Prior to living with ALS, loneliness was not a companion we were familiar with; but that has changed. Loneliness has been embracing my husband for a while now so I have become intimately acquainted with it. Like fog moves into the San Francisco Bay, loneliness crept into our lives matching the magnitude of the disease’s progression. If we had been looking, we would have seen it coming but before we knew it, it had enveloped us.
When we received the ALS diagnosis back in 2011, the troops of friends rallied around us encouraging us with their battle cries of “You’re not alone” and “How can we help?”. As the months of the battle turned into one year, then two, the troops began losing their enthusiasm and falling away. As their numbers dwindled, we should have seen the fog of loneliness rolling in.
Two years seems to be a good length of time to be at war. When the battle extends much beyond that, people begin to question, “When will this end?” We have been in this battle for five years, eight months and 27 days. Instead of it bolstering their enthusiasm that we are still in the fight, it seems to dampen their spirits that things haven’t come to a speedy conclusion. The weariness of being at war for so long takes its toll on us physically and mentally, amplifying those feelings of loneliness. It seems as if people prefer that we give up the fight so they can rally again for a brief time of mourning hoping to comfort us in our time of defeat. We, unlike them, recognize that the battle is worth the fight no matter how long it rages on so we go it alone without the troops by our side. Now we battle not only the disease but also attempt to quell the fog of loneliness that rolls in each time there is another setback.
Take a look at that word “loneliness". Notice the words “one line” embedded in there? “One” is the root cause of loneliness, as in one person, isolated, alone. The other part of loneliness, “line” is interesting to me. It makes me think about the lines we are unwilling to cross, lines that establish our comfort zone. My contention is that if each of us were willing to get a little uncomfortable, perhaps we could be the light in the fog of loneliness. It wouldn’t take much. You may be thinking that you couldn’t possibly visit someone in Akhil’s situation because it would make you too uncomfortable. Ok... Perhaps a visit isn’t the only way you can connect. How about sending a Facebook message or a text that simply says, “I am thinking of you today!” That isn’t too much of a stretch, is it? I guarantee the person on the receiving end of that message will smile and just for a moment will not feel so alone. Isn’t it worth it to cross that line stepping just beyond your comfort zone? Can you cross “one line” today to break through someone’s fog of loneliness for a moment?