At first, loneliness was a foreigner to me. The unknown; a language I could not speak.
Coming from a large family, I always felt my place. Sure, it was a crazy household, but I had my spot in it. The oldest girl, situated between two older brothers, two younger, and a little sister, I knew how to behave and what was required of me.
And then there were all the friends. Not even my friends–just kids that were always at our house. Whether they were hanging with my older brothers, or little girls playing with my old dress-up clothes, I never knew quiet. I never knew still. I was a stranger to isolation, and to be alone was a rare and coveted treat.
I felt my first wave of loneliness in college. I remember feeling as if I hadn’t found “my people.” Surrounded by girls my age, I just couldn’t find my niche. Part of it was me holding myself back, but then there was a very real knowledge that I couldn’t change my circumstances.
Maybe that’s part of coming from a big family. You have these expectations that relationships will go straight to the soul. Despite differences and disagreements, you’ll belong.
I’ve found myself back in that place of belonging several times since I married my husband. We forged a family with friends who needed us. And we needed them.
My friend Emily came to me at a very difficult time in her own life. We became sisters through tears and trials. We were broke together, discouraged together, and we cried. We laughed a lot. We journeyed together.
I thought my heart would break when I had to leave Emily and the community that was our two families.
I found another family–not a replacement–but an addition when I moved on campus in Davis. I found that despite differences in background and religion, I had sisters.
I would walk away from long afternoons spent in the company of Muslims, Catholics, Mormons and Buddhists and revel at such a deliciously unique alliance. We journeyed together.
We were sisters. We had a raw, tangible bond because of where we lived, how we raised our kids, and the dream of a better life one day. We shared the same floor plan of a crappy apartment. We shared washing machines and dryers. We went through the stomach flu together, and took turns washing our sheets. We shared food (maybe this is why we shared the stomach flu). Birthdays. Good news. Bad news. Baby food. Potty training.
Even though my apartment was a tiny piece of crap, even though we were far away from family, even though we had no money, even though there were health problems–I was never lonely. I miss that place. I miss that time.
Right now, I find myself situated among the “better off” folks of California. Doctors, lawyers, producers–these are the people in my “moms group.” And despite moving to a nicer apartment, we’re still a grad student family, biding our time…waiting to arrive.
We have each other. We see our path together, but it’s not the same as walking it in a community.
I had a professor once say, “It’s not the destination, it’s the journey.” This is probably one of the greatest gems I received from my education. Loneliness is seeing a destination without someone to share the journey.
I find myself looking over my shoulder for my Samwise Gamgee. One of my favorite quotes in literary history comes from that sweet, kind friend:
“Come, Mr. Frodo!’ he cried. ‘I can’t carry it for you, but I can carry you and it as well. So up you get! Come on, Mr. Frodo dear! Sam will give you a ride. Just tell him where to go, and he’ll go.”
How nice for Frodo. How nice that David had Jonathan, right? Now don’t get me wrong: I have my husband, and he is the best companion I could ever want. But a big part of what we are doing right now is for his journey. His cause. And I’m only as supportive as I am strong.
Was I a better wife when we lived in Davis and I had friends carrying me through the rough patches? Was I a better mom because I saw myself as a team player instead of a soloist?
Today I fight a bullying current of loneliness with a solitary paddle. I know it’s not forever. Maybe not even for long; but my goodness I’m tired. So tired I worry that the paddle may fall. And then what?
I’m airing my soul today, folks. Clearing the air so that I can move forward. Are you on a solitary journey? Do you need a Samwise Gamgee or a Jonathan?
Time+conflict=change Beth Moore
We are not a grad student family, but we have been. Now we are a post-doc family, and it really feels the same. Last year I began living my current life as if it were my forever life, not waiting for the next move, not telling everyone we were only here for a short time, not wondering when our “real life” was going to begin. It helps. It helps to invest in people, right here, right now. It helps to remember that family may be far away, but dwelling on it does no good. It isn’t easy, and it isn’t perfect, but it’s better than it was.
I find it amazing that I JUST messaged you about writing your heart… and you already had done it! Beautiful, sweet friend. Achingly so…
Oh, man. I have felt loneliness for a long time now. In college I think I was busy enough to not put too much thought into it, but even then I held myself back from relationships because I was afraid of them ending without me. How lovely it must be to live in the community that Christ meant for us! With a shy husband & my apparent inability to form meaningful relationships with my peers, i don’t know how it will change, but i pray to God that it will.
Brave and lovely words. I’ve moved to 5 homes in 4 states in the last 12 years. I understand this feeling and loathe it.
I love you! You are brave Hill. I am praying that you will find community soon, and I am confidant that it is coming. It seems like loneliness always precede times of fullness. At least that’s what I’ve found in my life; and it makes it more sweet because you know what it’s like to go without that type of friendship and closeness with people.
Love you, sis!
I prayed for you as I read your blog. What joy as I read your friends comments pointing you to God. I thought of Elisabeth Elliot and how God used loneliness in her life over and over. A few quotes…”Yet I have found peace in my loneliest times not only through acceptance of the situation, but through making it an offering to God, who can transfigure it into something for the good of others” and “… The answer to our loneliness is love – not our finding someone to love us, but our surrendering to the God who has always loved us with an everlasting love. Loving Him is then expressed in a happy and full-hearted pouring out of ourselves in love to others. “We have His promise, “I will woo her, I will go with her into the wilderness and comfort her: there I will restore her vineyards, turning the Vale of Trouble into the Gate of Hope” Hosea 2:14-15
Her book entitled Loneliness is a short read but can jump start your thinking process as you seek to know God and more importantly to be known of God.