Monday, January 16, 2012

Learning Lessons of Loneliness

I've never felt lonely.  Growing up as an only child in the country in Montana, I suppose I could have felt alone, but I never did.  I never felt lonely, even after my divorce and my son's going away to college.  I never minded going out to eat alone, seeing a movie alone, going to the theater, shopping, walking, traveling alone.

But in this past year, my year of debridement, I became acutely and painfully lonely. The spectre didn't just knock on the door.  It broke the door down, tossed its bags on the floor and camped out. I was continually aware that I was alone.  Day and night. Every day and every night.

And, concomitant with loneliness, came its conjoined twin--fear.  Things I'd never thought about before became frightening.  For instance, going up in the attic. Should I have an accident, I might not be discovered for days, even weeks.  Making sure I had my cell phone with me at all times suddenly became paramount.  At least I could call 911!

Loneliness penetrated other areas as well. It became painful instead of pleasurable to go to a movie and sit in the dark by myself. Same for going out to eat or shopping.  And a hike alone in the wilderness held no appeal.  Even going to church brought no comfort.  I would go Sunday after Sunday and not have one single soul speak to me.  Eventually, it became easier to just leave early rather than be constantly reminded of just how alone I was.

I have done all the "right" things to combat loneliness--become involved in activities, reach other to others, make connections, plan ahead.  But underneath it all is still the constant awareness that I am alone...and lonely.

Now this is the place where I'm supposed to tell you about some incredible turn of events, perhaps talk about how I realized that I was never alone in the presence of God. How I was overcome by the light. Blah Blah Blah. The fact is: No  miracle has occurred.  I'm not suddenly dancing in the joy of the presence of the Lord. For the first time in my life, my default position is to be lonely.

However, what has happened is that I am willing to sit and observe the loneliness. Recognize her for what she is.  Let her simply be a part of my life. Give her a name. Let her sit on my chair and drink my tea. Ask her why she has come. Listen for her answer.

Apparently there are still some lessons I need to learn...and loneliness is one of my teachers. I just hope and pray that I can learn her lesson and incorporate her wisdom into my life soon.

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