Loneliness

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Sunrise into day

Monday, September 23rd, 2013

Things look different here (you might need to refresh your browser). After 6 years, it was time.

I loved that photo, the one taken in a Kansas field, sun-drenched and vibrant and glamorous – because who wears heels in a meadow? That girl was a great girl, bold and impulsive. She had so many wonderful things ahead, things that she couldn’t have dreamed even if she tried. She was running full speed into the unknown, and the latter half of her 20s was sensational, to say the least.

She was happy, and she didn’t know it.

But then again, her life was censored. She didn’t know that, either.

The field was eventually plowed over, and townhomes went in. That flowered chair ripped apart, and so did her family. Her free spirit was trampled into the dirt. Her skinny thighs got a little bigger, while her confidence got a little smaller. And one night, the left stiletto on those red high heels snapped right off.

Uncensored reality can be ugly. If you’ve been reading for a while, you know that the last several years have been dark for me. You’ve tracked along with what I now know to have been seasons of crippling depression and despair. And when the struggle got to be too much, I just went on auto-pilot, choosing monotone over minor chords through a variety of anesthetics.

But Brené Brown says, “We cannot selectively numb emotions.” She’s right: when we numb the painful emotions, we also numb joy, love, and compassion. And what kind of a life is that?

So I’ve taken that idea to heart, and have spent the past year plowing forward into the darkness – which, by the way, has been about as fun as venturing into my spider-infested cellar with nothing but a Zippo. But at least I’m seeing things for what they really are, or at least closer to the way that they really are. These days, the veil is lifted, for worse and for better – and there is a “better.”

So it’s time for this space to be fresh.

Life is quiet these days, and largely uncomplicated. It’s also lonely, although that’s probably mostly by choice. If I told you the last time I went on a date, you would cringe. I have more questions than answers, and the things that are unresolved – the broken relationships, the questions of purpose, the nagging insecurities – peck at me from time to time.

But somehow, there’s an element of contentment. I am rooted – not necessarily geographically, but in who I am and what I’m willing (and not willing) to wait for. I can’t say exactly when it happened, but I feel a simple confidence that just like there are good things behind, there are good things ahead.

The light is soft, the colors gentle, and the good hair days abound.

Thanks for being here through the slow, slow changes. Here’s to more light and laughter in the midst of the quiet unknown.

Change comes slow,
And sometimes you don’t notice
The twilight into darkness,
The sunrise into day
-Jill Phillips, “If You Were Here”

Aloneness

Wednesday, May 15th, 2013

I’ve been in the Shotgun for two and a half weeks, and things are coming together. I have all of my furniture, and as of Sunday, a washer and dryer. A few pictures are hung on the walls. I painted the hallway, but gave up halfway through painting the bathroom because the ceilings are too high and the floor space is too small for a ladder; I think I’ll need to hire a professional to finish the job. My curtains are up, and I’ve jerry-rigged a temporary solution for the skylight over my bed (a towel draped over two tension rods). I’m learning the oddities of the space, and despite the quirks, it’s starting to feel like home.

But the transition has been rough for Toad.

This little dog has been through more than her fair share of change in the last few years. We just passed the 2-year anniversary of her amputation, which is right around the time she came to live with me. In less than two years, she’s been through three moves, lost her dog companion when Becca got married and took Gabe with her, grew out all of her fur just to have it shaved off, and has tripped and scraped her nose more times than I can count. Through it all, she just keeps hopping along.

But my new next-door neighbor (with whom I share a wall) recently told me that when I’m not home, Toad barks. This is surprising to me, since Toad never barks when I’m around – she’s a silent, sleepy mutt who, for hours at a time, barely makes her presence known. But it appears that she has an alter ego, and as soon as I’m out the door, starts barking – and she doesn’t stop.

Last night I came home from guitar class, and had to park on the street a few houses down. As I walked toward my front door, I started to hear it – a desperate, throaty cry. “That’s not Toad,” I told myself. It couldn’t be her. But as I got closer, I knew it: my dog was barking incessantly, to the point of losing her voice, and she’d been doing this for the past 2 hours straight.

After an apology text to my neighbor, I sunk onto my bed feeling exasperated. Doesn’t this dog know that I take good care of her? Doesn’t she know that I always feed her, always make sure she has what she needs when she needs it? Doesn’t she trust that I’m never going to leave her alone, that I’m always going to come back for her?

She doesn’t believe it, so she cries. And I am no different.

How often do I buy into the lie that I’m all alone and that no one is going to take care of me? How often do I overlook the ways I have been provided for? How often do I draw conclusions based only on what I can see? How often do I assume the worst?

I’ve lived alone before, but something about being the only signature on the deed to this house has exposed my “aloneness” in a new way. Have you ever tried to hang a picture on a wall without someone standing back, telling you whether to move it higher or lower? Or deciding to change the placement of the rugs after the furniture has been set without someone else to lift the corner of the sofa? Not to mention being the only person earning money for the bank account to pay for it all. If I think about it for too long, I start to feel a lot like my little dog: frantic and afraid.

But here’s the good news: when you’re alone and you know it, you’re so much more aware of the ways in which you’re taken care of.

If I didn’t feel the full weight of my aloneness, would I feel the value of a Home Depot gift card from Luke and Maggie? Would I understand the thoughtfulness of flowers from Allie on my doorstep? Would I fully appreciate Steve coming over to drill things into the walls? Would I know the significance of Graham taking his entire Sunday afternoon to help me move a washer/dryer? Would I acknowledge the Denver map from Hitoshi, the rosemary plant from Isreal, or the bottle of wine from Erica as so meaningful? Would I read all of the well-wishing words with as much gratitude? Would I wake up each morning well aware that I’m living in a home that I didn’t even know to ask for or expect?

In the morning, I’m leaving for a 36-hour work trip, and I have an Anna-Hannah-Becca tag-team to make sure that Toad is never left home alone to bark. I don’t know what I’m going to do about this problem long-term. But despite the aloneness I am so tempted to feel, this little stressor of a dog is being provided for and taken care of – and so am I.

Different

Thursday, September 29th, 2011

Oh, sigh.  Le blog.

Sometimes (a lot of times), I come to this space and watch the curser blink – blink – blink, just not knowing what to say.  These posts provide such a tiny glimpse into my reality, it’s hard to attempt to paint an accurate picture of what’s going on.  What you see here is a small window – what I don’t communicate far outweighs what I do.

I’m in a strange season right now.  One might argue that I’ve been in a “strange season” for almost 2 years – or almost 30.  I’ve been waiting for a change in the tides, a shift in the forecast – but it’s nowhere to be seen.  And so I walk and wait, and listen and ask, and hope to God that I feel some wind on my face soon.

But last Friday, I cried for the first time in a long time.  I was there on Greta’s couch, telling her honest words that have been stuffed down inside, finally feeling it so necessary, so vital, to just lay my fears bare.  She listened (something she is so good at), and asked questions (another skill of hers).  And then, she compared my life to a big room, and said that it seems I’ve relegated myself to a very, very small corner – that, having ruled out all other areas as “unsafe,” I’ve retreated to the perimeter.

And it’s true.  My back is to the wall – but at least it can’t get stabbed, right?

I’ve recently found myself stiff-arming friends and community in the name of self-protection.  I didn’t used to be this way – I’ve always been ultra-connected and involved with the people around me – but lately, it just hasn’t felt all that safe to let the walls down.

So I’m safe.  But I’m lonely.

In some ways, my life here in Denver looks very, very different than what I had hoped for.  But I don’t know that that’s anybody’s fault but mine.

On loneliness

Sunday, April 22nd, 2007

I feel lonely, kind of all the time.

I am learning to look at this as not a bad thing – but it’s taken a long time for me to reach this perspective. As a little girl, I always had a best friend – that one major person to whom I had undying loyalty, and who had the unspoken and understood privilege of access to every area of my life. No secrets kept, no socializing without the other, and the same was expected from the other person. Utter devotion.

There is safety that comes along with a best friend; you never have to go it alone.

This best friend figure has shifted several times throughout my life – sometimes a girl, sometimes a woman twice my age, sometimes a boyfriend – but as I’ve gotten older, the role has changed. I have several very close friends, and yet none of them fill the role that I became accustomed to as a child; in short, several people are “best” and no one is “best.” I do not have that constant companion, the person that I share every secret of my soul with.

But I think that’s okay.

The more humans that I come into contact with, I realize more and more that everyone just wants to belong – it is our greatest need, our greatest desire. Everyone longs to be known, to be loved and appreciated, and for a place called “home.” I feel it so acutely, and often ask the same question that I would wager that we all ask: “Does anyone really see me?”

Currently, I am in a very interesting, uncertain time in my life. I am asking some major questions about who I am, what I want, where I belong, what I am meant to do, what I am good at, what I love, and where I am headed. I don’t know. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know. I just don’t know. I have never felt simultaneously more certain and uncertain about my worth, my gifting, and my direction. I wish someone could come along and just tell me, just say, “This is who you are and this is what you’re good at – and this is what you were meant for. Now go do it.”

I feel lonely.

But maybe loneliness isn’t such a bad thing. Maybe it isn’t something to be avoided. We are so quick to numb ourselves these days – avoid bad, scary feelings at all costs by “fixing” the problem. Feel sad? Go shopping. Eat a bunch of food. Drink away the pain. Seek thrills. Hook up with some stranger. Run the other way. Slam the door in the face of whatever ails you.

But maybe we are wrong. Maybe when we feel sad and lonely, we are supposed to just go ahead and feel sad and lonely.

If I had a “best friend,” I’m pretty sure that I would still get lonely. If I was dating someone, or married, or had babies, or had the perfect career, or drove an Audi, or was famous, or had a ton of money, or was insanely smart… I would still get lonely. There is a place inside each of us that will never be reached by anyone or anything else, no matter how much these things resonate with our souls. This is the place that keeps us seeking God; I think we were designed this way on purpose.

Maybe loneliness is simply an indication of our uniqueness. Maybe loneliness acts as a catalyst to lead us to change the world. Maybe loneliness drives us to change, and to seek out adventure. Maybe loneliness makes us free.