Alone, Not Lonely
Sometimes I forget that this place is beautiful. Nine of us in a two bedroom house, whose basement floods and whose rooms stand in various states of awkward. Sometimes I forget that the light can filter in beautifully on a messy table and barstool TV stand.
Sometimes I choose frustration rather than love for this season that we picked on purpose. I choose not to see that it's not that bad. We make these choices often, or at least, I do. To look exactly beyond what is right before me and forget that there's something for me, even here.
And then I become very unforgiving of myself. How, Amanda, can you forget the beauty when the trees whisper loud here and a brand new baby calls your arms home, here?
I don't know how to be busy. I don't know how to be still. But I'm learning which one treats me better.
I believe that every place has a purpose, if you let it. I have felt for a time, lonely. I don't feel it in every moment, but it hovers just beyond the shouts of children chasing through the yard, in the gurgles of midnight, three AM, and six AM feedings, in the places with regular noise. But if every place has a purpose I must ask after the meaning of here, physically. The meaning of here, presently.
I sat across from my spiritual director and we reflected on the lonely. Earlier that morning, the husband and seven children were miles away tending the land to ready it for an orchard. I set out to the small garden we have here in this temporary home. Alone, I knelt between the rows of six inch corn stalks and started pulling weeds. A two foot area can take twenty minutes, if left uncared for. These rows were quite unkempt.
It was the most quiet, solitary time I've spent in months. Loosen the soil, pull the weeds, dump the weed bucket, shift back a few feet, start again. Repetitive. Monotonous. Mundane. And I was never lonely for one moment. Alone with God. Not lonely.
A few hours later, I looked to my director and thought of this weeding time. Perhaps loneliness was an untended garden. Perhaps somewhere along the way, I became so completely surrounded that I'd forgotten how to be comfortable alone. Alone with God. Not lonely.
I'm wondering, this week, if my loneliness in life and motherhood has become so familiar an ache because nearly everything pushes us to rely entirely on an aloneness in Christ.
For example: No one is stranger to judgment and criticism. We walk into target with too many children, or post the 'wrong' comment on Facebook, or observe someone else's greener-grass and are lonely for a time when we didn't have to approach these things with a defensive posture. We sit at home, circled by noise and mess and the opposite of alone, and yet completely lonely - not even for quiet - but for more. Or less. Or something. We raise our voice or lessen our sympathy to a cry or can't muster up enough patience, and then become our own bully - how could you? You're their mother.
The world is fast and easy. We can gain one hundred likes on an image, and try not to believe it makes us feel like we're doing 'ok'. We can be completely surrounded, and completely unknown. And unseen. It's no wonder we feel like islands. Rafts floating, surrounded by crashing waves and calling gulls. You liked my picture. Do you know my heart?
If we're relying on every outside thing, or even our own sometimes harsh voice, we can forget how known and seen we really are.
I do think there are times when true loneliness is simply what it is: when my friends moved to an opposite timezone, in the loss or absence of a loved one, in the space of a friendship that isn't what it used to be, when the place you're in is supposed to feel like home and just...doesn't. Loneliness is real.
For myself, personally, I'm finding that much of that lonely feeling comes from a place of wanting the company of the fast and easy. Of expecting that to cultivate depth. And if I've learned anything in these thirty years, it's that the good walk with God is much more slow and simple that we often make it out to be. So slow and simple, in fact, that it's nearly-impossibly hard.
I don't know that I am lonely. I think I'm insecure. I know I need to spend more time with the weeds, grounding myself in the earth and rooting my mundane identity to the maker of seeds and sprouted life. To the maker of me, above all criticism and insecurity and threat against my okay-ness. I need to be absolutely solo with God-alone, and find wholeness there. I've found I feel much less lonely when I work at that discipline.
And then, I need to remember to invite trusted, slow grown people into that. Come and know me on my knees; dirt caked nails and heart raw open. Let's start love there.
I forget that this place is beautiful. That God has placed His beauty here for me. I've forgotten my own beauty in it.
I have to cling on to that lifeline word that God has set upon me - be gentle with yourself. Practice the slow so you can love the much (not the most or the many).
That is the meaning of here. What does your here mean for you?