. I work at avoiding depression; I look for joy. I spend my birthday with good intentions and good memories.

This year, in fact, I think I’ll mark my birthday with a list of 63 joyful things I’d still like to accomplish in this life!

Where Am I?

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Well, here I am.

I was away from home for two weeks. I attended a meeting in Lansing filled with interesting, knowledgeable and helpful people. I was able to connect and spend time with one daughter, two nieces, one grand niece, one brother and five sisters. Plus assorted and dear in-laws. I went to Nashville with my sisters! I came back from my vacation energized from new sights and sounds and adventures.

And then I ran out of steam.

I’ve been sick. We’re fairly protected, here on Beaver Island, from many of those things that make the rounds in the wintertime. When one manages to get away, it usually results in some sort of contagious nuisance grabbing hold. I came home with a bad head cold that – just when I’d decided a head cold was the worst ailment – moved down into my chest. I truly believe a broken leg would be easier to live with than a bad cold. But then, I’ve never had a broken leg.

My method of dealing with a cold is to mask all symptoms with as many over-the-counter medications I can manage: non-drowsy tablets to get me through the day, and the strongest drowse-inducing liquids for nighttime. So, I’ve been pretty drugged-up.

I came home to still Winter. Normally, the end of February is a good time to get away. Usually, by the first of March, signs of Spring are starting to show even when we’re still in Winter’s grip. The days are longer, the sun is brighter…there is hope. This year, I believe Beaver Island recorded a temperature – or at least a wind chill – of something like 25 below zero on the first of March. And, it wasn’t just a fluke. That was just an average day in the mass of cold days we’ve had this month…finishing off a winter that came early and hit us hard. In fact, today – March 19th, the eve of the first day of Spring – we are getting more snow! I am winter-weary.

I came home broke, and behind in everything. None of my jobs offer “vacation days.” We have a quaint old arrangement that an hour of work results in an hour’s pay. If it doesn’t interfere with business – or the plans of others – it is possible to get time away…but it will not be compensated. This vacation has been on my calendar for months. The fact that this hard winter resulted in less business (so fewer hours of work), higher utility bills and a whole new idea of the cost of snow-plowing would not cause me to cancel this trip. I’d figure it out. I had a few obligations for articles coming up in the first couple weeks of March. I work well under pressure, I assured myself. I’d figure that out, too. So, I’ve been busy…working, writing, turning in hours and paperwork, paying bills and filing taxes (while drugged up on over-the-counter cold medicine).

After two weeks out in the hustle and bustle of the mainland, a full week in the big city of Nashville and seven (twenty-four hour) days with my sisters, it might seem logical that I – the loner in the family – would be happy to get back to my little house on the Fox Lake Road on my little island away from the fray. The opposite is true! I have been so lonesome for my family, I wake up every day missing them! I wander this sad house alone every evening. I almost never suffer from loneliness, but now it has me in its grip.

I woke up this morning with the remnants of a dream still on my mind. It was filled with family, living and dead (though all very lively in my dream!), and busy with buying and selling houses and moving furniture. It was noisy with planning, friendly discussion and debate. As I awoke, I struggled to keep my Dad’s voice in my head. His words: “It’s good, then, you’ll be down here when it’s time to put in the garden.”  Though tears were drying on my cheeks as I got out of bed, it was comforting to note that Dad – from his high perch – knows that Spring is coming.

And I’m here…waiting for it.