I’ve been feelin’ it on and off lately. So, I wasn’t surprised that even with one of my best friends, Christmas tunes on repeat, and homemade paleo marshmallows in the making, my chest started tightening. And this time, I knew tears were coming.
“I think I just need a hug,” I finally managed to tell her.
So she hugged me.
And I hadn’t realized how much I missed being held.
It’s December, which means I could share all the ways I’ve been blessed and all I’m grateful for (I’ve got my list!)… or I could share something that gets a little less airtime. So here goes nothin’. The truth is, for me, 2017 has been a year of deep loneliness. I’m not gonna go into why, cuz we all have our reasons. But I will say, it hasn’t been a, “damn, no one’s around tonight, I guess I’ll be stayin’ home” but more of a “shit, I’m really goin’ through this life on my own,” kind of loneliness.
I love you for wanting to respond to this with encouraging and uplifting comments or an invite to a Christmas party, but what’s it like for you to hear that’s not what I’m wanting?
See, I realized somethin’ this year. Whenever I was feelin’ anxious and alone, I surprisingly didn’t want someone to pull me out of it (i.e. “but you have so much to be grateful for!” “you’re not alone!”) Bypassing my feelings to “just be happy” felt phony and unproductive.
Instead, when I was having moments, or days, or weeks of loneliness, what I wanted more than anything was someone who could bear seeing me. Without trying to change me, fix me, or take my loneliness away.
You ever feel like that?
Novelist, Thomas Wolfe, said the experience of loneliness is “neither strange nor curious, but inevitable and right” because it’s part of the human heart. Then there’s theologian, Paul Tillich, who believes the experience of being alone becomes a source of creativity and a heightened sense of self, which often results in more profound connections with other individuals or God. In other words, there’s good reason to be with this feeling (and any other).
So yea, that’s what therapy’s for right? Sure. But let’s not let each other off the hook that easily.
Presence, with our own feelings and with another’s, is something we can offer without any training at all.
Sometimes it’s just a matter of getting still enough to feel. Or holding that kinda awkwardly long eye contact, the kind that allows the truth to come through. It could be a walk and an invitation to “tell me all about it.” Or maybe just “shared solitude” as one of my favorite writers, Oriah, calls it, like sitting by side, reading side by side, gettin’ your yoga on side by side. The experience of being both still with yourself and intimately connected to another.
In that spirit, I wonder if this winter season, both you and I can toss out the misconception that by going into the darkness we lose access to the light. But instead, meet each other there and have faith we’ll find our way.
Now I’d love to hear a bit about your year, whether it was full of joy or heartache. What’s been most true, or most present for you in 2017?
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