Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about loneliness. Not because I’ve been feeling particularly lonely right now – although singleness does keep staring me in the face during the holidays (you know your thinking is very off when you find yourself wondering if it wouldn’t have been better to be married and divorced by now because at least I’d have gotten to be married.) Instead, I’ve been thinking about how easy it is to be lonely in any situation. This should not be new to me – I’ve been very, very lonely in the middle of romantic relationships, in the middle of parties, in the middle of a college dorm, and in the midst of very good friends.
Maybe it is because of the holidays, but I know a lot of people who are very lonely right now. The friend whose mother recently died unexpectedly. The friend whose brother died years ago and each holiday season is a reminder that now she’s an only child. The friend whose husband left to date men. The friend whose husband left to date women. The several friends who have spouses who are very, very depressed or caught up in addictions and can’t be a real part of a partnership the way everyone would like. Other friends are single mothers and desperately lonely, including the one who thought that having a child would ensure that she never felt alone again.
It’s just hard to be human, and it’s hard to reconcile the reality of our lives with what we thought they’d be, who we thought we’d be with, what we thought we’d be doing, and everything else. Disappointment and loneliness and sorrow seem to feed into each other and are hard to separate.
I saw a woman crying while driving the other day. She was not sobbing, but just periodically wiping at the tears running down her face without stopping. She looked alone – everything about her looked utterly alone. I wanted to do something but we were in our cars and I don’t know what I would have done anyway. I just prayed for her, which was really all I could do.
I remember, at my most depressed, I felt so lonely that I really thought the loneliness was going to kill me. I cried in the car too. Sometimes sobbing uncontrollably and sometimes, like the woman I saw, just not able to stop the tears. I learned to drive while crying, not because I thought it was safe, but because I literally could not have gone on with my life if I hadn’t, because I really truly could not stop crying. I learned to cry through a lot of things – reading, working – because if I gave into the sadness and the loneliness and the black hole, I’d be in bed all day. Functioning while crying non-stop was still functioning.
I feel like Jesus should come into this somehow. I have believed – since I was very, very young, before anyone told me explicitly – that Jesus was taking care of me. I knew to pray when I was lonely and that I was never really truly alone. But I can’t tell people who are feeling alone that they need Jesus. It wasn’t enough for me, and maybe it should have been, but I don’t think so. I think it was something – I don’t think I would have survived the loneliness without knowing Jesus was there, but it certainly wasn’t happiness and light the way songs make it sound, with all I need is Jesus and you make me happy, and you’re all I need, and all these other lyrics that were written by people who have never felt SO. ABSOLUTELY. ALONE. in the world.
It is certainly good for me to remember that other people are lonely – people in all walks of life and all sorts of relationships – because then it’s harder to get into the “If I were just X, I’d be fine” mentality. But I don’t like it. I don’t want anyone to have to feel that bad and sometimes it seems like there’s just too much aloneness in the world.