Monday, June 16, 2014

The Other L Word




“I’ve been so lonely,” I say, my words like a sigh, laying down a heavy weight. 

“How long have you felt this way?” she asks.

There’s hardly a pause before the answer rises, “Always.  I have always felt this way,” I reply.

She nods, open and accepting, in a way that removes the layer of guilt and wrongness I’ve laid on top of the loneliness and welcomes it simply as what is.

//

“What I noticed,” he said as the interview was closing, the none-too-difficult questions answered, “is a real loneliness.” 

We were discussing an autobiography I’d written as part of the application process.  We were wrapping up and his words, more of a comment than a question, were brushed off with a quiet, “Yes, I guess that’s true.”

But his observation reverberated like the striking of a gong and it was all I could do to hold back the tears for I was ashamed of my loneliness. 

//

Then the Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone . . .” Genesis 2:18

Loneliness was the first thing that God’s eye named not good. – John Milton

//

Loneliness is an unwelcome guest, so the first thing I do, on impulse, is judge it.

“What’s wrong with me? Why do I feel this way? What am I doing wrong?”

I use these judgments like shock therapy, a straight forward attempt to jump start myself out of the land of alone.

Sometimes it works.  Sometimes it doesn’t.  And loneliness, she’s got my address.

There are days that I carry her, like a child strapped to my chest.  Yes, loneliness, I feel you, you are here.  When she grows too heavy to bear, I pray.

“God, I feel so lonely.  Please, help me.”

Sometimes the weight is lifted, sometimes it remains.

//

Yes, your loneliness was a presence I often felt during our times together. – a counselor I once knew

//

God sets the lonely in families. Psalm 68:6 (NIV)

“I write about my loneliness so that others won’t feel so alone in their loneliness.” Henri Nouwen

//

Loneliness, as I observe it, manifests most often as distance, an absence and in this way loneliness also is the fruit of desire. 

Desire itself is a doorway and when I am finished judging, finished bearing the weight, I welcome loneliness in, ask her what she wants. 

“You,” she says, “I’m lonely for you.  You have been gone so long from yourself, please come home.”

//

Loneliness stands at the doorway, waiting, long into the night, her lantern flickering; hers is the flame, the siren song that calls me home.

So I return to where I am. 

Letting loneliness lead I am returned home, standing in the sunlit kitchen, my hands in soapy dish water or sitting in the living room while my children swirl around.  Loneliness leads me back again and again through the doorway to the present where I find the presence of myself, the presence of God and my family set around me like so many shining stones.  

This post is linked with Playdates With God and Unforced Rhythms.

11 comments:

  1. Hi Kelly! I am your neighbor at Unforced Rhythms.
    First of all, I love Henri Nouwen. I am currently reading two of his books.
    I know that loneliness points you to the understanding that you are incomplete without God. And God has given you such shining gifts to fill you with his spirit! We all have that spirit-life breathed into us at birth, and can share it with each other.

    Maybe I can embrace that loneliness as holy, and embrace my family and friends as that holiness too. At least until I reach the place of peace and reunion with the Lord at the end of my life.
    Really thoughtful piece.
    Ceil

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, Ceil, I think loneliness is a longing that can move us toward others, toward God and toward our true selves and, in that way, I think it can be a real gift. Then, also, I find loneliness sensitizing me to the great loneliness in our society, drawing me toward communion with those who sit on the outskirts.
      Thank you for commenting and sharing your thoughts.

      Delete
  2. Oh Kelly. I love this. How well I have known loneliness, too. Like an old, sad friend. But where you went with it? The fruit of desire? A part of scarcity perhaps that can only be remedied in the full embrace of the abundance of NOW? Oh, THAT, my friend, was pure gold. Thank you for the wisdom I sense as I read.
    Linking this to my Good Reads section today.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh, thanks, Kelli :) It's good to be getting to know each other through Unforced Rhythms. It felt a little scary to me to write about loneliness but I doubt there are many who don't feel it's weight at one time or another and the writing led me somewhere unexpected, in seeing loneliness herself as a friend.

      Delete
  3. Kathy, this really touched my heart. I think we tend towards loneliness here because we're not "home" yet. In the land beyond our true happiness will shine. Thank you for being willing to bare Nouwen. I'm a big fan of his and he sure knew about loneliness, didn't he? ~Pamela

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks, Pamela. Yes that's true, perhaps all our loneliness is a longing for true Home.

      Delete
  4. Yes. It's that longing for home-the sehnsucht that CS Lewis wrote of, isn't it? You describe it so we'll, Kelly. My spirit recognized your description of loneliness.

    ReplyDelete
  5. I just keep reading and reading this over and over, Kelly. In it I can feel your loneliness. And my own. Which kind of makes it not so lonely. And yet it's not really togetherness either, because lonely, by definition, is a place we can only go alone. Yours and mine can never be the same. There is such value, though, in your recognition of loneliness as a calling to be filled -- with yourself, with home, with "enoughness" ... Loneliness is like a leak -- sometimes gushing; sometimes barely perceptible until the dryness settles upon us. Making it all the more important to "return to where I am" to drink, to live, to be aware, to connect. Thank you for talking about the tender places in your spirit. It's so precious to get to know you in this way. A gift I shall not take for granted.

    ReplyDelete
  6. My soul weeps when I read this. I breathe out long and deep, knowing that I am not so alone in my loneliness as what I feared I was. Thank you for writing this!

    ReplyDelete
  7. I like what justbebeth said. Reading this makes me feel less alone in my loneliness. She (loneliness) is a constant friend and often I consider her an enemy. I will have to read again.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Thank you for this. I feel lonely often, too.

    ReplyDelete