Jon, 46, Artist

Scarred landscapes turn into winter wonderlands

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Darting among the crystal globes of wet grass,  an eight-year-old boy takes notice of this yellow flash of lightning. It looked like the head of a snake! There was good reason to think this might be the case, as his brother ran over a snake with the lawn mower not that long ago. The diced up remnants of this dead reptile became memorialized in a jar of formaldehyde sitting on our garage shelf. This was a constant reminder of just how dangerous a backyard could be. Fortunately for me, it turned out not to be a snake but instead was the head of a box turtle.

A turtle makes a great pet for a boy, particularly a lonely one. When Sammy would go into her shell, it represented how I felt. I was the only kid on the block who didn’t have a father at home.  I grew up in an age when the church was attacking people for being divorced. My mom lost most of her friends after the divorce. As for me, I was often bullied in elementary school. The other kids  made fun of the fact that I didn’t have a father at home. This was the reason they gave of why  we couldn’t be friends anymore. When they were not making fun of that, they pointed out my “poor” non brand name clothes I wore.  I came home from school one day and ripped off every label on my clothes. When my mother discovered the reason why I did this,  she cried.  If it wasn’t for my mother’s love and encouragement, I would have been totally lost in that moment. Because of her, I knew love before cruelty.  That made all the difference.

Now being more than three decades  later, Sammy is still my pet turtle. Just as she has followed me through the years,  so has loneliness. They both were with me when I learned that my father was dying and visited him for the first time in 35 years. They were both there when the relationship with the woman of my dreams was destroyed by her drug addiction. They are with me now in my current job working in a system that doesn’t live up to the values it professes.  When I was a boy, I saw my turtle as a metaphor for my loneliness. Today as an adult,  I feel more like that snake in the jar of formaldehyde. It often feels like loneliness has cut me to pieces.  I am floating in a sea of dreams that I can swim through but never get to.  I struggle not to feel dead.

I do have things that breathe renewed hope into my life:  My relationship with God, my Mother, Brother and close friends.   I can honestly say that art has saved my life. My painting, photography and short films gives me an experience of what it is to be alive. The rotting parts of my soul reanimate like a germinating flower. I also find peace when I’m out hiking in the great Colorado Rockies which am very fortunate to call  home. I do desire to fall in love again.

You will find a picture on the blog that looks like winter trees.  It’s a photograph I took of an area burned by the Waldo Canyon fire in Colorado. Because all of the trees and grass were burned black, I thought about that image for a long time. I wondered what would happen if I took that image and turned it on its head. In this case, it was inverting the colors so black became white. Suddenly we no longer had a scarred landscape but instead had something that resembled  a magical winter wonderland. This idea of turning something dark into something  hopeful was the inspiration of the Lonely Mythos Project. I wanted people to share their own experiences with loneliness and what gave them a hopeful perspective.  I am truly thankful for those with the courage to discuss a subject that society continually wants to hide and not talk about. There is so much stigma attached to loneliness which is difficult to overcome. I know there were people that were made uncomfortable with what I was trying to do. I think some were truly frightened by the idea of facing their own loneliness.

I hope all the blog readers will do in their own lives what the photograph does– transform darkness into light.  We’ve seen during this past year how the human spirit can prevail in the midst of the most horrific circumstances.

While this is the last entry of the Lonley Mythos Project,  it will remain online for people to read and comment if they feel so moved. May our journey’s end together be a new beginning full of beautiful winter wonderlands for all of us.

Kristia, 33, Baker

The loving connection with self

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I am currently a worker at a commercial bakery that makes frozen pies for local restaurants. It’s not a terrible job! My employers are decent folks, they pay above  the minimum wage, and they allow me to have the flexibility I need as a solo parent with my kids.  I think most people in their lives have experienced loneliness and I am not immune. The feeling of being alone hit immediately ( and suddenly ) after the death of my husband. He was killed unexpectedly in a motorcycle accident when our daughter was 4-years old and our son was a week old. Shock hit first. Then grief. Then loneliness began to rear it’s ugly head. When you’ve spent half your life with someone dutifully by your side, their sudden disappearance to your world is soul-stopping. Oddly, I was never really alone after his death. I had my children and my fear of losing them in the same swift motion  of moments made me keep them always by my side. But being lonely and alone are different. At his funeral, I was in a room full of people, and I couldn’t have felt more utterly alone right then.  It’s been seven years since his death and loneliness has been a reoccurring theme in my life. I’m glad to say these days  I no longer live in it. I started thinking of my ‘lonely periods’ as my time to invest in myself. Instead of feeling alone, sad, or without love, I started working on creating that own loving connection with myself in whatever form I needed – exercise, quiet time, play. I started identifying why I felt lonely. If it came from a lack of human connection, I made strides to correct that – even if it was as simple as telling a stranger, “Oh, I love that hat!” and getting a smile in response. Connecting with people can be healing. It’s not always easy as sometimes I still feel lonely. I try to sit with that feeling and just let it be until it’s no longer painful.

Thomas, 37, unemployed

Taking hold

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I am currently unemployed and looking for work.This is difficult because I am kind of an introverted, loner type. Previously, I was a research coordinator at a research hospital. They overworked me for 11 years, so I said, hey I need a break from all that in DEC 2016.
Somehow the universe has provided me with enough extra $ to get by, but that’s running out. I am kind of an empathic person, taking in the energies from nature and the people around me. My heart/mind get crowded.

When have you experienced loneliness? Mostly my entire life, but it doesn’t always bother me. Not drinking for 6.5 years has really limited my socialization options, but I don’t miss the lifestyle at all.

I am interacting with other people with similar interests on Facebook and Tumblr [via] my rubber stamp art group. I visit with family once in awhile. A previous partner moved back in about a year ago, so that’s put an end to a lot of loneliness. I am still isolated from social interactions, mostly due to self imposed decisions not to interact socially with people. I don’t seem to interact with them very smoothly. Seems awkward or forced or something. I do that to basically simplify my life. Having too many other people in my life seems to confuse my life and my inner world. I went to a new chess club meeting at the nearby bookstore the other day. My mind is basically occupied with finding work and figuring out my finances, so I do not feel like I can get too far into that right now. Sharing on the internet gives me a sense of validation when people like my drawings and other creative works.

Anita, unspecified age, Homemaker

This has no vanity

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I grew up mainly atheist. I do not believe in a god. My parents divorced when I was very young, my dad was an alcoholic and a violent man. I was always afraid of him, so I had to learn to read his mood. I still do it with most people. My mother shot herself after the divorce. She survived and we never speak of it. She prefers to avoid talking about the past. I don’t have strong connection with my parents.  I always wondered if they ever loved each other. I am an immigrant, due to political issues we left our country when I was 18. I had just finished high school. We ended up in a country ridden with terrorism, street bombings, riots. We had a few hard years there, hunger was the worse, sometimes all there was to eat was rice, for months at a time. Things got better over time when we got help. After a few years, we came to the USA. I think it was the most shocking moment of my life. The lights, the buildings, so much of everything, so many words and signs. It was overwhelming and it made me nauseous. But it didn’t take long to realize that it all came at a price. People seem worried and rushed all the time. American socialization is mainly based on consumption. People only hang out with people they like or have things in common with. In my country, people must socialize because we need each other, not because we have same views, music taste or whatever. I fell into a deep depression, I have always craved meaning, now I could not find any. I finally have made it to a safe place, with food, now I am alone.  I must continue this strange carousel with people who seem completely out of reach.

My current isolation is probably my own choice. I know I have trust issues due to my childhood. Besides that, I find people don’t really have anything meaningful to say. It all feels like they are trying to run away from themselves most of the time, trying to avoid pain or difficulties. I spend much of my time working in the garden, as nature does not waste. It is efficient; it is beautiful without vanity.

Audri, 23, Future Engineer

Regenerating the soul into another

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Hubble Space Telescope Photography Courtesy of NASA

I am a young 23 year old Mother of one. I have been diagnosed with a depression disorder at a young age. I have lived a difficult childhood. I have suffered loneliness and rejection many times. What I have gathered from my 23 years of living on Earth is that Life won’t come to you while you’re sitting alone in a corner, trying to understand why fairness isn’t a part of Life. I’ve learned to accept the hardships as they come, however, I feel that if I do or don’t take enough time to grieve either way it’s like putting duct tape over a leaking pipe……eventually it will break.

Throughout my relationships, I have mostly felt alone, not rejected, but in the grand scheme, just simply alone.  It’s me facing the world, no one else can live this life put before me, when I lay down to take my last breath it will be only what I see in my life flash back, some very sad memories and some very good ones but, no one else’s. In a way, it’s led me to many bouts of depression because being me is difficult due to my insecurities, doubts, and disorders. They control me quite often. I believe they control many people in today’s world. The only true way I feel I can escape this agonizing mental disease is to remember that when the time does come, that I will have at least lived a life of many experiences. I loved many, life was fun and I actually EXISTED. While watching all my flashbacks, my Daughter’s life comes into play in the parts I helped her grow: simply regenerating parts of me into her soul. Always and Forever in existence…myself… Audri.

Lou, 69, support specialist

Fishers of Zen

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When have I experienced loneliness? Most of the three years since we moved here. I had a robust social life where we lived back east, but since I moved here I have practiced intentional isolation for reasons I cannot fully explain. We moved out west because both our daughters ended up in Seattle, so it was a family decision. My wife and I had never lived in the west so we thought… why not make retirement an adventure? We moved to Eugene for practical reasons. It was affordable, has great cultural for a small city, and the natural attractions of the mountains, coast, and rivers made it a desirable destination in our minds.

I started my career working with the developmentally disabled many years ago, so it seemed like a natural fit to pursue that here at the end of my work career. I never felt like I lost any skill set by retiring, and I wanted to stay engaged in the work force. Work is activity that helps keep you feeling alive, engaged, and valued.

There is a difference between loneliness and solitude. For solitude, I escaped by fly-fishing. That was mostly back east. To deal with loneliness, I engage in home remodeling projects and building small outbuildings. My next project is building a patio out of recycled bricks. After that I will re-side the house. Also have a good size garden started. Also started reading books again and started a fly-fishing blog (early stages).

Rebekah, 20, babysitter

Color in the life cycle

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Loneliness has a way of always catching up with me. I have depression and anxiety, but my depression and loneliness tend to come in cycles. So at one point I’ll be at a high (typically lasting 2-5 months) and then out of nowhere I hit a low. Everything just crashes. Currently, I am at a low. I have no motivation for anything and even though I have friends and a boyfriend to talk to, I feel completely and utterly alone and it’s really hard to get out of my head.

What are some helpful ways I’ve discovered in dealing with loneliness? Honestly, I just try to immerse myself in things I love: Reading, writing, music and baking. It’s really important to focus on things you love doing or experiment with new things. I used to try a ton of different pills (natural) to self medicate, however that was a bit destructive for my mentality. I also try to hang out with my family more, they are a goofy and rambunctious group of people, but they do help with getting me out of my loneliness funk.