My Sad Realisation

cowboy“I was coming to your music nights” said Eddie, “and I knew that I liked you. And I thought you’d be a good person to have as a friend. But the thing is Al, you’re not an easy person to become friends with.”

Eddie then recounts the time that he offered me his phone number and I’d replied by saying “Nah, you’re alright.”

It was a reply that he quite understandably had taken as a snub. I never realised. On my part I’d been saving him the imposition of knowing me better.

He told me all this as we travelled to my gig in Edinburgh earlier this year.

But I’m remembering it now because today I faced a stark and really quite sad realisation.

First some context. I’m in a reflective place in my life at the moment. I feel that change is happening and I’m keen to let it. Part of that process is me trying to figure out exactly what I’m meant to be doing with my life, and who I should be serving.

The business gurus would put it more simply by asking what is my niche.

But for me, it is more a case of what I’m meant to be doing, and who I am for. Or what is my purpose.

So this, I hope, will explain why I was doing an exercise that looked back over my life so far.

You see, I wanted to look at my life from every angle, familiarise myself with who I was at each age, and understand what my struggles were.

So I began at random with the area of friendship. I was expecting to build some sense of my emerging self, the things I had done, maybe even the type of people I enjoy being with.

So I took my pen, wrote a column containing ages from zero all the way up to now, and then wrote the names of the people I was friends with at each age.

I didn’t expect what I actually discovered.

What I discovered is that, with me, nobody sticks. As I travel through my life, people enter and then depart. I have brought nobody with me on the way, sharing good and hard times, closeness deepening as the years pass.

Instead there is just me, like an emotional hobo simply passing through. David Banner without the temper and the green, shirtless alter-ego. But the same sad wave goodbye.

How can I live a life, and a full, active, “out in the world” life like mine, and not have managed to have brought anybody along for the ride?

I have pondered sadly on this for the rest of the day, contemplating its implications.

After all, I’m friendly, approachable, fun, and people usually like me. Moreover, the way I live means I’m surrounded by enormous numbers of people in my network.

And yet I have no expectation that anyone is any more than a bit part player in my life, not just in the great scheme of things, but in the moment too.

I can visualise this circle as me surrounded by lots of blurry, out of focus, fuzzies who are there but distant.

Many of these people could certainly become close friends, and yet I fail to make this happen. No, I don’t fail. I just don’t even aim for it. There is simply no expectation.

Why is this? What is the dynamic at play? I don’t really know yet. Yet I feel sure that it comes from me.

I know that I’m friendly, yet guarded. I know that the distance is more likely my creation than theirs. I also know that I keep the very core of me in a box, for safety. So even when people come into focus, become friends, that core of me is not fully shared with them.

There remains something between us, something mildly on edge within me that results in separation, like a prisoner meeting a loved one through a glass barrier.

And because my core is not shared with others, so it is not touched by others.

No wonder then that people are lost to me. How easy it must be for me to move on from those who I’ve never fully allowed to connect with me.

How can someone stick to me if I don’t allow them to join with me, to truly know me.

How can I feel that emotional pain of parting from people that I never permitted to ever be with me.

There can be no parting, no separation, without there first having been a join.

And the pain of that parting is important. It triggers us to keep in touch, to miss people, so that as we pass through life we make sure that the people we value are carried with us to our next chapter.

It results in rich, lasting, unguarded, genuine friendships.

Yet in my life, my friends are transient. They come, and they go. Not through a dispute or argument. They simply drift from my life, and I from theirs. No fanfare.

I have attended schools with classmates, I have been to university, been active in politics, been a trade unionist, taught classes of students, set up a nonleague football club, founded protest groups, coached junior football, run a festival, promoted countless music nights, been in bands, was part of an acting troupe for several shows, organised a folk club, and have sang for audiences up and down the country.

This is an unusual range of social, collective ventures that puts me at the very centre of literally hundreds if not thousands of people – and I am hungrily social with a sociable personality.

Yet, despite that, who have I carried with me from any of these experiences into true, intimate, lasting friendship?

How could this possibly happen? For now, I’m not too sure. But it has. And I’m not the victim of it. I’m the engineer. Completely out of consciousness, I have kept everyone at bay, and those I’ve let in, only so far.

It’s a sad thing to realise, but I can only be thankful that I have. For now I can wrestle with it some more, seek to understand it better, and overcome whatever fears and anxieties bend me out of shape and connive to keep my barriers up without me even realising it.

What am I protecting myself from? Why do I maintain a distance? Why do I feel no expectation of anything deeper than this passing superficiality? Why do I keep a part of me separate even when I bring friends close? These are the puzzles I will have to solve.

Then, and only then, can I too have the rich, close, satisfying friendships that I’ve so far managed, against all the odds, to evade.



  1. Kay - November 26, 2013 @ 1:35 am

    But people / friends ARE stepping stones, and that’s alright.
    Alun, I’m just like that.
    It seems I never let go..but I’m learning to stop monitoring myself as I get older.
    If I were you, I’d stop thinking and let’s go out and get smashed and dance stupid and feel great.
    Dare you! XX And whatever, you are SAFE.

  2. alunparry - November 26, 2013 @ 1:40 am

    Hi Kay, Although it may read morose, I’m actually okay. I share this because I’m certain that whatever struggles I go through, then others do too. And while I have much to unpick, I’m glad to have had this realisation today, for it makes something different possible. Awareness is underrated. So too is dancing stupid and feeling great :) xx

  3. Roxanne - November 26, 2013 @ 8:12 am

    Alun. I’m your friend. I’ve been here since the plays. I think with technology people don’t see each other often as sending a simple message shows you’re saying hello or thinking of them.

    On my part I can be quite a selfish friend, I assume that everyone needs their personal space and solitude the way I often do, so won’t often be in touch. I assume they’ll be in touch when they need to see me.

  4. alunparry - November 26, 2013 @ 9:18 am

    Hi Roxanne.

    It’s not that people aren’t there. It’s more that I don’t bring people close. This was true before the technology, so as much as I’d love to blame the internet, it’s really a process within me. Then when I do, I’m ill at ease with the sense that I’ll do something wrong and they’ll stop liking me.

    I’ve been doing lots of thinking and scribbling since I wrote this article, and I’m beginning to get a very strong sense of where all this comes from.

    I don’t think you’re a selfish friend. x

  5. Ian - November 26, 2013 @ 9:25 am

    I’ve always been the same, I put it down to me being an only child. I envy people who have close friends, not sure why I don’t seem to be able to open myself up to people more. Thanks for sharing this Alun.

  6. Greg Vogiatzis - November 26, 2013 @ 10:24 am

    Great piece Alun, I think your “problem” isn’t unique and what you say chimes with me. I nearly wrote an essay thinking about responding on the cause and effect of this. Instead I will sign off with a cheesy cliche – no man is an island. Keep well, keep inspiring

  7. Julie Hills - November 26, 2013 @ 11:09 am

    Alun, I know we hardly know each other, but I believe that some people are fundamentally loners. I’m one. Although I think I’d love to have strong long lasting friendships (I haven’t, not a one) when push comes to shove, I just let go of people so easily. It doesn’t help having lived in London, Wiltshire, York, Newport and now Liverpool. It also gets harder as you get older, in a way. Younger people seem to gravitate easily together socially. My problem is that I lack self esteem, although I have confidence if others give me confidence. I was bullied for my 4 yrs at junior school and this has had a lasting effect on my ability to make friends. I’ve been a loner all my life, and used to hate it and wished I could be like ‘everyone else’ (another miscalculation…) Now, I’m sadly ancient, I’ve really come to terms with it, although still terrified of becoming old and lonely, but lately have a little more faith in myself and my potential friend making abilities. (I still dread Xmas and holidays as I usually have no one to share them with) You seem to have many people who really care about you, judging by your Fb threads. Although you don’t perceive your acquaintances to be friends, maybe they see YOU as a friend, but you’re not aware of this. Don’t forget, we’re all a work in progress. We learn a bit more about ourselves and the world, and we evolve and change every single day. Do you not feel this? Since coming to Liverpool alone 6 years ago, and particularly in the last 2 yrs when I’ve been getting stuck into the wonderful rich arts scene here, I’ve met so many lovely people and have great hope that I will develop friendships here in a way that has eluded me before. I need lashings of my own company, probably too much, so it’s getting the balance of company and solitude right. 50/50, 70/30, who knows. I know I don’t worry about it as much now but I endeavour to keep hold of people who I hold in high regard. I’m also in the same househunting dilemma as you. Should I stay or should I go? I’ve been looking for the ideal (but cheap) house/flat to retire in and remain in forever. It’s been about 2 years, I don’t want to make the wrong move. I’ve moved house about 20 times. Enough’s enough. I know we don’t know each other, but if you want to meet up for a coffee or a drink and a good chat, I’m off work till next tuesday… although busy. Don’t get down, a work in progress, you’ll work it out. x (Sorry about this neverending comment)

  8. Eddie Cooney - November 26, 2013 @ 7:30 pm

    That’s a nice piece of writing, Al, as is Julie’s piece above. Brutal honesty but I think you overvalue the idea that your individual path has resulted in something out of the ordinary. Having true friends that last to the end of a life is rare and there are many of us who don’t have any close friends. The depth of friendship grows slowly with effort. So if you move about, change projects and move on breaking ties as you did with Woody, for example, then you are bound to lose some of those relationships.

    But think about it seriously and look at some of the people around you. Are they so different? Do any of them embrace friendship, let people in and make a concerted effort? The answer is no. Our lifestyles are superficial and insular. We all push people away in one way or another. Why each of us do this will have individual answers but I’m not sure there’s much value in looking for them.

    I can think of a handful of people we have in common who I consider beautiful and precious and who we have known for a number of years but none of them are close in the sense of the friendship you are describing. There is potential for this to be different but we don’t meet that potential and I think the reasons for this are only partially to do with our make-up. There’s a lazy superficiality to life and relationships. We’ve never had to fight for each other in a war or shared a life on the breadline. We’ve never been thrown together and had our potential tested. It’s easy to leave superficial relationships behind. Harder to leave a relationship of depth and meaning. In the list of those people who have passed thought your life you describe potential friends but none that have developed any depth.

    I’ve been through a period in my life where I have had no friends. My closest friendship of 25 years came to an end in 2005 and partly as a result of that particular meltdown I became less interested / inclined to make the required effort with people. At the same time I will not tolerate superficial relationships anymore. I have a semi-subconscious tick list of requirements, some of which I am aware others not. There are plenty of people, for example, who will run a mile from this thread because of its personal nature but I don’t care for people like that.

    I’m tentative with friendship now but also completely capable of rejecting people and cutting them out of my life. All of this is involved in the style of my upbringing and the lack of love from my parents. In coming to terms with that part of my past I realised that only a few people can hurt me and those are the people who I love unconditionally. I’m still married after 28 years and I have my brother, Steve. I also love my children, unconditionally and I live in fear that they will leave me. Inevitably they will, of course. This is my version of the problem of making friends but the end result is the same as yours.

    I consider you a friend and I think we’ve grown closer as a result of our conversations but who knows if that depth will grow or if our friendship will last the test of time? It’s up to us and it depends on the effort we are willing to make.

  9. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:18 am

    Hi Ian, I think the question I’d ask is whether all only children are like this, and I’d guess not. So some only children will have made different decisions and have different thoughts about self, others and the world than you and I seem to have taken on board.

    I think one of the key things that keep us from others is a belief that says we are not worthy of it, and that others will not want us. Once we believe these things, we act accordingly, and we keep out of people’s way for fear of imposing. That in itself can be enough to keep us alone and without connection, because we decide to choose isolation repeatedly in our lives when we also had the option to choose togetherness.

  10. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:19 am

    Hi Greg

    I find myself wishing you’d penned that essay. I’m at the stage where I’m grappling with cause and effect and I’d find it useful to hear your own thoughts on it, and anyone else’s.

  11. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:23 am

    Hi Julie

    I don’t think I’m fundamentally a loner. I’m fundamentally a social creature, albeit one who needs my own space to think and create too.

    But I’m interested in that phrase “fundamentally loners.” I’m curious as to whether you are implicitly saying that some people are “naturally loners.”

    If so, I don’t agree when it comes to me, and I’m not sure I see you that way either from the rest of what you have written.

    There are of course some people who really enjoy their own company. There are others who want people but life experiences have led them to choose being a loner because it feels safer.

    As is often the case in life, old decisions that were once useful can outlive their usefulness and become outdated. That’s the point where we need new decisions to get the most out of the life we have now.

  12. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:40 am

    Hi Eddie

    Interesting as ever. I know many people who have really close friendships in their life. Women seem to manage it more than men, but I know men who have them too. Their lives are really enriched by them.

    Even if my description of a lifetime without what I refer to as “family level” friends (someone you’d feel comfortable calling at 3am in a crisis), is out of the ordinary it doesn’t mean that it is to be accepted.

    Friendship, love, connection is what it’s all about for me. Without that, what is the point really?

    The Woody project (which will return next year) is an interesting case study, but I see that differently. Firstly, it’s hard to really build close friendships with people I only see once a month in a setting where I am kind of working. But secondly, a group like Woody is really a platform to meet, it is the planting seed of new friendships, it can’t be the place where close friendships are formed.

    There are loads of great people who went to Woody. The question for me is, why have I not brought them close whether I do Woody or not? Woody was certainly my opportunity to meet and get to know some wonderful people. But the bigger question is why did I never decide to meet anyone outside of Woody, so that when the project felt right to be paused, the friendships continue independently.

    Why is it that I get involved in these social, collective efforts, and leave without close friends? This is about me, and my own processes, and they really do need to change so I can open myself up to a life more fulfilling and connected.

    The projects I’m involved in throw tons of fabulous people my way. Tons of them. And I’m in a position where there are so many to choose from that it can be argued that I am spoilt for choice. Yet I don’t choose, for a ton of different reasons. And then when I edge closer I remain guarded albeit in a different way.

    Since writing this piece I can see the automatic processes that take place in me that have kept me away from friendships I would dearly love. Often they are automatic as they are rooted in beliefs about myself, or beliefs about others.

    There is a genuine opportunity for growth here towards a life that is more enriched and connected and satisfying than the one has. I am well liked and I have people around me, and I live in such a way that I have the certain expectation that more, fabulous new people will surely enter my life even within the next couple of months.

    My next step is to change some of my own beliefs, and some of my own processes, so that I allow myself deep meaningful friendships. This isn’t just about me either. There are people out there who could be having deep meaningful friendships with me, and I’m a good friend to have, and I’m robbing them of that, not just myself.

  13. Emma Runswick - November 27, 2013 @ 1:47 pm

    I tend to agree with Eddie. I have had no -lasting- friendships. Through school, I hung out with various people I liked or enjoyed the company of or who had similar interests or were convenient. I have spoken to one school friend on skype since I left. I have not made an effort, but nor do I regret that. Here, I have made connections with 2 people: a boy I dance with, and a medic I sit with in lectures and talk to about Doctor Who. They both have potential, but I am not anxious to push it – it will develop over time with effort if we both want to.

    I, too, can think of a handful of people who I consider beautiful and precious – none of them close in the sense of the friendship you are describing.

    I am not strictly an only child, but the age gap is big enough to be considered one. I don’t think ‘some only children made different decisions … about self, others and the world’. People are taught by interaction, so though we may have different thoughts, they are not necessarily chosen. I do believe that I am worthy of other people’s love and attention, and that I am wanted. Note that doesn’t mean I have strong lasting friendships.

    I do have one very important, strong and lasting friendship though – with Josh. I think that for many people, their ‘best friend’ or true friend is their partner.

    Most people are transient, and that’s ok. Personally, I have a very-conscious list of attributes I look for, and refuse to tolerate. That’s ok. I think the problem for you might not be that you don’t have ‘true friends’, but that you’re not happy with it.

  14. Morag - November 27, 2013 @ 6:15 pm

    Gosh another brave and thought provoking post Alun! If it’s any consolation I’m very similar. People (at work, acquaintances etc) often assume I am extrovert & my life is rich and full of interest and people – and to an extent, and sometimes, that is true. But I have no friendships from school & those with people from my teens onwards are either entirely online or managed by occasional, but then very friendly, meet ups. I have friends, and people who I can turn to in hard times, but often I will choose not to. I can go months meaning to get in touch with people but never get round to it, indeed avoid them at times. Then when I see them I wonder why the hell I waited. I am self-contained but then again I’m not & sometimes I wish I wasn’t so, but if I vow to be less distant it fails every time. I have periods of intense contact with specific friends and then drift away for no reason. I often feel I have friends for different aspects of me and my life, and I’m not sure how ti all fits together. But no one who fits every aspect. Complex!
    Roots? I don’t know. My dad was like me but much ‘worse’ (if it is bad), entirely isolated & fell out with anyone who tried to come close. I don’t fall out with people, like you I drift. My mum was emotionally cold & critical & we lived in a chaotic ’embarrassing’ house which you didn’t bring your mates to. I have no idea if this plays a role. Probably. There are rafts of people i have purposefully moved away from – lovable wasters from my youth who got caught up in heroin etc. Other moves have been part of the progress of life – politics, uni, jobs, each new phase bringing new people. Some remain in my life but almost entirely thanks to their efforts. I can’t give any logical reasons why I have not bothered to maintain friendships with the many fantastic people who have offered me that option, or why I am often resistant (even unconsciously) to forming new friendships of any depth or longevity. Other people have commented that I come across as uninterested/aloof, like I have a force field around me. Often that is shyness, or lack of confidence, misinterpreted. Understandably, given the next time they see me I may be ranting down a mike like I have no fears in the world ;-) I wonder if the performance thing isn’t important – through my poetry I express my self and create ‘relationships’ with the audience that are very particular, and over which I have control. (FB can be the same). Beyond that in the ‘real’ world it is more scary. I think the most pertinent line in your piece was that (paraphrasing) you didn’t want to burden someone with getting to know you better. I think that’s probably the crux. You’ve been in coaching so you’ll know about self-limiting beliefs. I can think & know I am as good as anyone else, have talents, good qualities, strengths, etc, but do I really believe it? Perhaps not consistently enough to let people in too close for too long? Keeping friendships at a shallower, purpose-focused or close-but-intermittent level perhaps prevents letting people get the ‘all round’ view that I imagine they will not like? Cuts out all the boring mundane stuff. Perhaps deep down I think I’m dull, or won’t live up to the other ‘interesting’ sides of me which are equally real.
    But then again, if I’m honest, I don’t really know if I want the responsibility of dealing with the requirements of an intense, long lasting friendship at times? That sounds awful. But I don’t know if it’s fear or indifference that stops me sometimes.
    So there we go! Your blogs remind me of the Margaret Mead quote in reverse – sometimes we empower others not by shining our strengths, but by daring to expose our weaknesses. Then others can say, wow, you’re really sound and you feel like that too?!
    Have you ever thought of setting up as an online counsellor Alun?! Can’t believe you’ve got me having a conversation I rarely even dare have with myself in an open forum with strangers! But thanks, I feel better for it. I am OK & I am worthy (aren’t I??!) :-)

  15. Morag - November 27, 2013 @ 6:26 pm

    To reverse your image, perhaps I keep people at a distance so they see me fuzzy & not in too much detail? Just a suggestion, I really don’t know but should think about perhaps.
    Btw I’m not an only child but altho we’ve never discussed it as such, from one rare honest conversation with my sister a few years ago I’m pretty sure she’s the same.

  16. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:20 pm

    Hi Emma

    Lovely to hear from you. I think the point you make at the very end is a very good one. There will be many people in my position who are fine and dandy with it, and that’s okay. Some people prefer to be alone and don’t feel they are having any of their needs unmet by that situation. The opposite in fact.

    But as you say I’m not happy with it. I’m really not meant to be a loner. I like bits of my own space, but I’m one of those people who need connection. Ultimately it’s about getting your needs met, and different people will, as you say, have different needs.

    I wouldn’t draw too many conclusions from the fact that you’ve not made these kind of close friendships yourself yet. You’ve got so many experiences ahead of you and it’s too early to say whether you’ll leave uni with a lasting friendship or not. If you think you’d like that, I really hope you do.

    I’m not an only child myself so, even though the issue has been raised, it’s not something I think that is unique to the only child. There are lots of reasons for putting barriers up and I think anyone can make that decision.

    And I do think these are decisions. I think you’re right that we are invited into certain decisions by how we are taught, but they are only invites (even if strongly invited).

    Even children from very disfunctional families can reach different decisions about themselves, the people around them, and their situations.

    A child who is taught by her father that she is worthless may well believe it and decide there is something wrong with her. Or she might think “Wow, Dad is crackers” and so decide that there is nothing wrong with her, but something wrong with Dad.

    Either way, it’s a decision, and a decision that can later be redecided upon if needed. In my case, I have made decisions about myself, others and the world which are limiting me having the kind of deep, lasting friendships I want. I need to redecide those decisions as a starting point.

  17. alunparry - November 27, 2013 @ 8:46 pm

    Hi Morag

    I really loved your post. I’m glad you waited a day or two to post. I’ve had thinking time since I posted to start untangling some of this, and because of that, I know that some of the points you make are hitting home really strongly in a way that they may not have done a day or so ago. So thanks.

    I’m not sure that we need the all singing all dancing friend who is kind of all purpose so I wouldn’t worry about that. I think it’s fine if we have different friends for different things. It’s more that I want the connection with friendships that I’m not currently allowing myself to have.

    My home wasn’t one that was filled with people. When I grew up I repeated that and never really had friends round. Only recently did I start inviting friends over, and it was a very conscious thing. It’s not something I do naturally in the way some people do.

    In fact, when people come over I feel a bit giddy and daft, and giggly. It feels a bit strange really and I feel a bit embarrassed and want to laugh. But of course it’s only me thinking “oooo look you’re in my house, isn’t that mad!!” To others it’s probably normal.

    I suspect the distance and avoidance from friends you already have is because you find something about it difficult. I related to that. I think at some level I view friendship encounters as something to get through, a bit like a politician gets through an interview with Paxman, just kind of hoping he doesn’t fuck up.

    So while I have fun with friends too, there’s that little on edge element where somewhere within, I am expecting to fuck up and, in my eyes, reveal myself as the dickhead they’ve not yet realised I am.

    So the prospect of hanging out with friends doesn’t feel as easy and carefree as it would be expected to. So it’s easier to avoid, or cancel, or make up some excuse.

    There’s a friend of mine who I have cancelled about four times. And yet I think he’s great. I did meet up with him eventually, but it reached the point where I thought “my God he’s going to stop knocking on this door because everytime I’ve said yes I’ve then cancelled on him, and if I was him I’d be getting fed up.”

    For me the dynamic is that I say yes, then get a feeling of dread. This can only be fear related. It’s a feeling I’ve had before gigs in the past. And I think it’s the same thing going on. Oh no, I’ve just arranged an opportunity for myself to go and fuck it up, and expose myself to be not really very good at all. Gigs, friendships. Same thing. Same fear. Same dread.

    I think the issue of control that you mentioned is really key, which is a big reason why I’m glad this post came in today rather than immediately after the post went in. As much as you said you were worried that you’d be a burden to others, you feel too that others will be a burden on you. You spoke of a responsibility that comes from a deep friendship. This threatens you, as I think on reflection it threatens me.

    By maintaining a distance, or by using things like Facebook, or by putting a forcefield around you, it allows you to be the gatekeeper. I think I do this too.

    It’s interesting how the things I fear that others will think of me are things that I also fear from others.

    Will I be imposing on them is mirrored as will this person impose on me?

    I think I gatekeep too. I’m a natural rescuer but I don’t want the job. If someone is in trouble I’ve traditionally been the knight on white steed to go rushing in and save the day. From what I know of you, you have that impulse too.

    Maybe new potential friendships are a bit scary for us because we don’t truly want the job of knight on white steed, and are hiding from another potential victim.

    Interesting how there is a real lack of equality in all this. The new potential friend is seen in a one down position, as someone who might be a pest, or someone in need of rescue, a responsibility. Yet the people we value, we place in a one up position. Now it is us who we fear will be a potential pain in the arse, now it is us as the potential burden, the imposition.

    So we either gatekeep in the first instance, or (being rescuers) we gatekeep on behalf of others and keep ourselves outside the gate. After all, they wouldn’t want us around would they!

    I’m thinking on the fly here really so this may be a garbled mess, but I thought I’d share because I think the need to control access to us, while doing the same job against ourselves for others, might be key. I’d be interested to hear what you think.

    Also, I think the thing about performing and audiences was something that struck a chord. I absolutely love those gigs I do where it feels like everyone is getting a big collective hug and it feels inclusive and communal, and in those moments perhaps I am experiencing the kind of connection with everyone that I would like in real life.

    And yes, you’re worthy. Of course you are. Everybody is. Hugs.

  18. GlynB - December 3, 2013 @ 1:26 pm

    We come into the world alone, we leave alone. All relationships are transient. Enjoy them whilst you have them, sooner or much later they end… that’s about the best of it. It’s normal, it’s life. We make forge new relationships as old ones end.

  19. David Martin - December 3, 2013 @ 4:02 pm

    What a brave and candid post. It certainly resonated with me. I have often been called a loner, an outsider, a private person. I have a list similar to your “I have been to university, been active in politics, been a trade unionist [etc.]” one (though nothing like as impressive!). It made spooky reading, because I tend to think of myself as much different to other people, and yet found myself reading a life history with which my own has many similarities. In my case I tend to just have one close person in my life, and I realise now that I can be difficult for many people to deal with. Just two years ago it dawned on me that I might have a condition, and this was confirmed by specialists one year ago. I have been married three times, have a Mensa level IQ, lived abroad, have held managerial positions, done loads of volunteering and community involvement, and yet, all the while (over half a century), unknowningly I had atypical autism / PDD-NOS. It would be presposterously conceited of me to bestow this diagnosis on you – I am not the right person to do so. It was someone with Asperger’s Syndrome who originally suggested that what I had might be some form of autism. Initially, I rejected the idea, but research tended to back up the idea. Perhaps it is worth investigating, if only to eliminate the idea.

  20. Toni - December 3, 2013 @ 8:00 pm

    Brave post and brave journey one of self reflection. The comments from many of those posting hit a cord for me and I started on a journey of discovery a couple of years ago after asking myself a very similar question – why did i have a lot of people around but still felt lonely! There are many contributing factors not all of which we are conscious of when we are going about our day to day life and interactions. I would suggest look at the area that looks at attachment this for my was an eye opener and has opened up a whole new way of viewing the world and myself.
    Good luck on your journey it can be challenging but is ultimately rewarding – like most things I suppose ;-)

  21. alunparry - December 4, 2013 @ 8:06 am

    Hi Glyn

    That feels bleak for me, although I sense a matter of fact positivity from you.

    My initial feeling is that we don’t come into the world alone. We enter the world with at least one other person and often many more . We don’t even necessarily die alone. Many are surrounded by family or friends.

    The bits in between are different for different people. I know many people who have really solid close friendships that are long lasting.


  22. alunparry - December 4, 2013 @ 8:10 am

    Hi David

    How is life since the diagnosis? Any changes?

    I’d be surprised if that was it for me, although you were surprised too so I’ll read on it as it sounds interesting.

    I think my barriers are more learned behaviour and psychological limitations of the kind that I think many of us have.

    Since writing these posts, I’ve noticed that there is a real crying out from people to be living a connected life.

    Thanks for the openness of your reply and for giving me something interesting to read about.

    I’ll let you know what I think.


  23. alunparry - December 4, 2013 @ 8:13 am

    Hi Toni

    It’s great to hear from you again.

    Can you tell me more about your own journey. I’d be really keen to hear more, either here or, if you’d prefer not to in a public forum, maybe over a cuppa.

    Also, re attachment, what can I google to learn more.


  24. Toni - December 4, 2013 @ 10:02 pm

    Hi, I dont mind talking about some of the journey openly its interesting how many of us have such connection issues. I obviously will only be able to share high level in the space so if you want a more in depth chat happy to meet up.
    The journey started with a rejection and at that point I had not just that but lots of other stresses to deal with so I decided a therapist might be helpful – best move I made ;-) I dealt with the crisis but decided to carry on the journey because what I was learning about myself went deeper and we explored the area of attachment, if you google attachment then you will find lots of links on the theory. The theory studies human relationships and was first put forward by John Bowlby you can get a book authored by him called, guess what – attachment. Anyway the general gist of the theory is that the way we form relationships is strongly impacted from a very young age (0-6yrs) when I first heard this I thought well I had lots of people around me who loved me at that age? It also has a central theme that we all have an adult part of us a child part of us and a parent part of us and we react to each interaction from one of those states. This is obviously a really simplistic explanation – but the more I have explored the more I can see my own reactions and I have to admit I do react in a way that is how I felt as a child at times. It does take some digging though and to get to how you ‘really’ ‘feel’ is not an easy thing to do – well it hasnt been for me anyway!
    Another book that is interesting is T A Today titled A New Introduction to Transactional Analysis this explores the different states I mentioned Adult/Child/Parent.
    While I have personally gained a lot from my journey from a selfish perspective and yes it is ok to be selfish (not to the detriment of others but to be caring of your own needs) the greatest thing has been in gaining a greater understanding of others and to be more open and honest with feelings.
    If you google any of the above titles/authors there is lots info out there. Hard to sum up in a post but hope this makes sense.

  25. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 11:51 am

    Hi Toni

    Yes it would be lovely to meet up. Drop me a line and we can arrange a cuppa and a chat.

    I did have a little google on Bowlby. I’ll read his stuff. I’m currently training to be a psychotherapist at the moment and the name has come up in conversation with others (I’m in my first year at the moment so much to learn).

    It’s interesting that you mention Transactional Analysis. That is the area of psychotherapy that I am training in, so when I complete in over 4 years time I’ll be a TA psychotherapist.

    The book you mentioned TA Today has been my bible for the last two years or so. It’s an excellent, accessible, fascinating read and, like you, I’d recommend it.

    I might do some blogging around TA concepts maybe? People who have expressed an interest might find them useful. I know that I certainly have.

    I like the part about it being okay to care for your own needs. I’ve noticed that many nice people will ride roughshod over their own needs, sometimes to the point of completely disowning them. You’re right that we are allowed needs, and it is healthy for our core needs to be met.

    I’m still in a place where mine are not. I’m seeking the togetherness of a loving, present relationship, the connection of deep friendships, the fulfilment of truly impassioned, enjoyable work, and the comfort of financial security.

    I’ve made tons of progress from the journey I was on to the journey I want to be on. I’m just not there yet. That’s the process.

    PS Drop me a line. I’d love to chat this over with you in person!

  26. David Martin - December 5, 2013 @ 12:33 pm

    Hi Alun, you asked about life following the diagnosis. My own realisation that I had a condition, which I presumed was Asperger’s, helped me make sense of my life to date – all the struggles, my interaction with people, my sense of righteousness, my feelings of being different to most people and of belonging somewhere else – and, as a result, I felt happier with myself and more at ease as a member of the local community.

    Getting a diagnosis wasn’t straightforward, especially as a community psychiatric nurse, who was helping through a difficult period in my life, had said that the idea of me having Asperger’s was a complete red herring. The official diagnosis (from employees of the same mental health NHS trust as the CPN) confirmed what I had suspected for a year. Whilst I have atypical autism, rather than Asperger’s, the support given is the same.

    Attending post-diagnostic sessions with others was a real eye-opener. It showed the broad age range of people receiving a diagnosis of Asperger’s or atypical autism. It also demonstrated the vast range of people on the autism spectrum – there were those who clearly had greater support needs, whilst others lived independently and displayed none of the features that we might associate with autism. One of the attendees, a full-time call centre employee, was so positive, outgoing and talkative, that you would think that there was no way that he could possibly have Asperger’s.

    From now on, I have to accept that I am how I am, and that far from struggling against my reactions, I should understand and work with them. For example, I will always find racism abhorrent, even the low-level prejudice that seems prevalent, but I can be more aware of how I naturally respond to situations, in order to exert a more effective influence on those whose conduct needs to be challenged. I have to be more conscious of how I interact with people, and make mutually beneficial use of the opportunities that present themselves (that is an aspect covered in transactional analysis, mentioned by Toni, above).

  27. alunparry - December 5, 2013 @ 12:41 pm

    Hi David

    I feel really pleased that life feels easier for you since the diagnosis.

    It sounds like it has led to an acceptance of yourself. I find the whole topic of acceptance very interesting.

    I often take part in workshops in improvisational theatre. I often think that it feels like an analogy for life. One of the rules of improv is to accept and then add something.

    So if my scene partner said “Mum, you forgot to pack my sandwiches today” then I would accept that in this scene I am his mother.

    I would then add something to the situation, maybe saying “I didn’t forget. I’m just tired of making your sandwiches. You’re 47.”

    They would then in turn accept the offer that I had made, that they are 47 and a bit mollycoddled, and would add something to that.

    I feel in many ways that this is a good way to live life. To find acceptance of life as it is, then add something.

    Thanks for sharing


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