How Loneliness Can Kill You – Paul’s Unintentional Friend Saved His Life

Loneliness can be detrimental to your health.  It can damage both your physical and mental well-being.  There are tens of millions of lonely people in the world.  They are in all age groups, ethnicities, and genders.  They live in every country in the world.  And just because a person is the life of the party, do not assume she is not lonely.  Deep, meaningful relationships cannot be replaced with shallow friendships.

This story is not my usual story I write.  But I found the topic interesting.  And you can always read and buy my books on the sidebar.  Enjoy this story.            

Paul Donnet was seventy-eight and single.  He was widowed for five years after a fifty-five-year marriage.  He could not imagine himself having an intimate relationship or close friendship with another woman.  How could he ever dream about his wife, Agnus, purely ever again if he did?  That meant Paul had one option.  Stay true to Agnus. 

After five years, Paul began to have strange, unsettling thoughts.  Questions began to emerge inside of him.  Why was he still here on earth?  Why was life letting him live so long?  Why was it torturing him?  Had he been a bad person and husband but was unaware of it?  Was what he felt a kind of punishment?  How long was he supposed to suffer?  Hadn’t he suffered enough without Agnus?

It was not long before Paul began to pray to die in his sleep.  That would be the most painless way.  He hoped.  Other thoughts on methods of dying came to him too.  Some he found too drastic to dwell on.

The thought of his impending death by his hands, or other forces, consumed him.  And his only explanation for his obsession with death was that it was his time.

One day Paul was taken to the doctor by his friend, Dave.  Paul had become dizzy and fell.  He would have said no to going to the doctor.  But at the time, he was too dizzy and confused to refuse.  And his friend, Dave, was persistent that he went.

Paul was in the waiting room of the doctor’s office.  Three others were in there too.  Paul picked up a magazine off the seat next to him.  He thumbed through it while waiting.  An article stopped him cold.  He slyly looked around.  The article was “Loneliness and Depression.”  He started reading it and could not stop.

He read about a 10,000-person survey.  It said 61% of those in the survey reported being lonely.  He could not believe that 3 out of 5 Americans were lonely.  Forty-six percent of adults in the world felt lonely sometimes or always.  Then, 47% always felt left out.

Paul could not believe what he was reading.  It had to be a bunch of mumbo jumbo.  When the nurse came out to take him to the treatment room, he left with her and turned back like he forgot something.  He tore the story from the magazine and stuffed it in his pocket.  A woman in the waiting room watched him and rolled her eyes at him.

Back at home, Paul mumbled to himself about his doctor’s diagnosis.  He told Paul he was depressed or anxious.  Paul dismissed his doctor as a crackpot.  How could he be depressed?  Paul sat down and began to read the rest of the article.

People over 50 were expected to reach 2 million lonely people in 2025.  Five hundred thousand older people went at least 5 to 6 days a week without speaking or seeing anyone.  Over 59% of those aged 85 and over and 38% of those aged 75-84 lived alone.

Those numbers represented him, he thought.  Hell, they were him.  He kept reading.  What he discovered shocked him.  Loneliness really could kill you. 

Loneliness was just as lethal as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.  Lonely people were 50% more likely to die prematurely.  Loneliness was associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease.  It was responsible for a 32% increased risk in strokes.  Additionally, loneliness contributed to higher rates of depression, anxiety and suicide.

All those health things were him, he thought.  He fit under every category.  He sat there for a few minutes, absorbing what he just read.  Was he really suicidal?  Based on that article, he was.  He was also lonely.      

The question was what could he do about it.  He did not feel comfortable dating.  Even if he did, he would not know how to do it or if he would do it anyway.  He was puzzled about what to do.  He had male friends.  But they were not like female acquaintances.  How to rid himself of loneliness weighed heavily on his mind.

One day Paul was leaving the grocery store.  He made a right turn.  Ten feet ahead was a woman on the side of the road.  Her car had overheated.  Paul parked his Ford Pickup behind her and got out.  He could at least give her a ride if she needed one.

When Paul got close to the woman, he recognized her.  It was Joanna Indom.  She wore a flowery dress and high heel sandals.  Paul felt uncomfortable being seen with her.  But he would not dream of leaving her stranded on the side of the road.

Joann did not have a stellar reputation.  Rumors swirled around town about who she was and what she may do for work.  And she and her lifestyle did little to dissuade what people thought of her.

Paul assessed her car would not go any farther.  He offered her a ride to her home or a service station. 

At her house, she thanked Paul and asked if he would like to come in.  “You can have something to drink, if you want,” she said.  “Or you tell me.”

Paul stuttered and said, “I’ve got to go.  But thank you.”

Paul got into his Ford pickup and backed out of the driveway.  He almost clipped a passing car.  Then he stopped in the road and turned back into Joanna’s driveway.  Joanna was almost to her front door.  But she turned around and walked back toward Paul.

Paul got out and swallowed hard.  “Miss Indom, I’d like to have you over for lunch or dinner sometimes, if that’s good for you.”

“Yes,” she said.  “That sounds nice.  And it’s not Miss.  It’s Joanna.”

“I know I could be your father,” he said to the thirty-five-year-old Joanna.

“You can be whatever you want to be,” she said.  Her voice was seductive.

“No,” he said.  “Not…Not like that.  Just lunch.  But I’ll pay you for your time.”  He clenched his teeth and squeezed his fists.  That did not come out right, he thought.   

“No way,” she said.  “You wouldn’t even let me pay you for driving me home.  We’re friends.  I know we just spoke.  But you’re a good one.  You call me and tell me when you want to have lunch.  Anytime.  I’ll be free for you.”

Paul and Joanna would have their first lunch date three days later.  It would be their secret.  Paul wanted it to be a secret.  “I feel like a dirty old man,” he said.  “Going after the innocent young woman.”

“First time I’ve been called innocent since I was fifteen,” she said.  They laughed.  Paul still became embarrassed by some of her jokes and comments.  “You’re a good cook.  This fish is great.”

“Thank you,” Paul said.     

Paul and Joanna would spend more and more time together.  They would not have a sexual relationship.  But they often spent nights together.  Paul was the holdout over sex.  Joanna told him when he was ready to let her know.

After four weeks of having Joanna as a friend, Paul felt alive.  He had not felt so alive in five years.  His feelings of loneliness only came around once or twice per week.  But it did not stay long.  And he could see that he was having an effect on Joanna.  She began to look for more legitimate work.  She told him he was closer to her than anyone had been for years.

“I’m so thankful for your friendship,” she said.

I hope you enjoyed the read.

If you like it, pass it along to a friend and follow me on my blog.

I look forward to seeing you tomorrow.

Thanks.

Stephen Wallace


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