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! ūüôā

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 darkРto 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

One of those pre-birthday posts where I whine about being single

Soon, I will be thirty-two years old.  Wowza.  How in the world did that happen?  I mean, theoretically I understand that every twenty-four hours the earth does a pirouette around the sun and eventually that adds up to a long dance.

But still.

Usually every time January 17th rolls around I re-evaluate the year that just flew by, and I usually feel pretty bummed about all that I¬†haven’t accomplished. ¬†This year, I’m trying to celebrate all the joyous events that came about in 2013: it was another year of OCD being under my heel, I got my first book deal, I won the Katherine Paterson Prize, I started blogging for the OCD Foundation. ¬†That’s exciting stuff!

Still single.  Always single.

I know thirty-two is not that old, but please remember that I both went to and now work for a Christian college. ¬†Do you know what that means? ¬†“Ring by Spring” is the [only half-joking] tagline, and all these little virgins are running around dying to have sex. ¬†Again, I’m only half joking.

I’ve watched nearly¬†all of my college friends get married. ¬†I am the only unmarried roommate (of eight) from my Moyer Hall days, the only unmarried roommate (of something like 12-14 [it was like a revolving door]) of my Lodge days. ¬†I have watched high school freshmen grow through their high school years, graduate, come to Northwestern, fall in love, and get married under my nose. ¬†I¬†blink, and they who were once children are wearing white and saying vows.

It’s okay. ¬†Tonight it’s okay, at least.

It helps to have a book deal. ¬†It almost feels like an excuse. ¬†(This is the first Christmas in a long while I didn’t get asked if I had a boyfriend … we talked about the book deal instead. ¬†PRAISE GOD.) ¬†I know I don’t need to have an “excuse” for not being in a relationship … but sometimes it feels that way. ¬†Just being honest.

In the nearly eleven years since college, I have learned vicariously through my friends just how difficult marriage is. ¬†(Like, really, really hard.) ¬†I’ve watched friends go through difficulties, separations, divorces that shatter my heart. ¬†I am glad I didn’t marry young. ¬†Not that it is wrong to marry young, but I’m such a very, very different person now than I was in college. ¬†And I’m more emotionally stable, slower to anger, quicker to administer grace.

Anyway, to summarize this, I wish I was in love. ¬†Heck, I’d settle for just having a crush on someone who wasn’t a fictional character. ¬†But I’m also okay (tonight, at least) and not wasting my singleness.

jackie is single