All the lonely people

old man

Just resting his eyes between crossword puzzles.

I won’t lie to you: I’ve had some really lonely moments lately. I live alone now, and I live very far away from my family.

So after my Peter Frampton record is finished playing and I’m bored with my book and I’ve eaten my entire chocolate letter and it’s raining outside and there’s nothing that sounds fun to do….

I get cozy with loneliness.

Being lonely is a unique sort of pain. You can feel it, physically, like a dull aching.

Loneliness creeps up on me when I’m being lazy and haven’t made any plans, because God knows I am loved and have the capacity to be with others. My family loves me from afar via chat and skype, I have a small group of really amazing friends, and my “ex” reaches out on a regularly basis, having coffee at mine or asking me over for dinner.

But still, I get lonely. I feel like my mind is dull, and I’m not inspired by anything. I feel like I can’t concentrate on writing a short story, for example, something I’ve been fixin’ to do for the last month or so. I have some ideas up my sleeve, and I just want to have fun with the process, but I lollygag around my house in my pink robe doing other productive things (like reading gossip or looking up the benefits of taking ice cold showers).

The silver lining of being lonely
Being lonely myself has brought on a surge of compassion for all the lonely people out there in the world. I know my loneliness is temporary. I know I created this situation by choice.

How many of us out there are lonely not by choice? How many elderly husbands and wives have lost their partner of decades? How many ex-husbands had their wives up and leave them for another man? How many nerdy, awkward children have no friends? How many colleagues just can’t seem to get it right and end up the odd one out?

The Beatles song keeps popping into my head:

“All the lonely people, where do they all come from? All the lonely people, where do they all belong?” 

A way to self-soothe: be around random strangers
When I’m feeling lonely and know it’s going to result in my weeping into the soft belly of my teddy bear, I get myself swiftly to my favourite haunt, Dudok Cafe. There is an excellent magazine table there, and all the regulars just huddle around reading the paper, pecking away on their laptop or reading a book. I do all three, and when I’m not, I’m people watching. People watching cheers me up because people are kinda fascinating.

Right now I’m sitting here, and there is a youngish man with his calculous calculator out, face scrunched into a point, peering at something on his screen. He looks awfully uncomfortable with his back all bent over the contraption, but he seems too stressed to notice. Every once in awhile, he gently pounds his fist on the table. He’s having a tough time with a math problem, I presume. Then there’s the couple I’ve never seen. They are laughing and looking into each other’s eyes, occasionally stealing a kiss before they gaily return to some light-hearted conversation.

Then there’s the really old guy who I always see here. He’s smells pretty rank, like moth balls and bad breath, but we all just ignore it. He just took about 1.5 hours to finish his meal. He does crossword puzzles while he’s eating and then reads the paper about an inch away from his face. When he’s finished with his bread, he eats the remaining butter straight from the little plastic container. He goes to town until every last bit is gone. I have to look away when he engages in this ritual.

This old man…I know he’s lonely. Sometimes when he’s doing his crossword, he’ll fall asleep right there in his chair. I’ve snuck a picture for you, above.

He looks very grumpy until he orders another cappuccino, at which point his entire face lights up. Then I see that he just looks grumpy from having his face in that expression for decades. Kinda how mine is starting to freeze up into a scowl between my eyebrows.


Some of us are lonely, and some of us are not. We all have moments of both – phases of life where we experience the bliss of companionship or the dagger-like pain of rejection and isolation.

Whatever we’re feeling, we should have a little compassion for the people around us. Love them for the state they’re in. Don’t be resentful of their happiness; don’t be fearful of their loneliness.

P.s. You know what just happened? An elderly couple just approached the old man. Apparently they are old friends. The woman said she’d spotted him through the window as they passed by on a tram, so they stepped off to say hello. They’re now having a coffee and a nice chat together.

🙂 Small miracles. Let us love by reaching out to others in need of companionship.

A special thanks to Gina, Richard, Shaan, my mother, my sister, and all the other friends and family who have blessed me with their love. I’m so thankful for you!


  1. I love the way you described this! And, I enjoy my loneliness. Or should I say, being alone. Over the years it developed out of defense against that empty feeling. So now I prefer it!

    • Thank yoy kbailey! Ya know, I love being alone too on many days, but today was sure not one of them. I said out loud to my headboard: “being alone doesn’t make me stronger, it only makes me feel alone!” Then I wailed tears of self-sympathy before I got up and composed mysefl!

      I think it will get easier. 🙂 Is your son still staying with you btw? 😛 haha that post about sharing your computer made me laugh out loud.

      • Very seldom do I let myself feel that – although when I do I usually am yelling at God (He patiently waits …)

        My son is technically still saying w/ me. But he has been staying at a friend’s and I’ve hardly seen him for a couple of weeks – I almost suspect he’s been reading my blog! lol…

  2. Jami, I send you love and warmth- ❤

  3. Very well written from the heart Jami. Sorry to read that you get lonely sometimes. I am alone but not lonely, mainly because I do not have any worries or pressures which helps. ❤

    • Thank you, Ralph. 🙂 I think it’s interesting that you say worries and pressures could contribute to loneliness. I will say that for me, it may be expectation. I have a lot of expectations about what I “ought” to be at this stage of my life. Hey, thanks for that perspective. Enjoy your solitude!

      • You are very welcome my friend. Maybe you should just ditch the “ought” and be yourself wherever it leads you. You shouldn’t be lonely !

  4. I’ve been thinking about calling 1-800 customer service centers if I feel the need to speak to someone out of loneliness. They’re free and they have to be nice.

  5. Oh how annoying! I wrote a long comment and my internet crashed.
    I wrote that I love this post because I also feel lonely sometimes. I think it comes with the ‘expat’ status. Besides, everyone feels the same once in a while.
    I also love this post because of the people you described. They are doing simple, every day things, but it is somewhat fascinating. I felt sorry for the old man and I am glad that the couple approached him..

    • Thank you! And yes being an expat can make feeling lonely amplified…I am happy you enjoyed the way I described them. 🙂 I seriously love people and their odd little ways of being, when it comes down to it. I wonder, do you ever people watch where you are?

    • Btw I have had those moment of commenting on my phone and losing it….it’s always the times when I’ve written a small book as comment! 😉

  6. Hi Jami, I really enjoyed this post. And you say Dudok cafe, are you in the Netherlands? Which part? 🙂

  7. cloud strife 86

    When I go out I tend to people watch. It feels like time is slowing down around me as I watch people walk by and wonder what their lives are like. As for the loneliness, I can totally relate to that. I often feel lonely on weekends.

    Also, thanks for the mention haha.

  8. What a beautiful post, and how I relate to it. You are right, feeling so lonely the last two years has made me so much more compassionate.

  9. When I read your title that Beatles song came immediately to mind. I too enjoy people watching as we are all so very different but underneath it all not different at all.

  10. dancinginaugustrain

    so true, love the honesty in your writing, can’t wait to read more!

  11. Jami . . . I don’t know, but It seems that loneliness is less a disease and more the human condition . . . alone or in a crowd, on top or trampled under . . . we are all stars in a night time sky with a vast amount of distance between us.

    I don’t know lonely anymore because I have given up on finding anything to ease it’s presence . . . it’s like once you accept the pain it doesn’t hurt as much.

    Happy christmas

  12. My favorite post in quite some time, Jami. Written with an openness that resonates with those human components of loneliness and compassion present in each of us…

    I was struck, too, by one of your replies on this post — about where you “ought” to be… We talk a lot about that sort of thing in recovery circles. A common saying we hear is: “You’re right where you’re supposed to be.” And though that sentiment doesn’t ALWAYS make me feel better, it can often make me smile, and that DOES make me feel better…

    Or the next time you have that thought, you might resort to quoting Spock from Star Trek, when he says to Edith Keeler (played by Joan Collins): “Interesting, madam. Where would you estimate we belong?”

    Happy 2015. 🙂

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