I have been chatting lately with a number of people who, like myself, are "only children". It is interesting what sorts of things we share in our life experience.
The feeling of total responsibility for aging parents is something that weighs heavily on us all. When there are issues with the parental unit there is no one else to share the burden. Some of the people I have been talking to have similar "distance between them and me" hassles to solve and some of them live very close to their parents and find their lives are being overrun with demands they feel they are never quite successful in meeting. For some there is no problem between them and their parents, but they still feel a large burden just because they are on their own to deal with the inevitable needs of older folk.
Another thing we all seem to share is a feeling of always being on the outside of a group of friends or colleagues or social group. The similarities we share there are kind of eerie because every one of us is fighting with those feelings so much of the time. I feel it at choir rehearsal and for really no reason, I just do. People are nice to me there. They don't ignore me. They are kind to me. I have a couple of people there I feel a bond with and that I see away from rehearsals. And yet.....there is always that feeling of not quite connecting the way others in the group seem to connect with each other. It is the same at church. It was always that way in my various jobs with co-workers. Not fitting in, not making friends, not relating in conversation with others in a group have not been problems at all, BUT it always FEELS like they are to one degree or another.
Another common theme has been the fear of loneliness as we age. Most of us have spouses, but not all of us do. If those spouses die before we do, then what happens? If we have not had a partner in our lives and we are facing old age without even the "security" of having senior parents to care for, then what? There is no one with a shared family history to turn to when the day comes we ourselves are aging and facing the loss of various abilities.
On the one hand it is kind of a relief to know these feelings are common among the other "only children" I have been talking to; on the other hand I am sorry there are so many other people who feel that way! No doubt there are people with siblings who also feel this way for other reasons, but they seem like universal experiences for "onlys".
I wonder if there are any support groups for "onlys". Perhaps that will be something to explore after the summer. Maybe I need to start something like that if there isn't one all ready here in the city.......hmmmmm.....a thought to consider......
The positive feelings all of us share have to do with our relationships with Jesus. Knowing him takes the sting out of the times of feeling alone, because we realize we truly are not alone....not really. No matter how old or how alone we are in terms of earthly family, we are still part of God's family. He is there for us to talk to, to lean on and to trust to take care of the big picture of our lives. Sometimes the relief of his presence sneaks up on us because we haven't been spending sufficient time considering his constancy in our lives. How quickly we forget...sometimes when I am in a group and feeling I am not really a part of it, the reality of Jesus' presence..... when it hits me...... as it usually does...... eventually..... duh......the feeling of relief I have is so intense I nearly break out in giggles. Remembering such a small and real fact of my life saves me from feeling abandoned, or not cared for, or that I have been left alone in a big world. Father God....it feels good to know he is there always!
I know I blogged about this topic awhile ago all ready, but it was interesting to me to discover how many other "onlys" struggle with similar feelings...there are a lot of us out there apparently.