The Loneliness Struggle

wilsonTo me, the toughest part of being an over-the-road truck driver is dealing with the loneliness. I’m an introvert by nature and therefore prefer time either by myself or with a few close friends. However, there is a difference between being alone and being lonely. Being alone can often be soothing, rejuvenating, and even intellectually stimulating. Loneliness on the other hand, is painful, depressing, and can even reach a point of being life-threatening.  We all need at least some interaction with other people to healthy.

Lonliness is painful. This is why our society choses isolation as punishment for the worst criminals (solitary confinement). Many, perhaps most, would prefer death over confinement, but such a choice is not offered. It seems we’d rather spend the tax money to support such people in order to torment them through confinement.   But it isn’t just criminals who have to deal with loneliness. It is the elderly, the sick, the homeless, the divorced,  the mentally ill, the outcast teenagers; well, all of us sooner or later. I have no doubt that loneliness is at the root of a great deal of suicides.

People who must spend large amounts of time in isolation must  become quite creative in order to maintain some sense of emotional health. Remember the movie “Castaway” with Tom Hanks. In the movie, a man survives a plain crash only to be stranded on a deserted island where he was presumed dead by everyone who knew him. As the man struggles to survive he creates a friend out of soccer ball when the blood on his hand forms what he perceived as a face. He gives the ball the name Wilson which becomes his only friend and his only means of maintaining sanity at times. I thought it was very fitting when I saw the picture above on Facebook with a replica of Wilson in the passenger seat. They used to sell these in stores. Perhaps that is the only way some can find a friend.

As I drive down the road, I have seen all sorts of ways in which drivers attempt to deal with the islation. I’ve seen everything from large stuffed animals to blow-up dolls fastended in the passenger seat of a truck. That’s usually where I keep my guitar. Others seem to have an infestation of pets. I have seen as many as 5 dogs and 7 cats in a semi and that is not all that unusual.

I know I am not the only one who resorts to carrying on a conversation with the GPS in the truck. I find it ironic that the default setting has a female voice set on it. It’s like a second wife. She tells me where to go, when to turn, and when I’m going the wrong way. In a way, it’s better than a wife, because if we ever have a disagreement, I can put the GPS on silent and go the way I want until she stops her nagging and comes to her senses. I can’t do that with my first wife.

Being gone from home is tough, but I do find comfort in renewing old friendships. I have friends and family all over the country. Some of these people I never really expected to see again. Nor have I talked with them much over the years just because we all get consumed with our dailey lives. I have missed them so much, and even though we are not as close as we once were, I enjoy looking these old friends up and dropping by when I can.

One such friend I have known since Jr. High School. His family took me in when I was sleeping in cars and so far in order to avoid going home. At first he would sneek me in and I would sleep under the bed, but he eventually talked his parents into giving me a home. It didn’t exactly work out, but our frienship has. We talk regularly now. He has hooked me up with all the amenidies to make life barable in a truck: microwave, TV, Bluetooth head set, CB radio, etc.

A while back I became friends with Jeremy and Kelly who were attempted to escape from the state of Wyoming. They moved to Mena for just a short while, but a real connection was formed. Their escape attempt failed and they had to return to Wyoming which broke my heart because I never thought I would see them again. I was very wrong. Not only have they visited Mena, but they also live very close to I-80.  I practically live on I-80.

Relationships are very hard to maintain anymore. We often get so bogged down with work and spending time with family that we don’t take any time to just have conversations with other people. I really don’t like  to be a nusince but it does me a lot of good just to talk with people on the phone. One of my friends from Mississippi ended up moving to Washington. I haven’t been up there yet, but we can talk on the phone. It’s nice to talk on the phone with people. Did you know that people call the suicide hot line at times just for somebody to talk to? I remember this from when I was in High school and a volunteer came to talk with the class. They are not allowed to hang up, and all sorts of people call just to talk with somebody who cares.

I’ve been able to visit more with family now. My parents live 500 miles from each other, and I live even further from them than that, but both of them live quite close to I-80. I don’t get to stay long, but I’ve been able to drop in on them from time to time. Sometimes I can stay a couple days which is about the longest I’m home anymore. I even won a couple games of BINGO the last time I visited my mother. The last time I was with my father, I was able to get out the guitar and jam with my brother for a little while.

I’ve got my guitar with me, and there are few things that can be as encouraging for the down-hearted as playing and listening to music. I don’t get to play as much as I could before, and I really miss the times when I would get to play with others, but it is still soothing.

Like most people, there are places that I really want to see. I’m writing this from San Francisco, CA where I have been stranged for several days. I was in Las Vegas, NV for New Year’s Eve. Thanks to the internet and the bus system, I’ve been able to see some of the sights. Even though it would be nice to see places with the ones I love, it is still nice to see places and share pictures and stories with the people back home.

My blog helps me too. Some have expressed concern over the depression I sometimes communicate. This is one of the ways I deal with the depression. Totally Authentic is about communicating the real me, and I shall not hide my struggle with depression. It isn’t those who talk about their depression that are in the most danger; it is those who don’t. When people keep all their thoughts and emotions bottled up on the inside, there’s going to be an explosion. My blog is my way of being transparent with people. My hope is that people will be transparent with me as well.

So feel free to share your thoughts. I welcome comments. If you like the blog, follow it and receive email updates. If it is worth while, share it. Either way,  thank you for reading it. We all struggle with loneliness from time to time. Some more than others. These are just some things that help me get through as I deal with the curves of life that come my way.

 

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About Ken Sayers

I'm currently employed by a children's home where my wife and I care for a cottage of girls who have been displaced from their families. I'm a middle age man with two grown children of my own and one grandchild. I have worked as a United States Marine, a youth minister, a preacher, a childcare worker, and a truck driver. My hobbies include photography, horses, playing guitar, writing, and fitness.
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