Thursday, March 25, 2010

Rural Loneliness

The Welcomed Voice of Neighbors and Friends

"The person who tries to live alone will not succeed as a human being. His heart withers if it does not answer another heart. His mind shrinks away if he hears only the echoes of his own thoughts and finds no other inspiration.” Pearl S. Buck

Causes of loneliness in the Ruralhood (for me growing up) were:
  • Party lines
  • Distance
  • Lack of new experiences
  • No public transportation
As child I didn’t feel lonely, but as a teenager I felt lonely –many times. Adults went to the local stores and post offices to chat or they would stop by a neighbor’s home to talk. I remember seeing farmers on their tractors in the middle of a field stop just to talk to another neighbor driving by.

Siblings were a good source of company for children.

Some of the women in my community did not know how to drive. I felt very proud that my mother could and did drive. Her mother did not drive and depended on others to get her where she needed to be. I don’t remember her ever having a problem getting anywhere. However, the lack of the driving skill limited women on where and when they shopped and visited. This also limited their independence.

Church and school activities helped with rural socialization and perhaps lessened the feeling of loneliness. Personally, I looked forward to attending school. I loved learning, but what I most desired was to see my friends. People need interaction with other people. Rural people too.

The party line (definition in sidebar) in our home was a big inconvenience for a teenage girl. Often times, I felt I had very important information to contribute to and extract from-my friends. However, the phone line always seemed to be busy with four or five families sharing it. The people that seemed to be using it the most were the women. I was very careful and quiet in testing the line to see if it was free often covering the mouthpiece with my hand. Many times I couldn’t resist in listening to the matrons of my community rag on another. But before I whined about the injustice, I would remember that my paternal grandparents could not get a telephone in the area in which they where they lived- at all.

A dangerous aspect of seclusion in any culture is domestic violence. It happened in my community. Rural people tried to keep their own secrets, but, children will tell. It wasn’t until I volunteered with a domestic violence organization that I realized how the rural location (even today) is a prime location for violence against women.

Rural Significance
Today’s rural person has many opportunities to seek companionship through land lines (no party lines please), cell phones, texting, vehicles, email and social networking. What might be suffering is the one-on-one interaction of my childhood between people face-to-face. My question might be: Are we less lonely today with so much technology at our fingertips? Or have we moved loneliness to another level?


Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Teresa .. wonderful times in the country .. but I can understand your desire to be with friends and experience life as you grew from teenager to young adult.

Now - there's far too much superficiality .. we don't think for ourselves - we don't take time out to think. So - yes we are lonelier I think - whether others see it like that .. but our communication is changing dramatically - the decades ahead will be 'interesting'.

Thank you - glad I'm happy in my own skin and with my own company a great deal of the time .. love people though and relish my friends ..

Mattenylou said...

Teresa- I remember the party line, and how it was always busy... we're lucky now, to have the convenience of a phone always ready for our use.

Are we less lonely today, I wonder? I know the internet has brought me new friends, wonderful 'online' friends, but if I bumped into them at the mall, they'd be just another stranger to me... I only know their words, not their voice.

Has today's busy-ness made people lonelier? Families are always on the run, trying to balance it all. Do they have time (or make time) to chat with a neighbor or sit for a cup of tea with a friend? I think they send off a quick emailed 'hello', instead.

The nice result of all this technology is that our friends are just a few buttons away, by phone, text message or email, I do miss the face-to-face real hugs, tho!

Teresa said...

Hilary, What I did bring from the experience and should have included it- is I can entertain myself. I don't get bored -ever.

Mattenylou, We are so spoiled today. It is faster to be in touch with technology but of course there's not so much touch. But if it weren't for technology I wouldn't have gotten to know the precious souls of blogland. :)

Mason Canyon said...

I don't know if we are less lonely are not, but in some ways I think we don't have as much face-to-face talks as we use to. I remember my grandmother and her friends getting together and quilting or they would help each other out when the gardens came in.

Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

I can't imagine dealing with a party line! I'm so private that it would drive me batty. I lived in a small town, but fortunately we didn't have to share lines.

I think online connections can be fulfilling, but the danger comes if it's our sole way to connect.

Mystery Writing is Murder

Cop Mama said...

I lived part of my childhood in the country and yes, it was boring! We had a phone, but still, there was nothing to do! Now, am in the suburbs and I miss the country!

I love being able to network with other moms via internet. But it still doesn't replace the face to face interactions.

Mary Aalgaard said...

Wow. This message was so for me and about me. The quote at the top is excellent. I put it in my own collection of great quotes. I also grew up rural, but the party line was gone by then. However, my parents remember it well. And, I agree, abuse happens out there where no one can see it or hear it and that is frightening. Add to that the isolation, the dependence women and children had if they couldn't drive, or even if they could, was there a vehicle? Gas?

I think that we can be real and connect online. We do it better in the flesh, and we need people in real life. All this technology can fool us into thinking that we have connections, but they are just wire connections, not true, deep relationships.

arlee bird said...

My teenage years weren't spent in a rural area by any means, but I still felt isolated and lonely. I think it is partly a function of teenage years for many of us. Self-doubt, intimidation from peers, and uncertaintity about the future frequently causes teenagers to feel a sense of alienation even today and no matter where they are.

As an adult I sometimes feel a similar feeling that I identified as loneliness as a teenager, but now I think I understand as more of a certain sense of isolation at times. But now it doesn't make me feel badly like it did when I was younger.

I am reminded of a song by Harry Chapin called "Everybody's Lonely" -- nice song, if you're not familiar with it, check it out.

Teresa said...

Mason, Maybe misery loved company. I suspect it did make the tasks easier.

Elizabeth, Sometimes, when I've had a fed up day, I think that engaging relationships through the the net might not be a bad idea. :)

CM, I never got bored with country life, but I sure wanted more friend action. The country is wonderful, isn't it?

Mary, Isn't that a great quote?

Lee, Yes, knowing teens all my life and refusing to grow up myself -I agree if teenagers aren't with their kind they feel their world is over. :)

Mumsy said...

I'm loving this blog, and I love all the old photos you've posted. It's like going back in time, with a real story teller!

Nishant said...

I love being able to network with other moms via internet. But it still doesn't replace the face to face interactions.
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Holyoke Home said...

I suspect that loneliness is a state of mind, no matter the housing density in your area or technological options for interacting.

I live in the heart of a city, have broadband, twitter, blog, etc., but if I don't call my friends and visit with them, I'm very lonely.

Thank you so much for stopping by my blog and commenting. I really appreciate it.

Judy Sheldon-Walker said...

Teresa, telephones have come a long way. I remember having outsiders interrupt our conversation (imagine having nosy Mrs. so n so listening in as you poor your heart out to your best friend) and the phone cut off after 5 minutes! We were just getting warmed up. I can't stand to spend as much time on the phone now.

btw, you can have the book (the strange green tree)rights. :-) I'd love to see what you came up with.

Take care & God bless!

Nora Lumiere said...

Domestic violence in rural areas, with few phones and few people to hear you - what a horrible thought.
We always seem to equate sylvan settings with peace and love, but wherever there are people, there will be violence, I suppose. Sigh.