“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.