A thousand friends on Facebook and no shoulder to cry on? We hereby prescribe the whole-hearted, indiscriminate love of a woofer
Words Jordan Waller
So you’re recently single. The warm body that used to slot so comfortably against yours in bed, keeping you warm in the chill of a dreaded Monday morning, is a thing of the past. Instead, it’s out there in the world, rubbing up against other bodies. Your best friend’s, perhaps? Or even your worst enemy’s. No more the nonsensical nattering, no more the chicken meal deal for two, shared at the tail end of a night out in the warm hug of the duvet.
It’s not that I’m bitter.
What I am, though, is lonely. I always thought that I was ‘good’ at being alone – comfortable with my own thoughts and, quite honestly, the embodiment of all those strong, independent woman memes.
Turns out I’m not. Now, when I wake up, it’s cold. I’m confronted with a void that I’m desperate to fill, and I’ll throw anything at it: friends, alcohol, drugs, approval-seeking on social media, a two-day Vietnamese cookery course in Queen’s Park. And yes, I can ward it off for an hour or two while I’m occupied. But it’s always there, around the corner, waiting for me when I get home alone.
My problem isn’t unique. Nor, despite all the press surrounding social media’s role in the epidemic of loneliness, is it modern. Blaise Pascal remarked back in the 17th century that ‘all of humanity’s problems stem from man’s inability to sit quietly in a room alone’. Even then, people couldn’t bear to be by themselves and sought distraction in idle gossip, a daily hunt or the Thirty Years War. We can’t bear to be alone because it confronts us with a feeling of being isolation in a busy world. We think we’re alone, therefore we are. Yet these are merely thoughts, not reality.
I don’t know the panacea to our existential woes. I have a feeling that it can be found somewhere in nature. Though, when I say nature, I don’t mean the short-lived distraction of a country walk or an hour of earnest tree hugging, but human nature, and an engagement in our state of being, right down to our most minute daily rituals and routine interactions. As egos on two legs, we get so caught up in our own silly philosophical journeys that we forget to just be.
And, while we’re working on just being, we should all adopt a dog. Yes, man’s best friend: the woofer. There are hundreds of them at Battersea Dog’s Home, for which I recently became an ambassador, and they are full of love. Whole-hearted, unpretentious, indiscriminate love. While I may be verging into Marley & Me territory here, a dog doesn’t care if you’re young or old, rich or poor. It doesn’t mind if you took up an arts degree instead of training to be a doctor, and it won’t up and leave you in the cold chill of a Monday morning. A dog is your number one fan, a constant. They love you because you feed them, for God’s sake. Isn’t that wonderful?
Ultimately, we’re all just ugly animals looking for a slice of hotdog and a cuddle. Embrace that, and learn how to be again.
Jordan is an actor and writer from Bristol. He is currently playing Lord Alfred Paget in the ITV series Victoria.