The Balance of Loneliness

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As I’ve watched people throughout my life, I’ve seen how easy it is to get trapped in loneliness and fear. Welcoming it at the dinner table, falling asleep with it curled around you. And there are people who wear those things like a blanket, letting them sit heavily on every conversation with just a subtle enough weight to keep the conversation from straying too far from the negative. Because at some point, the ease and comfort of the sadness became the norm. The baseline for which all else is measured.  It became an addiction.

And I’ve found myself with a tendency to live completely on both sides, in sadness but also in joy, almost in every moment. So I have to be careful. If I spend too much time with loneliness and fear, then it starts to feel safe and I have a hard time leaving or believing there is anything but loneliness in my life. A feeling that I’ll never be known or understood or treasured. But then there are moments where I unapologetically believe that there is good in this world, and I possess so much of it in my life. Rowan, my parents, my friends, work. There is good here, see?

Liz told me once that she values my ability to move from casual conversation to deep and back, and I appreciate that ability that I have with her. There I can manage the tension. I can be honest and be myself, but not lose myself to the dark. That friendship creates a healthy boundary for me in that with room to process and acknowledge and grieve, but also to be forward-thinking, hopeful for myself and for Rowan and the things I love. She talks to me as if she understands the whole of who I am, not just who I am in that moment, but also in all the moments leading up to it. This is very freeing to me.

So in my effort to trend more in the positive direction, Anne Lamott has insisted on ‘radical self-care.’ She really is so thoughtful, isn’t she? Which has meant more writing, more reading and cooking, and learning how to use the camera that I’ve had for 5-6 years and never ventured past my beloved automatic setting. I got a massage last week and a pedicure. I cooked dinner for friends and hosted a wedding shower. I sat by a fire and taught Rowan how to eat a s’more. And its these little intentional things that keep me from loneliness. But oh, they’re so hard to do! And when I move towards sadness I have a tendency to just stay there for awhile because its so much easier to be lonely alone. To not have to tell people and push myself out of my dark place. It is cruel to be made responsible for your own happiness, especially when you feel so desperately the opposite. But little by little, I creep back out of my shell and find that there is still a happy and good world out there that might not actually kill me. At least not while I’m eating a s’more or taking photos of my sweet baby.

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