“We can all fight against loneliness by engaging in random acts of kindness.”
The above quote is by Scottish best-selling author Gail Honeyman. I remembered seeing this quote shortly after Mike died but cast it aside, wondering if she truly understood what loneliness is. Eventually I came to see what the quote meant as I threw myself into more volunteer work, community work, helping others, and random acts of kindness. I found solace and comfort in doing for others; it filled a need, an innate part of my being that I didn’t realize is part of what makes me tick–caring for someone else.
Loneliness puts you into a perfect quagmire of confusion. It’s not something you feel right away, it’s not even something you see coming. It appears out of nowhere, like a bullet suddenly grazing past your face. Once you see it out of the corner of your eye, it’s already to late.
Anne Hathaway once said, “Loneliness is my least favorite thing about life. The thing that I’m most worried about is just being alone without anybody to care for or someone who will care for me.” And that’s the crux of it, someone who will care for us. Some don’t mind being alone, but there is a difference between solitude and loneliness. Some can be alone and never feel lonely. But for those who love fiercely and then are without, loneliness becomes a thing you have to become acquainted with and carry around with you, whether you like it or not. It’s like having a dance partner your entire life, someone who moves gently with you, glides with each step you take. You move in tandem through life in one long sweeping motion. Suddenly, your dance partner disappears and you have to do the dance alone. That’s loneliness. It’s something many feel during periods of grief, loss–during seasons of life.
Being able to help others is the greatest gift, and it’s because of Mike’s death that I have found this gift, but helping others doesn’t take away the loneliness I feel each and every day. I settle into it, and have always known (even before I met Mike) that I was fiercely independent and could always take care of myself, but that doesn’t mean I want to journey this world without a dance partner. It doesn’t mean I want to wake up each and every day without someone to say “good morning” to. It doesn’t mean I don’t want someone to care for and who cares for me. It doesn’t mean I don’t want someone to cook for, or greet at the end of a long work day. When you have that kind of love in your life and it’s taken away, you long for it but in much a different way than before you ever knew it existed. Because wrapped in that wanting is guilt of wanting it again. That’s when the loneliness feels strongest. For those who have children, your loneliness may look different because you have a piece of what has been taken still with you, in front of you. And you can pour your love into that child(ren). And, maybe in the stillness of night, the loneliness beckons and introduces itself to you.
For those without children, the loneliness becomes your new dance partner, it becomes all you know. Even in a sea of people, even in active moments of life, loneliness sits with you. It’s the cruel irony of loving someone so deeply, but it should never stop you from loving, from falling in love, from receiving someone else’s love, from wanting love.
Loneliness is a season, a mere chapter of our story. It gets written in and ultimately has its climatic moment before it is written out. When we walk through grief, trauma, pain, loss, it is a chapter or two or three that has to be told. But the written word can always be rewritten, thus our story is never finished. Grief can be rewritten, loneliness can be rewritten. Because when we lose one blessing, another is unexpectedly given in its place.
Like the words from Auli’i Cravalho’s song Live Your Story, “You defy the impossible, got a heart unstoppable. You are more than ready. Amazing creator, relentless believer in who I am and what I got inside. Dream, see, write, live your story.”
May you hold grace, guidance, and gratitude close to you in this season and story of your life.