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Where did everyone go?

I am lonely. Well not really, but sort of. Here is the thing, I used to be surrounded by people. Every day I talked to people on the telephone and like most American workers I lived with people who also worked at the office. I took and gave direction on multiple tasks, I was a bundle of energy moving from project to project, idea to idea. I was involved. But now, I am at best a bystander. I get to tune into the Today show and see people who are involved, trend setters if you will and it makes me jealous. Each time I tune in I remember, I used to be involved.

So what happened? Rheumatoid Arthritis (RA) happened. I suppose it was really the wear and tear of the disease, not the disease itself. I worked at a high but decreasingly efficient level for eight years after I was diagnosed. I was able to get myself to work, hit the move button and be on the go, eight, ten, twelve hours per day. I was defying the odds, and doing it with seeming ease at first. My biologic drug REMICADE® was the best thing since the invention of the automobile. Until, it was not. Then I passed through a series of other biologic drugs. Each lasting a year or less, I was burning bridges like no tomorrow as I tried in vain to keep up. Yet I pressed on.

Each month, my efficiency went down, but my will to work increased. Soon I was consumed by a cycle of naps, barley sleeping at night, and gasping for energy during the day. I decided, (to borrow a phrase from Neil Young), burn out and not fade away. I was well on my way to burning out and the sun was getting hotter. Then I hit the wall. In the end I did not call it quits, I couldn’t. I was determined to go on. In the end it was my doctor, my employer and wife who said enough.

I miss the barrage of ideas, and issues that I lived with for 30 years. I miss projects, deadlines and big problems. I miss working out the details, charting the course, and thinking about how the world might look if I was successful or if I failed. I miss the parade of issues, and ideas. Today it seems that parade has passed me by. I miss it all and I miss it a lot. I know I seem sentimental. But even being sentimental I have to say that I now know I was on my way to an early demise. RA simply consumed me. I was in deep trouble with my health and there was literally no way out besides stopping work.

Even as my work output declined, my effort to produce increased. At the end I was pushing harder, trying more and doing less. But it was work, and work felt normal and work sustained me. Then and (it felt sudden), I had to find a new life meaning, and frankly 5 years later I am still trying to find what that will be.

But one thing I do know is that I miss the hustle and bustle of work. I miss the telephone calls, interruptions, customer contact, and decisions big and small. I miss work, I miss laughter, and I miss hearing about weekends, kids, softball, vacations and plans. I miss it all, one might say I am lonely.

I do have people in my life of course. My wife Sheryl is now retired and we spend most of each day together. Having her with me at home is so much better than being home alone with no real purpose laid out. I have my grandchildren, who I get too see and I have my sons. Both of which I love more than life itself. I get to interact occasionally with others on the telephone. I like the days I can announce to Sheryl I have a ‘conference call’. These usually involve my efforts with social media and they usually begin and with others doing important work, while I am left to feel like I contributed to the idea.

Today I am healthier. To be fair I still have to take naps, I still cannot sleep well, and I still try to push. But even with that my blood sugars are better than they have ever been and I am more comfortable with RA. But still I miss it all, I miss the people, the laughter and the inside jokes. I suppose I am lonely.

So my mission today and for the rest of my life is to find new purpose. Find a way to interact and enjoy life without being on the path to burning out. Enjoy the people who are around me. I am on a mission to find meaning in what I do. Of course as always my main mission is to love my wife and family. I have come to disagree with Neil Young, it is better to live then to burn out. So in some ways I am fading away, or to look at it another way I am seeking ways to burn bright, without fading away.



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  • Alicat
    4 years ago

    You summed up my experience beautifully. Thank you.

  • 2a8yeoj
    4 years ago

    Hi Rick, I feel exactly the same, I feel so very alone though surrounded by family. Nobody absolutely nobody understands what this is.

  • Carla Kienast
    4 years ago

    Hi Rick. Wow. What a transition. It’s one thing to retire after you’ve successfully planned the transition. It’s quite another to be sidelined when you’re not ready. I don’t know if it’s possible for you to do some part-time consulting in your field, but you’re right in your advice to Kellie — getting involved in social media is a great way to keep connected. I am looking at retirement in the near future and it’s a bit scary wondering what I’m going to be doing all day. Hang in there.

  • Kellie
    4 years ago

    I agree! Not working is awful. We moved a couple of years ago and since I am no longer working, there are limited times to meet people. Church and the Girl Scouts. We only have one car now and my husband works beginnings so I am stuck at home all the time! Added to the pain and insomnia, it’s just too much. I have always been a very social person. I love to talk to people.

  • Lawrence 'rick' Phillips author
    4 years ago

    Kellie: Thank you for your kind acknowledgement of my article. We do have many obstacles to overcome and it seems one of the more misunderstood is what happens when we lose touch with our social base. I encourage you to consider a new line of work (so to speak). I have found blogging to be a good way to find others and develop a pseudo social network.

    I have also found that twitter is a good way to get to knwo otehr RA bloggers and as such develop contacts with others. If you are inclined to explore either option feel free to check in on my site at (I am looking for bloggers to join me) or contact me on Twitter: @LawrPhil

    I hope to hear from you, I know blogging seems like a lot, but it is not what you blog that matters, it is the act of doing it that makes the difference.


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