Tag Archiv: alone

Not alone

compliments of Kenia from morguefile.com

compliments of Kenia from morguefile.com

We are not alone. None of us are. We’re stumbling in the dark trying to figure out how to be it or do it. Hold on to it or let go of it. Sometimes we don’t even know what it is –  except we’re sure that everyone else does.

Voices whisper that there is no one like us. No one would understand. We are lonely and afraid to be ourselves. We live expecting someone to come through the door and tell us we’re not doing it right.

If it’s not we, at least it’s me. My childhood was soaked through with confusion. Life was a puzzle with the box missing and it was never clear which picture we were trying to assemble. I prayed, went to the library often, and wished I knew who to talk to.

As far as I could tell, talking wasn’t what people did. It took years for me to understand that this was because most people assume that they are alone. That they believe their feelings of inadequacy (and all the proofs thereof)  are unique to them alone. Life was, I discovered, a great deal of pretending. Performance and appearance are some of our world’s most sacred values.

I’ve made some new friends who don’t have it all together. They don’t try to hide their struggles. No one has any energy or interest in pretense. My friends are giving me something that I want and without meaning to, I find myself studying them, trying to understand it.

This caught my eye in a paragraph from writer, Heather King talking about what we have to give each other. We have, she says, “our wounds, our holy longing, our groping in the dark.”

What we have to give each other is the truth that we are not alone.  Despair and shame assail, but against the sharing of “our wounds and holy longing,” they are rendered mute by the voice of love.

It’s like we live in ditches, sitting up to our armpits in mud with the garbage of every car that’s gone by squishing up against us. We can see neck and shoulders of the person across the road. We’re equipped with a washcloth, a voice, and a curling iron. Standard etiquette is to keep your face clean, your hair curled, and make frequent reference to the sunshine or the birds.

One day the unthinkable happens. The woman across the way stands up from her stretch of supposedly manicured lawn. The ear rings you’ve admired from afar are the last nice thing about her. Not only is she muddy, she only has one leg. A diaper and a squashed coke can are stuck in the mud on her.

Relief floods you. Tears wash down your face. You are not alone.

In your ditch, there might be diapers and coke cans. In mine, there is a winter’s worth of dog poop, some very frustrated dreams, uninvited levels of emotion over little things, a lot of uncertainty, some recurring unhealed mess that is completely fine until the days it isn’t (which really ticks me off unless it makes me cry), shame, self doubt, and an abiding loneliness. My bounce backer function is also behaving rather erratically these days.

We are not alone. This is the truth that we have to offer each other. These are the words of our gift until the final word which is love.

Against the Dark

It was quiet in my house this weekend. I was home to take care of animals and write. The rest of the folks went camping. It was lovely. And ground breaking. The victories were quiet. No fireworks. They came the way most victories come. Steadily pushing on, like the forests overtaking the fields, year after year they’re back. More seeds. More seedlings, try again.

I am afraid of the dark. More specifically, I am afraid to be alone in the dark. As a teenager, I maintained a strict routine. I did not walk to my bed after turning off the light. I flicked the switch and leapt into bed from three feet away. No errant unknown things reaching for my ankles, thanks. I knew there weren’t monsters under my bed. Probably no people either, but the routine helped and so I did it.

I was a nightmare child. And really, who am I kidding, the nightmares have been significantly reduced from the paralyzing strength they held in my twenties, but they still come round now and again to say hello. Remind me about darkness and what I think of it.

Since high school, I’ve either had a roommate or been married (a package that conveniently comes with a roommate). My husband has gone away many times, but there have always been children in the house or someone. I have gone away and had hotel rooms to myself. But never, until this weekend, have I ever spent the night at my own home alone.

No houses in sight. No hotel guests on the other side of the wall. Just me, the cats, and the dog.

Fear traumatizes. If we could see each other’s souls, and I do believe we can for tiny moments, but anyway, if you looked at mine, a lot of the scars you’d see would be from the swaths fear cut. Where I grew up, the reasons for fear came and went, not like seasons you saw coming, but like tornadoes out of nowhere.

Children are not sophisticated. They smell a storm, any storm, and having seen a few tornadoes touch down, they wisely fear the power of all harsh winds. So it was with me, alone in the dark for what felt like a very long childhood.

Time, love, forgiveness. They all do their part to heal. But nobody it seems was assigned to heal the little bit about the darkness. Hence, at 42, I remain afraid to be alone in the dark.

Going into the weekend I was a little anxious but determined. Now, with my family home again, my roommate returned to where he should be in the bed beside me, I feel a bit triumphant. I did it. I stayed in a house by myself (fully mobile and functional) two nights in a row.

Look, Mom, no hands!

Together on the wide, wide sea


Boy one came home unusually chipper the other day. He had happened across someone who compulsively turned open padlocks backwards and set closed locks to zero when passing lockers. Together they had raced the halls in a mad attempt to set every lock in the school to zero. Although he spent a great deal of time bemoaning the hallway they had failed to finish, the first words out of his mouth were, “Mom, I actually met someone like me. I’m not the only one.”

I was once a woman in her early twenties, at least battling depression. Post traumatic stress syndrome would have fit too. I was haunted by nightmares that paralyzed me, drained me of energy, and left me unsettled for days. Being objective about my emotions was an idea I could grasp but not put into practice most of the time. I tried to rise above my troubles, but my downfall appeared inevitable. I felt confused, hopeless and desperately alone.

I didn’t know anyone, including myself, comfortable with mental health issues, or knowledgeable about the need for help and where to get it. I sought advice, but for years did not find anyone who understood. I remember an older woman I spoke with. That she was a woman with a lifetime of fragile mental health was unknown to me. She was respected and admired. She was old and not dead yet. That was put together in my books.

I was in the habit of testing people on small doses of me, so I poured out enough troubles to relieve the pressure. I remember at first, I was irritated, wondering if she’d even heard me.  But what seemed at first a non sequitur, made a lot of sense.

“You know those stairs down the hall?” She had a bit of a southern accent. “When I stand at the top and look down, I know I’m going to fall. They’re so steep I don’t even like to think about it. Every time I can hardly move because I know am going to fall. But I stand at the top, grab the railing tight and step one stair at a time, two feet on every one. Takes me forever, but I get down. And I haven’t fallen yet.”

Lately, sadness and loneliness have sat their ample bottoms down on my chest and refused to move. Life goes on, but they are heavy and quitting tempts. Monday, I remembered the railing, two feet on every stair until I get to the bottom. Which reminded me that we are never alone. A long time ago, someone who didn’t know me or understand me, possibly accidentally, gave me really good advice. My stairs were different, but we were both afraid of going where we had to and it helped.

I picture her stairs and think. We are inadequate answers to each other’s questions, and insufficient medicine for each other’s pain. Yet out of the immense alone, what cannot be, is. In darkness for tiny seconds, we find each other’s arms and we are known. You too? Yes, me too. From imperfect and impossible rises us. We glimpse our belonging and for that moment, heaven.