Alone Vs. Lonely

Have you ever had a day that was just horrible from start to finish?  A day when you felt so alone that all you wanted to do was wallow in it?  I don’t have these days often, but yesterday was definitely one of those days for me.  It came following a long, stressful week of work, and personal trouble that just hit one thing after another all week long.  And despite attempting to make the best of it, Friday just really hit me hard and all I wanted to do was sit at home and wallow in the fact that I wasn’t just alone- I was lonely.

Loneliness isn’t something that visits me often, despite the fact that I am often alone.  I have always thought of myself as an introvert- drawing energy and calm from being alone.  But I’ve recently discovered something about myself.  It’s much easier to be an introvert surrounded by people, than to be an introvert in the house all alone.

Several years ago now, I dated a guy.  I won’t go into all of the horrible details (the ‘cancer’ relationship I mentioned last time)- but the point is that we lived together in a place that was 400 miles away from my family and friends.  During that time, he was really the only person that I had.  And despite being with him every single day, all I wanted on a daily basis was to be alone.  I always felt like I was missing my ‘alone’ time.

Skip ahead a little bit.  I moved home (and not just to my hometown… I’m talking after seven years of being ‘on my own’ I moved back in with my parents).  I’m not resentful of this decision, the truth is very much on the contrary.  It was probably one of the best decisions I’ve ever made in my life.  It allowed me to get the perspective and distance that I needed in order to start healing.  And it also gave me something that I had for so long desperately craved.  It gave me a chance to be my own person.  To do my own thing.  Alone.

And even though I was around my family, I still had the ability to coop myself up in my bedroom with a movie or book.  I could do anything and everything I wanted behind my closed door.  And even though I was alone- I wasn’t really alone.  I was still in a house full of people.  Oddly enough, it made being an introvert that much easier.  I still had that daily connection with people that love me, and people that I love.

Last summer my parents bought a house.  In November I moved in to that house as a tenant.  And while I do enjoy the time that I get to spend by myself doing my own thing, sometimes it gets lonely.  Not always, but sometimes.

It makes me reminisce about my best friend in high school.  Have you ever noticed how the most quiet girls always seem to make friends with people who are crazy and offbeat and incredibly LOUD?  Well that was me in high school.  My best friend was crazy and wacky and pulled me from my shell more than she will ever know.  For anyone that has read (or seen the movies) Anne of Green Gables, she was my bosom friend.  The one person in the world that I could tell anything to- no judgment.  And sure, we had our arguments, what hormonal teenage girlfriends don’t?  But at the end of the day, she was as close as a sister, and I would have done anything for her.

That’s not to say that she was my only friend in high school, because I had a wide circle of friends back then.  Even in college, I made some amazing friends.  But as we grow up and move on- as our lives change and circumstances change- sometimes we lose touch along the way.

And ever since I moved ‘home’, friends are something that I have been severely lacking.  I don’t admit this to elicit pity, because that’s just not me.  But as a general rule it seems like people after college meet in one of two places, work and bars.

My workplace isn’t exactly conducive to meeting people my age and the bar scene isn’t really mine.

So where does that leave me?

Especially when my main interests are reading and writing.  Not exactly big friendship builders there.  Not when you live in a small town and go to a small church with an almost nonexistent young adult population.  There’s not much in the way of book clubs or writing groups- both of which I have looked into starting in the past and couldn’t generate the interest.

BUT! That’s very soon going to change (I hope).  Of the young adults that ARE in my church, along with some other interested people and my dad (who is a pastor… I don’t think I’ve mentioned that yet… anywho!) we are starting a young adult thing.  I only call it a thing because I honestly feel like it is going to be so much more than a church service, although that is the initial plan.  I really want it to become this massive group of young adults that do more than just hang out at bars (which will not be on the itinerary).  And it excites me because in my normal day to day life, I really don’t have a ton of interaction with people my age, and I’ve grown to just have this ache for it.  For that sense of community, for the relationships.  I don’t necessarily miss high school or college, but I miss what they do.  I miss the community of diverse people that those places bring together.

That kind of brings me back to my whole alone vs lonely thing.  Because I have an incredibly hard time believing that just because I am single means that I should be lonely.  And as I said before, it’s not something that I feel very often, but when it hits me, it seems to be like a punch to the gut- stealing my breath and my resolution to do much more than wallow.

I think that part of the reason why it is so hard to distinguish between alone and lonely is that we were never really meant for either.  In the Bible one of the very first things God said about men was “It is not good for man to be alone.”  And so, out of Adam he created Eve.  And there they were- the very first love story.

Down through the years family relationships have changed dramatically.  It used to be that a woman would live at home until she was married.  And often even after she was married the family ‘clans’ all lived close to one another.  Women cooked and baked and sewed and had all of these bonding activities to do together on a daily basis.  Women back then did everything together.  They had that closeness, that bonding.  And then somewhere over the last 100 years all of that changed.  Women started leaving home during adolescence.  Going to college and having jobs outside the house.  There was a dynamic shift in gender roles.  Women became progressive.  We became strong.  We became ‘equal’.

And while there is nothing wrong with equality (trust me, I have no desire to revert our society back to what it was in earlier centuries) we as women have lost something along the way.  Remember when I said that we as women have an intense desire to have another person ‘get’ us in a real and deep way?  Well, why does that person have to be a man?

Let’s be honest here for a moment.  There are jokes and songs and movies up the wazoo about how men just don’t ‘get’ women.   You’ve got:

What Women Want
Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus

A woman is mystery
A man just can’t understand
Sometimes all it takes to please her
Is the touch of your hand
And other times you gotta take it slow
And hold her all night long
Heaven knows there’s so many ways
A man can go wrong
-Billy Currington ‘Must Be Doin’ Somethin’ Right

Men, on the whole don’t understand what makes us tick.  They don’t understand the mood swings or the emotions.  They can’t comprehend the desire to be thought of as beautiful, or why we change our minds and our hairstyles so frequently (which I sometimes don’t even understand myself, to be honest).

But where does it say that a man has to be a woman’s everything?  Why does he have to be her husband/boyfriend and also best friend, confidant, lover, therapist?  When we rely on one person for so much, it’s no wonder they don’t understand what we want half the time.  No person can fill all of those roles all of the time without a mistake here and there.

But having someone to lean on, a ‘partner’ throughout life, is definitely something that can be achieved.  But not without a little help from our friends.  As women, we need to learn to trust our female friends.  We need to be careful what information we give out to people.  We have to invest our time in people, but that doesn’t always include giving them our hearts.

And this is the problem that I have always seemed to have in the past.  When it comes right down to it, despite the fact that the Bible tells us to guard our hearts, it is something that I so infrequently do.  I’m not talking about being overly emotional (although I am that too often) I’m talking about letting the walls down for every person that shows an interest.  And those walls can be physical, or they can be emotional.  I think a major problem in our society today is not only that women so freely give their bodies away, but also that they so freely give their hearts.

The heart of a woman is sacred and special.  It deserves to be cherished and protected with as much fervor as her body.  There is a reason that our hearts are tender.  We shouldn’t let society and enemies and hate harden our hearts, because if we do that, we lose something so special.  In Matthew 5, Jesus said “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

Being alone isn’t an excuse to give ‘the goods’ away for free.  And again, this applies to physical and emotional goods.  In the past, I would definitely categorize myself as someone that holds on too much, I invest far too much into people that don’t return my affections.  I give my heart when I should guard it.  And in the end, I get a broken heart and a feeling of such intense loneliness, that I don’t think anything will ever be the same again.  And while the feeling dissipates, there is always a part of me that misses that person.  Maybe that’s what this year is really about for me.  Not only just taking a break from men, but finding a way to guard my heart through a sea of uncertainty.  Because not every story has to end in heartbreak.  But somehow, I always manage to let it be that way.  So here’s to a year of being on guard.

Touché!  (yeah yeah, lame I know.  That’s just me. Nerd and all.)

Be brave,