I awake at 5 AM each morning, silence the alarm on my iPhone and am immediately greeted by notifications of new messages that have come in via text and Facebook overnight. I skip past them, opting to wait for a few minutes to center myself before becoming consumed with the outside world. I check my calendar for the day. Ok… Today is Thursday. My preschooler who will awake in an hour will need to go to camp wearing his bathing suit because it is a ‘pool day’ and I’ll need to pack his karate gear in the car for after school. Oh, and we have a playdate with his bestie at the park following that. Great. Now, plan for me – what’s on my schedule? Hill mark up in the morning, followed by lunch meeting and afternoon of conference calls. OK wardrobe informed. Check. Dash for the shower. Check emails. Pack lunch for kiddo. Now check those texts and FB updates. Ok – Game time. Wake the kid: go into his room and snuggle for a few minutes as we start the day. It’s 6:15. We will be out of the house by 6:45 and our days are non-stop and filled with laughter, joys, phone calls, emails, text messages, FB posts, witty exchanges with colleagues, and casual play dates. But the only person I will connect with on a deep and meaningful level today will be my 3 year old. Not every day. But today.
Mother Theresa said that “loneliness is the leprosy of the modern world”.
Lonely. I am certainly not “alone”.
My life is richly blessed with family and friends. I conduct mission-rich work that allows my personal and professional lives to blend together and provides and sense of intimacy, but also creates a strange sense of distance.
In a given day, I communicate with easily a hundred people – probably more. But I often worry that if something were to happen to me, it could easily be several days before anyone noticed my absence. An image that haunts my most silent, inner-most thoughts as a single parent.
And when my alarm goes off at 5 AM, I don’t awake with anyone else’s elbow in my ribs. I don’t sync schedules with anyone or have anyone who wishes me luck on the Hill and remind my son that he DOES love swimming and ‘no you can’t take your tent to school’. And at the end of the evening when the playdate is over, evening chatter includes sweet tales during my son’s tubby and bedtime cuddles. But then the hours of alone – or loneliness – sometimes set in. Depending on the conscience choice I make and the effort I want to put in to reaching out. Because there’s no one waiting on the couch to hear about my day or watch mindless TV or discuss the day’s news.
Look, I’m a realist and I know that marriages are hard work and many aren’t easy. And I’ll be honest that out of 30 days in a month, I probably only have energy to actually feel lonely during 2 of them. But when it comes to making big life decisions, facing hard moments, celebrating little joys, wishing for a personal cheerleader on the small stuff, sharing your faith intimately with someone, and sometimes just sharing the load of doing the dishes, taking out the garbage, or hanging a new curtain rod… it would be nice to not have to “reach out and touch someone” through technology or a play date.
“You don’t need another human being to make your life complete, but let’s be honest. Having your wounds kissed by someone who doesn’t see disasters in your soul but cracks to put their love into is the most calming thing in this world.” – Emery Allen
Lonely – sometimes – but rarely alone.
What I am increasingly present to is that I am likely also not alone in my experience of this sense of loneliness, despite constant contact. And by no means do you have to be single to experience what I describe, quite the contrary. In a world where our reach has become more and more expansive, are our connections in turn becoming more and more surface? Do we really take the time to connect with one another? Really stop, look into the eyes of someone we care about, ask them a question, and then wait… wait for their answer. Maybe not their first response, but their answer? Do we let people know that we are available for them, and mean it? Not because we are curious about their FB status update, but because we care about them?
I love that Emery Allen quote, but I love it most in a platonic context. We need other human beings to be complete. We don’t need hundreds of emails and text messages every day. But we do need at least one person every day who seeks you out just because they care to know where you are and how you are – and their day wouldn’t be complete without loving you.
My personal challenge to me is to pick someone every day to truly connect with this month. To be intentional about it. To take time. To listen.
A 4th grader once asked me, “Are you an ‘only’ person?” While I think she meant single, I loved her word choice.
It turns out, I am ‘single’, but I’m not ‘only’.
And I shouldn’t be lonely either.