The Reality of Living in an Isolated Age

Anyone can die alone—not just the lonely

By: Director of LAO

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In the early 1980s, I remember the news telling of a famous actor who had passed away, living in the heart of “Hollywoodland”, CA. It's not news, right? – we lose famous actors to old age regularly. And although he wasn't really that old, as a movie buff, I wasn't particularly interested at the time. The actor was William Holden; and while he was among the “famous of the famous”, I had never really liked his work.  

However, about 10 years ago, I quite by accident ran across an Internet article about the death of William Holden. This new information, much more than had been broadcast years earlier, so surprised me – I have never forgotten it. 

Apparently, Mr. Holden [in his last years] had become an alcoholic. Not surprising: movies change, good roles dry up, depressed people escape. As time went on, though, he had withdrawn from his closest friends, going days and weeks at a time not seeing or talking to anyone. On the day of his death, he'd been drinking, and somehow managed to fall at home and cut his head. In the state he was in, it's believed he didn't realize his head wound was mortally fatal. He passed out, eventually bleeding to death from the cut on his head.  

It would be a week before those concerned about him would finally raise an alarm, and he would be found – in the middle of a busy, vibrant city, filled with busy, vibrant people. This is why his story sticks with me today. If this can happen to a famous personality – someone who must have had lots of friends and acquaintances – then this can happen of any of us.  

And younger people in our population think this is just something that happens among elderly people. But that's not so – young adults need to realize that their safety is at risk, if they choose to “steer clear of people”. This article below, written by a woman in her thirties, says it well. ---- Director of LAO

Anyone can die alone – not just the lonely

By: Fay Schopen

As anyone of either sex, who has ever lived alone, will realize, the circumstances in which we too could slip away are troublingly close to the surface. I live alone, with my cat, Sad – stereo-typical spinster me. And I work from home, so there are no colleagues to wonder why I have suddenly stopped appearing in the office. My family lives nearly 4,000 miles away.

If you live alone, what may have once been optional for you becomes an imperative: you must phone your friends; you must leave the house; you must socialize. Sometimes you don't feel like doing any of those things – and before you know it, three days have passed, you are lying on the sofa in front of the tube covered in pizza crumbs, and you realize you haven't spoken to another human being since last Thursday.

And as we age, we are even more likely to be alone. In my late thirties, my close friends are scattered around the country, are abroad, or are knee-deep in children's toys. I have only lived in my small town for a year. I have a couple of friends, and lots of acquaintances. “Night-out friends”. A few years ago, one friend got fed up with going out. Months passed. Only one person she knew from the bar-scene popped 'round to inquire if she was all right. 

While there is a difference between being alone and being lonely – I am happy in my own company and love living alone, for the most part – there is no getting around the fact that we live in an isolated age. And when I feel like my life is unspooling around me, when I am sad, tired and in need of human company, taking a glimpse at someone else's fabulous life via Instagram, Facebook or Twitter has never, ever made me feel better.

We are human beings. We need to be alone sometimes – but not all the time. As Bernard O'Donoghue says in his brilliant poem, The Faultline: "we're designed to live neither together nor alone." And therein lies the rub.

Excerpt from --


Submitted By: Bryani M.
---- Elephant Butte, NM



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