A few years ago an acquaintance of mine asked me why she had no friends. It’s not an easy question to answer. We’re all different and we all want or have different types of friend relationships, but over the years I’ve come to recognize that this person really is very alone in the world. And she’s not the only one.
I’ve spent a long time wondering why some of us are not just alone, but also very lonely. Being alone is not necessarily a bad thing. I find some of my most peaceful times alone and I’m quite honest when I say I prefer the company of most dogs to most people. Dogs don’t have it in them to lie – I know how to read a dog’s body language and I know what to expect. People, not so much. People lie to themselves first and foremost, before going on to attempt to deceive the rest of the world.
I’m off and on a social media board where disabled singles largely whine about why no one dates them. When I finally do post it is to suggest they need to make themselves the kind of person who would attract the kind of person they’d like to have into their lives. This is usually met with stony silence. Nope, not about them, about everyone else in the world who does not want to accept them as they are and sweep them up and romance them like a novel. Really? Someone forgot to tell me that when I grew up.
I know plenty of folks who are deaf, blind, deafblind, in wheelchairs, in walkers, and so on and so forth, who suffer from everything from severe Ehlers-Danlos to various forms of cancer and suffer mild to severe debilitation who have friends and loved ones. So what gives? Why do some of us spend a lifetime being unable to connect with others?
Ultimately, what I see as the difference is investing in others. It means being willing to let go of all those things we want (me, Me, ME!) and paying attention to others, their needs, their wants, and desires and doing so willingly and with no expectation of any return on that investment. What do they want, they need? What will make them smile? When I take the emphasis off of me and put it on someone else then my world view shifts and their perception of me is different than if I am simply self-absorbed all the time.
I invest in myself as well, through learning American Sign Language, going to meetings, meeting people, listening to their stories, empathizing and caring what happens to them. By investing in others, by caring about their welfare, I also invest in myself and the world around me. I admit, I’d like my local family to invest in me by learning to sign, but I’m also realistic enough to know that’s not going to happen.
So the answer is – if your (generic you) world is about your house, cars, toys, savings, retirement, and income – if it is all about you – what you want, need, or desire – then you are alone for a reason. If you can’t put yourself in the place of another, if you can’t run to the rescue of another, if you cannot imagine not putting yourself first and foremost, then it is a problem of lack of empathy and lack of heart. Without that ability one can never invest honestly in another and never find a return on that investment (although that’s not why I invest in others, it is simply what happens).
Interestingly enough, in the deaf community, when I am signing with others, the fact that the language is 3D and full body means that I am getting what I consider a total communication I never get from hearing folks. I’ve heard it said that the hearing are deaf from the neck down and more and more I tend to agree with that. I have much more of an idea of what to expect from a signer than someone who is not a signer. Not that all deaf, HoH, or signers are wonderful people – we all have our issues like everyone else, but I’d like to think that we do more investing in each other than is the norm in other communities.