About Me

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Douglas, Alaska, United States
I have lived in Alaska since 1978, having come to Juneau as a Jesuit Volunteer. I fell in love with Alaska and now live on Douglas Island with my husband and two dogs.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Only The Lonely

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
Know the way I feel tonight (ooh-yay-yay-yay-yeah)

Only the lonely (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)
                                      Know this feelin ain't right (dum-dum-dum-dumdy-doo-wah)

Roy Orbison was right.

Tonight I said goodbye to a my good friend "A".  She is leaving Juneau to start another chapter of her life, or perhaps to continue a chapter that she hasn't yet finished.

The nature of life in Juneau (and Douglas) is saying goodbye to friends.  People come and go here.  Jobs, education, the rain, retirement...there are a variety of reasons people say farewell to this place.

I have said goodbye to far too many people over the years.  Many years ago, a couple that we were were very close to decided to leave here to be closer to family down south.  When they came over to say goodbye, I burst into tears at the door and sobbed, "Please don't go!".

Tonight, I was angry and saddened to say goodbye once again, because "A", who had just arrived back in town less than a week ago (with the intention of staying for several months), decided to leave suddenly, tomorrow, early in the morning.  I was able to meet with her for just a few minutes to talk.  I didn't try to dissuade her, but could only remind her that she has done this before - come back to Juneau, only to leave again.  Over and over.  Of course I want her to be happy.  Of course I want her to find what she is seeking.  But despite my love and concern for her, I felt a sense of abandonment and loss.

As I was driving back from our short time together tonight, I thought about all the goodbyes.  And I realized that I am lonely.  I have lots of friends.  They are all good people who I enjoy being with, but my best friends, my "sisters of the heart", aren't here, physically present, with me anymore.

My friend Jeanie and I have been been best friends for over 25 years. We used to get together at least once a week.  We would often go to the Fiddlehead Restaurant, a favorite hangout.  Once, I called her and said, "Let's go to the Fiddlehead for dessert."  She said she had just returned home from dinner with her husband at the Fiddlehead, but that she would meet me there.  We arrived at the same time and the hostess looked at her and said, "Weren't you just here for dinner?"  She replied that she came to dinner with her husband so she could talk about work, but that she was back for dessert with me so she could talk about her husband!

Four years ago, Jeanie and her husband moved down south.  She was going to continue her education, and he was following his dream of recording his music.   She comes back once or twice a year to visit, and each time she leaves again, it is like reopening a wound.

Retirement, while it has been a wonderful rest from the routine and daily grind of work, has been very isolating.  While I don't miss working, I miss the day to day chatting with coworkers, the sharing of our joys and sorrows, the little jokes and companionship.  Don't get me wrong: I love being with my family, my husband, my kids.  I can talk to Charles about anything - so I am not suffering from the lack of someone to talk to.  But everyone needs a best friend who is close at hand - for a cup of coffee, a walk, a shoulder to cry on or someone to laugh with.

In the ancient Irish tradition, the term for a close friend, one with whom you can share your inmost thoughts, feelings, fears and worries is anam chara, or "Soul Friend".  It means much more than what we commonly think of as a soul mate.  An anam chara is someone who knows you as you are and encourages you to become who you are meant to be.   An anam chara, in the Irish monastic tradition, was a spiritual advisor and friend.

Having said goodbye one more time has brought the need for an anam chara in my life into sharp relief.

In the mean time, I am weary of goodbyes.

"I lift up my eyes to the mountains, from whence comes my help"


  1. That must be hard. Having a soul friend, or group of very close friends, is so very important. Someone is there, waiting and praying to find you.

  2. This hits home for me too, Paula. We live in a university town and we have seen so many friends come and then leave for good. It's hard. I know you know this, but I try to remember that the longing I feel comes, ultimately, from the One who called us into being. "our hearts are restless..."


  3. Paula
    I, too, can relate to this.
    We've moved and I don't have any
    girlfriends now. It's just fun to
    have one to go out for dessert or
    shop hopping-girl stuff with.

  4. Oh, I forgot to tell you that I just
    saw you on Judy's post. She was there
    in Juneau and met you!


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