The Facebook notification says I have one update. I check it and it reads, “Annie Perkins-West posted on your timeline.” I am excited because I look up to Annie. She is a spiritual mentor of mine, but I am not sure she knows. Excited, I press the link to see what she has to say to me.
The message on my timeline reads, “No weapon that is formed against thee shall prosper; and every tongue that shall rise against the in judgment thou shalt condemn. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me saith the Lord. God said to write about your loneliness.”
My heart gasped. I checked the privacy settings on the post. Could the whole world see that word? Could the whole world see “loneliness” there being spoken about me? Could the whole world see my “loneliness” showing the way a slip betrays and sneaks out below the hem of a dress?
Oh, no! I am 40 years old and divorced. People are going to think this is about “needing” a man!
(I decide to swoon until I remember a few relevant cons to the idea. 1.) I am home alone so no one will see. 2.) I am not Scarlett O’Hara. 3.) I’m pretty sure women stopped swooning about two centuries ago… at least anywhere north of the Mason Dixie line.)
They are not going to get what it means at all! Will they do an intervention to make sure I do not adopt 100 cats and begin animal hoarding in my apartment? Will they make me wear a scarlet L? Have I been branded as less than happy, joyous, and free?
What does the world do when it sees even a glimpse of naked loneliness? Does it stretch itself wide to cover it with love? Does it wrap the richness of itself around loneliness to restore? Does it pour out the fullness of itself into the empty vessel until love and understanding overflow?
It sends pity in place of grace. It sends sympathy in place of empathy. Or worse yet, it hurriedly turns away. The world shields its eyes for fear the loneliness is a reflection of what it is hiding deep inside.
Or better still, the world says the answer to loneliness is a relationship. Do not look to complete yourself. Start dating! Find someone to validate that you are okay. No one will ever know. Find someone to fix you and hurry up because everyone is looking, counting the chimes on your biological clock. Hurry! Hurry! There’s no time to waste! Fall in love with someone else before you have a chance to fall in love with you.
The world lies.
It does not tell you that you should seek a companion out of the overflow of your life, not out of the depletion. It does not tell you to date out of the desire to share the fullness of your life with a companion not be parasitic, feeding on their energy. It does not say that you should not use people to distract yourself, to blur your vision because you’re afraid of your own company.
It does not admit you can be lonely laying in the bed next to someone or with a ring on your left hand or with a beautiful child in the bassinet next to the bed. It does not talk about how we use “rapid fire relationships” the way crack addicts use a pipe.
If the drug of choice is a substance, you get help. If the drug of choice is people, you give advice!
Relationships and/or sex as a fix to loneliness only leads to a larger void. And so you consume more to fill the larger void that only leads to a larger void. And so you consume more to fill the larger void… ad infinitum.
Several months ago I was talking to someone and I decided to be brave enough to be really honest. I said, “I love people. I love a lot of people. And I know a lot of people love me, but to be honest, the only real connection – the only HEART connection – I feel with another human being is with my child.”
I immediately regretted saying it. But therein lies the crux of the problem. The only true cure for loneliness is truly being seen. The only hope is intimacy. It is in being known, utterly and completely. In heart connections, people understand what you mean and not just what you say. Within heart connections, explanations are given out of respect not out of necessity. HEART connections have grace sufficient to cover loneliness.
There is no explaining or explaining away. There is no foothold for loneliness to step in again.
In the recovery meetings I attend, we are taught that one of the elements of our disease, alcoholism, is that it makes us isolate. It gets us alone in our self-pity and then rationalizes why we can have one more drink. It separates us to annihilate us. It pulls us away from the pack and when we stumble, we are devoured… by consuming we are consumed.
Within those rooms, I am not an isolated alcoholic. I am “part of”… for the most part. But even there, I find myself metering what I need to say out and filtering what I want to say. Not everything is for everyone… but then where is the safe place? Where is the soft place to land?
The last time I saw Annie, we had a chance to sit and talk about many things. I took the opportunity to be brave once again. Even though she and I were the only two people sitting on our row, I leaned in and whispered to her, “What do you do with the loneliness?”
I could have given a million examples. “What do you do when God shows you a bird to encourage you? What do you do when your thoughts come to you in the form of poetry? What do you do when you dream dreams and see visions? Who do you talk to about those things?”
She did not lift an eyebrow. She did not ask me to explain. She nodded her head once and told me what I already know to be true. “When God has called you apart for His use, it is lonely.” And then she went on to relate her experience and share with me words of knowledge to strengthen me.
As she spoke, I could see the universe as if I was standing in space between the stars. The blackness of open space speckled with stars like suspended diamonds as far as I could see. And while I could not see another person, I could sense them, shining as brightly as each of the stars. I could not see them but I knew they were there waiting, watching, listening for me.
I remembered that when scientists tried to contact life on other planets, they would send a sound out into the universe. Their hope was someone would hear it and echo the sound. Send out a sound that is returned in an echo and thus the connection is formed.
For now… that is what I do. I will let loneliness move across my keyboard and send a beacon out into the ether. I stand in the nothingness of time and speak life, light, and love into space.
And then, I quiet myself, leaning in, patiently listening for the echo to find me and the heart connection to begin.