A recent article http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/relationships/3-things-i-wish-i-knew-we-got-married by Tyler Ward emphasises making one’s marriage a priority in a meaningful way.  A fellow friend, who is also single, asked me to comment on this article.

I want to expand the broader implications of this article to include a daily manifestation of love, because I am single, not married, not engaged or even in any sort of “significant” relationship.  I live far from family, rarely hear from anyone in my family other than my parents, even after experiencing emergency surgery.  I’m not complaining, just giving the scope to my life.  My safety net tends to be a web of friends on both sides of the English Channel.  More often than not, I hear from friends in England and Ireland faster than my own friends here in Germany.  I don’t think it’s because friends in Germany care less about me, it’s just a fact of how the cards are laid and who had chosen to make a major investment in my life.

Likewise, I try to embrace as many people as possible, and seek out ways in which I can cheer others up. Often I fail, sometimes I succeed.

Life is hard.  I am keenly aware of this as my body continues to be annoying, taxing, and has required more surgery and medical attention than I considered necessary this year.  (In fact, it has made it hard for me to think straight at times, in the face of how I can ever accomplish everything that I need to).

Friends and coworkers often ask, “How Can I Help?” and I’ll say “Pray for me to get a new body”, “Pray for a miracle” or more often than not, I’ll come up with more concrete ways I need help: meals, assistance with laundry, company (I live alone, with two animals, after awhile, even they are lacking in proper conversation).

When you can’t lift anything over 7kg and driving for 10 minutes winds you (as well as walking for longer than 20 minutes without a companion), you begin to look at things very differently.  I will explain my situation to people and they continue to ask, “Well, what can I do?” And I’m surprised by some of the responses to my very simple pleas:

“Oh, sure, I’d love to help…oh wait…where do you live?  Oh that’s so far away…” (I live forty minutes away by car, the average American commute anywhere).  I drive this distance twice every day to go to work, and most of my coworkers do three times this drive once a month to go on various vacations.

“Meals, oh yeah, love to help…oh wait…you’re gluten free aren’t you…and vegetarian too I heard…” (Correction: painfully allergic to gluten, not to anything else).

“I’d love to help, just been so busy, you know, all these classes, work and then all these dinners with friends and stuff…I really wanted to visit you, the time just got away with me” (Why mention it?  Just leave it alone and don’t admit to me that you were having fun while I was marooned at home trying not to feel miserable when the pain medications aren’t working).

I am beginning to realise why people who suffer from far more debilitating diseases than me stop asking, get depressed, and sometimes become withdrawn.  They get tired of trying to express that without the help of others (even visits or simple cards in the mail) hope starts to recede and you feel all alone within the confines of your own house.  Your home stops being a haven and starts resembling a prison.  And you wonder if you really can ever interact normally with humanity again if and when “normal” life ever resumes?

I have friends confined to wheelchairs, my father has cancer, one of my close friends is recovering from breast cancer, and the list goes on.  Their voices are generally silent on this subject, because they are so tired of fighting to get people to understand and be empathetic to their situation.  When you are ill, your world becomes small and while your brain continues to create wonderful new stories, philosophies and insights, the lack of human stimulation makes you wonder if you have suddenly become a spectator in your previous life.  I asked myself, when I wandered the halls at work a few days ago (before being grounded at home for the rest of the week), “Am I a ghost, a sliver of what I used to be?”

People pat me on the back, congratulating me for losing weight and looking great.  I try to swallow their insensitivity to my situation.  Food has lost its flavour altogether and I’ve lost the ability to be hungry.  It is no longer a novelty, it is a scary reality that sometimes reduces me to tears that are shed in the silence and stillness of my cavernous apartment.

When articles address marriage or unions of some sort and the priority one must place on ones spouse, in essence I feel they are addressing a growing lack of concern for our fellow human beings.  If we can’t reach out to our spouse, how can we also, help others less close to us?

I paste my comments below:

“The idea of marriage (for those of us not blessed with this union, yet) could be symbolic of the overall regard we have for vested relationships in our lives (friendships, families, coworkers). I find the most valuable and long-lasting relationships come from taking time to reach out to those closest to me, regardless of distance, on a regular basis and enacting a lot of the main tenets of the above article. If my closest relationships feel valued, and a priority, it makes for a stronger bond between us in general. Love flourishes the best when it is attended to and nurtured in a daily, empathetic and deliberate manner.”

I think I’m going to dial a friend and find out how they’re doing!