I made a startling realization last weekend. Pete always works midnights and he always works weekends so I was on “kid-duty” all day. I had to run Eden to play rehearsal and Josiah left to spend some time with his worker. I just had the twins. And suddenly I felt all alone.
It happened slowly this fall. First, the culinary class that I usually teach didn’t have enough enrolment to proceed. Then I started doing a Bible study with a very close friend so I didn’t join another larger group. We also attend a very large church with 4 different service times. And I have the 4 kids with me. It is not an ideal setting to form lasting friendships. The kids complain if I try to talk to anyone. And lets face it, it is a 4 to 1 fight. I’m grossly outnumbered. Sure, we have small groups at church. Also known as life groups or cell groups. Between all the running we do for the kids all week, the idea of trying to escape for an evening seems impossible. Pete has homework all week from an evening class and has to be at work for 11 on work nights. Not to mention babysitting. I don’t know what other families with kids our ages do. I’m not sure there are any. The twins definitely need someone to look after them. Eden is old enough to watch them but they don’t listen to her well enough for us to trust them. Then there is the whole Josiah/Eden factor. I am scared of what we would find if we left those two alone, unsupervised together for a few hours. There might well be shedding of blood.
Basically I find myself very alone.
We have been programmed to believe that we are connected through social media and in one way we are. I can know quite a lot about my “friends” as long as I stay current on FaceBook. But there aren’t very many people out there who are honest enough to say “I am feeling very lonely right now”. I don’t want to look like I don’t fit in or I’m a cry-baby. I don’t want to appear like a “glass half empty” kinda
girl woman, even though I sometimes am. I didn’t want to appear pathetic. I had also ended up adding a whole bunch of Arlynne’s friends to my FaceBook account in the time after she died. It was a great way to try to keep in touch with them. Then, one day, I decided that I must be really creepy for having all these teens as my friends. So I deleted them. I “lost” over a hundred “friends” in an hour. The good news is that I have fewer friends to keep up with. The bad news is that I miss the ones I lost.
The holidays are even worse for lonely people. We are surrounded by people. At the mall. At church. On the roads. Everywhere. Most are stressed and hurried. It is not an ideal time for anyone.
We Canadians are pretty polite people. I have heard of very few Canadian incidents like in the movie “Jingle all the Way” when people start fighting over a toy or other deal. Pete and I were at a large department store today and we had a completely shocking experience. We had a buggy and had around 6 items in it but we had both walked away from it for a few minutes. It wasn’t even that long. I had gone to look at some seasonal items while Pete had gone to find some lightbulbs. When we came back to where our cart had been, it was gone. Gone. We were shocked. It wasn’t that long. As Pete pulled me out of the store, we saw all the merchandise that we had selected. Whoever stole our cart had removed all our items and placed them on top of an aisle display. It is a shock to me that people can be so self-absorbed that they would steal someone else’s cart instead of making a trip to the front of the store and getting their own. I think I saw the thief on our way out. Pete decided that we aren’t going to shop at this store again if this is the way their customers treat each other. I wish now that I had confronted her. I really wonder what she was thinking. If she was so self-absorbed that she decided that she was more important than us. I don’t usually like making a scene or confronting people but it was just that kind of a day.
I guess one of the reasons that I can feel so isolated at this time of year is because everyone is so self-absorbed. I am not excluded from this. We are all too busy getting everything done that we run the risk of isolating ourselves. We have the best intentions. We are trying to make the best Christmas for our loved ones. I get it. But how many times have I stopped and looked around me. Have I noticed those who are lonely too?
I admit that I had a bad day today. My very good friend and I were talking the other day. She and I have met at least once a week for over a year. She observed that last year at this time of year I was angry. I can believe it. Life can seem very unfair. Especially when you bury a daughter. This year has been different. I made the painful realization lately that I have been avoiding my grief by not thinking about Arlynne. There are pictures of her in my home but I don’t look at them. I can’t. Realizing this has opened a floodgate I didn’t expect. I have cried a lot this year. It happened twice today. Both times in public. I almost can’t help it. But should I?
Yes, grief makes me self-centered but I think that by letting go of the anger has released a sensitivity I never had before. Don’t get me wrong. I have always been a woman who had trouble hiding her feelings. I wear my heart on my sleeve. Now even more so. Pete has accepted it. In fact, he was good today. He just lets me. I don’t rant and rave. At least not at the mall. But he holds my hand as the tears silently stream down my face.
A few weeks ago, when I realized how lonely I am, I decided to bless a friend. I could have wallowed. Felt sorry for myself. But I didn’t. I don’t admit that to pat myself on the back. The exercise of deciding to do something for someone else turned my focus away from myself. I started to feel connected again. Yes, my world is small right now. Yes, I am to blame in a lot of ways. But starting to turn my eyes towards others widens my world.
If you are feeling lonely, like me, know that you are not alone. I feel that way too. My Heavenly Father has not left me even when it feels like everyone else has. That is one of the reasons that I love the fact that God sent Jesus to earth. It says in Hebrews 4:15 that “we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses”(NIV). He was a man so He understands. He did not have a daughter who died but He wept when His friend Lazarus died (John 11:35). He also had to bear His Father’s wrath when He bore our sin on the cross. His separation from His Father was temporary, like mine is from Arlynne, but He understands.
I am so glad He does.