I used this photo as a header because I wanted to show how happy one can be when in company of friends, family, acquaintances...just give us the chance ... occasionally. We ageing without children folk don't ask for much. But we do ask to be noticed. We are here...
Working hard is not something I expected to be doing nowadays. But with no one to neither speak up nor stand up for me, to show me how to work Facebook and its gang, to edit my photos and videos, to help with my gardening, I have no one. Living alone without family/children can be hard work. This may sound like a self pitying mardy but it's all true. Loneliness, mental health - who me? Nah, not me. I cope, I manage, I have to…
Says me because, as I age, I have less than no one so, like many others living alone (and particularly if ageing and/or disabled), I cope.
But then - you don't - right?
Much as I try to uptalk my situation I'm oftimes weary of it. Why do some awocs - and most of the time I love those people - insist it's an amazing way of life? This happy, clappy agenda for childfree living may be some folks' interpretation of childlessness but I wouldn't say it's mine. Not as I've aged.
I go out for coffee or lunch with friends and I hear them talk about their family lives. As we awocs note - their lives revolve so much around children, grandchildren. Can you blame them? Your family are closest to you. They know you. You feel comfy around them. And we childless dont have that. However, listen to this - I recently sent a tweet to Twitter which went very well. It highlighted the children/grandchildren/heavy conversations recently had with 'friends who have a family'. Reactions came in from mainly the childless/free ( grrr…do I have to keep doing that?) ranting about others' talk of kids or grandkids. It touched some nerves did that little tweet.
This issue - said Twitter - grandmas' have of bringing most conversations back to the kids/grandkids can be (albeit) unwittingly thoughtless to many of us who age without children.
So, here we are - stoic, stalwart, smiley face to the world - on we go. I started this blog, social media plus, out of the utter despair and loneliness during covid and shielding. I could have laid dead for months and no one would have known at that point. Why? To be honest we don't have enough pages but suffice to say, I found myself totally alone and very scared. You've heard the phrase 'shit or bust'? That was me. Go under or do something. So I did something. You know this. Still it rankles.
People seem embarrassed because I'm alone without anyone. One or two folk will come forward and reach out. At this point, I won't say names but I will be eternally grateful to those folk. I must reciprocate but find myself quite tired at moment. There's a big battle to fight. All of it won't be won, but I will win some of it. You know who you are…
As I reveal my public AWOC face to the world it tends to be smiley smiley. No bad thing. I get scared when making new friends because at some point the friendship always seems to fade away and it is not me. I'll tell you this - if I'd got friends who were exactly like me - then I'd consider myself darned lucky to have me. Make sense of that if you will.
I think I'm alright. One no longer cares what others think, anyway. And here's the thing…this is AWOC thinking. Because if I wasn't so cocky I'd still be sitting where I was during those lonely, covid months. Awocs really have to do it for themselves. Who else is going to?
If I admitted to myself I'm lonely I'd feel ashamed. That can't be right. But I would so I don't - admit it to myself. I love my own company so there's your answer. Not all the time, however.
Because what seems to be emerging from my innards is anger. At others' unconscious lack of awareness. I have been in company when folk ( often women but, thankfully, none of my close friends) appear to deliberately tout photos of grandkids around the table. What is one supposed to say? What would one like to say?
'For goodness sakes, not another one'.
But, of course, one doesn't. One coos and smiles and mentally falls off ones chair with utter boredom. I never show shots of Lilley round any table because she looks the same in every one. Same face, same haircut, same pink tongue. But I feel about Lilley the way grandmas feel about their family. She is all I have. Is that not a talking point? Should that not trigger a conversation about - oh - me?
I'll give you a potential example:
'How do you cope Trish? Do you ever need help? What will happen if you fall and you can't reach a phone? Will someone know?' Said no one.
Lilley loves company also, so here she is with two of her little mates - Barney the Malti x and Daisy the Dachsi x
They'd just left a local eatery where they all embarrassed themselves and their owners so much we all crept out and hoped no one noticed.
But it's embarassing. I keep saying it. This embarassment around ageing childlessness. I'm convinced attitudes are along the line of - 'she'll sort it or social services will. Not our concern'. If - you are a human being and, therefore, part of the human race or the community everyone is so keen to be 'part of' yet isn't. If - you are always willing to help as you all say you are then - get off your arses and be that person. Look around you - you ignore me. Because I'm without children or family? Because you don't want to get involved? Here's the thing I don't want you to get involved but I do want you to offer yourself as a contact. That's all I ask. So there is a number locally I can call. Or someone can call. Someone cares enough to follow through if I'm not seen out and about for no reason.
That's all I ask.
Be interested. Care enough.
The Churches make a big deal of it. Put your substantial coffers where your mouth is Churches as the saying goes. Help your communities out by working with them and local councils to form a central support group/number for those who are living alone, particularly ageing and/or disabled. For everyone, by the way, churchgoers/non churchgoers. No discrimination here.
Here I am getting into religious territory. I'll leave now, shall I? 😇
A burning desire to breathe fire and brimstone zaps your energy I’ll tell you that. I believe it was the late great Sir Roger Moore, known for his charm and polite chat, who told a journalist during interview (not word for word obviously) when talking to people he remained charming, patient, smiling whilst often thinking 'you are f***ing boring’. Or something like that. Much easier, lazier to take the smiley option. Ashamed to say I recognise myself in that statement. I do. Lazy option is to smile, be charming. Hide the swift and deadly snake bite when pushed to react.
Perhaps being awoc has made me needy in the past. Frightened to lose people if I’m not like Sir Roger says he was in company.
I asked myself if I like being awoc? No.
Do I like being partnerless? Not really.
Am I lonely? Help me…darent answer
What does mental health mean nowadays? Head down; Shrug shoulders.
Too Frightened to find out? Maybe…
So where does an awoc like me go to talk, to find out stuff, to loosen the tight brace holding me up? Who will stop my fall when that brace snaps?
There is no one and I shouldn’t have to feel embarrassed to say so. But I do.
We talk a lot about mental health and loneliness.
'Talk..' says the bumph. What do they mean? Talk to who - yourself? I think that might be part of the problem - talking to yourself. Many of us are lonely. We do talk to oursleves - a lot. We are ageing and live alone. Too much loneliness can create depression, therefore mental health. Throwing out random soundbites might well get organisations off the hook, but it's short term.
A very good way forward is to talk but properly, in a professional environment. It would be worth councils/social care/nhs/community police getting involved with their communities to help form proper - I say 'proper' - organised, professionally managed groups so those who need to can talk. Maybe walk-in, maybe referrals. But letting local people 'form' some random group will not work. Using a professional or possibly trained, volunteer to oversee the group, wouldn't be papering over cracks then, would it? Hopefully it would be helping to heal some cracks before they collapse.
It's like so many things we're not doing but could. Our communities are being wasted. Use them. Invest in them. A plethora of coffee mornings sounds good, on paper. They are not for serious talking, however. Lots of speakers gassing on about gardening, coach trips etc, won't help the person who sits alone afraid to make that first move. Or who simply wants to 'talk' to someone about stuff going on in their head. Think….
You age - without children - you shrink. Your personna and your presence evaporates. So you must join everything, go on coach trips, until you exhaust your diary. But that’s not me. Therefore I pronounce loudly as an awoc. Because I must. Please don’t make me embarrassed because I’m ageing without children and sometimes lonely.
I defy anyone to say they've never suffered from mental health issues.
Don't be afraid to ask for help.
My favourite band and its lead singer Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac sings to her former lover and fellow (now former) band mate Lindsey Buckingham
'Time cast a spell on you but you won’t forget me'. (From Silver Springs by Stevie Nicks/Fleetwood Mac).
That'll be my gravestone sorted.
Nothing beats walking the dogs with a good friend for company. Where would I be without the other little mate in my life? The four legged hairy one. I don't know, to be honest...
For help with mental health issues please see Resources page