The Loneliness Map

The other night, I was talking to my friend about loneliness, how the experience of it has morphed for me over the years. This is a post I can write tonight because tonight I actually don’t feel lonely. It gives me perspective.

So I wrote up what follows, and then, upon re-reading it, realized that I am probably describing all of these ages from the perspective of being 36. I see age 16 so differently now, 20 years out, but at the time, would I have described it as torment? Probably.

I don’t want to shrug off any pain of Younger Me, but I also do want to accept all the growth I’ve experienced over the years. With that said, I present to you a mini-timeline of my experience with feeling lonely. Gosh, there is so much more to be said, but I really did just want to type up a little thing to see how it compared to others’.

Now I think I’ll probably show it to my therapist! 🙂

connor-wells-534089-unsplashLoneliness at 11: beginning to recognize that my thought process was very different from friends my age (i.e. undiagnosed OCD)

Loneliness at 16: melodramatic tears over the boy to whom I was “just a friend”

Loneliness at 22: perpetual bridesmaid/wedding guest, delighted for my girlfriends who were the most gorgeous brides– but a little wistful, wondering when I’d have my own special someone

Loneliness at 25: too throttled with anxiety to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 28: too excited about writing to care too much about being single

Loneliness at 31: gobsmacked to see my friends celebrating 10-year anniversaries, changed from wondering when I’d have my own special someone to if I would at all, loneliness became an actual physical pain

Loneliness at 36: almost unbearable when it hits

What about you? What ages were milestones?

Four Thoughts on the Writing Life

writinglifeIt’s so lonely.

Writing is quite solitary. Even though I am part of a writing community– and have so much support and collaboration with dear friends– in the end, I have to do the work alone. I can’t explain just how alone I have felt over the last month or so, especially being single. Theoretically, I understand that even if I were dating or married, I would still have to do the hard work of revisions on my own, but … I’ve felt a little untethered and singular. Very, very much solo in this treacherous territory.

It’s so hard.

Harder than I ever imagined. I’m not referring only to the actual act of writing here … but to the head game. I get to a point where I start to hate my manuscript … my beloved story that I’ve poured my soul, energy, and tears into. Do you know how crippling that is– how it folds your spirit into such ugly shapes that you worry you’ll never sort yourself out again? I’m back in therapy, folks.

But I still want it.

Things got pretty dark– to the point where I started questioning my identity as a writer, ultimately asking myself, Is this really what I want? There, in the darkness, I saw a pinprick of light: the certainty that my answer was yes.

And I’m not really alone.

My lovely new therapist asked me to picture the Holy Spirit sitting beside me, looking at our manuscript, saying, Look what we’ve made. It made me bawl. Of course. I so desperately want to honor God with my fiction. The thought of him looking on my manuscript with pride was such a reminder to me that no matter how lonely this road seems, I have a faithful companion.

Related posts:
Writing is Hard … but Worth It (I Think)
Writing and/or Life, Both Hard
The Good & Bad of Writing
Being Single and Writing a Book

Image credit: Unsplash, modified by me

Reblogged: All the Single Ladies

My friend Kristin is like a sage to me.  We were friends in college; then, my senior year, she was my supervisor in the campus writing center.  She left Minnesota for grad school– first out to LA, then to Chicago– before coming back to teach English at our alma mater, where I work in the admissions office.  It was during round two of her life in Minnesota that I really got to bond with her.  She knows scripture so well, and she is unbelievably wise.  And really gracious.  She is someone whom I can talk to about all my weird, really-out-there ideas without judgment.  Instead, she pours wisdom into my life.

She has been living in Nairobi, Kenya, for the last year and a half, and she recently blogged about an issue that I am really feeling at this time of the year.  I hope you’ll hop over to her blog to read it.

Here’s the first little bit:

All the Single Ladies: Facebook Holiday Survival Guide

Sometimes, it feels as if facebook is trying to tell me something. This morning, for instance, posts and links accumulated such that I felt like a detective at the end of a mystery novel—all the pieces were falling into place. 
Post One: “He asked. I said yes.”
I’m not usually overly sentimental about such things, but this friend, who is about ten years older than I am, has been a particular influence on my life for the past couple years. This is often the case when you are a single adult woman and you know other single adult women who are older than you–especially happy, balanced single women who just like you don’t want to always be single but still manage to be, well, happy and balanced in their singleness. At some point, the age differentiation becomes very important–after this point, when people younger than you get married, you get angsty (why don’t they just wait their turn, for Pete’s sake?); when people older than you get married, you get hopeful (see? it’s possible!). Selfish, yes, but also true.
For the rest of her holiday survival guide, click here!