Loneliness, the Great Illusion
I know. That picture of the chick on the subway looking hopeless and depressed is…well, depressing. Sorry. I don’t mean to depress you, but if you’re human, you’ve felt the way she looks at one time or another. We all have. Which is what brings me to the topic that’s been on my mind recently:
Loneliness is a bitch.
It’s true. I’ve become well acquainted with loneliness these past two years as a 40 something divorced woman with three kids and an extremely unsuccessful social/dating life. I mean, I’m tired. I teach seventh graders for Pete’s sake. I’m tired, and I’m not great at dating.
The whole thing can be exhausting. Re-introducing yourself, explaining your educational, relational, occupational history over and over again, knowing the whole time you’re being judged like a heifer at the county fair, not knowing if you’re going to win the grand prize or be shown the gate. Now add to that the fact that I got totally played in both my marriage and the one semi-serious post divorce relationship I’ve had, and I’m tempted to just forget the whole dating scene, buy another cat, a complete wardrobe of sweat pants, some knitting needles and yarn and call it a day! When you find out your husband had a secret girlfriend and your new boyfriend was swiping left and right your whole relationship, it is inevitably going to cause one to be jaded, cynical, and skeptical. These days, any one I date I assume is guilty of being a womanizer until proven innocent. I’m like freaking inspector gadget or Sherlock Holmes, constantly looking for clues and red flags signaling me to run away like the wind to prevent falling for another womanizing narcissist. I mean, I can’t even. It’s too much people. Too. Much.
God help me. He’s going to have to plop a man down right in front of me holding a sign that reads, “Yo. I’m the one.” Seriously. I’m great at wifeing and relationshipping, just not so great at the dating part. Being an introvert by nature, I find the whole thing a little bit nerve wracking. Especially after getting burned a few times, the thought of trusting anyone again can only be described as no less than terrifying. That being said, I end up being alone a lot. Like, literally alone. Sometimes I love being alone, but sometimes, it’s well, lonely. As much as my heart has healed the past two years, there are still moments when the loneliness hits me.
The truth is, we all feel lonely sometimes, but never have I felt more alone than the day I found out my then still husband was moving his girlfriend (the other woman kind) into the home we had lived in together for the past six years. So, add to the callous discard the swift replacement, and let’s just say I wasn’t feeling so great. We’ll call it my own personal pinnacle of loneliness. You know what I mean. You’ve had your own. We all have.
So, not only had it been my home and our family’s home for the past six years, we had also gotten engaged, very publicly engaged, right there in the living room in front of our fireplace, former Vice President Dan Quayle, current Congressman, local dignitaries, news media and all. If I wanted to really torture myself, I could even google the marriage proposal and watch it… All that to say, the house itself was a symbol of promises made and promises broken.
It made it all the more humiliating when the house and all of my hopes, dreams, and future ( I thought) came crashing down around me. As much as I had tried to hold it all together on my own, it’s hard to keep your boat from sinking while the person you’re in it with is constantly drilling holes in it faster than you can patch them and shovel the back water out into the ocean. My sinking ship went under, and it almost took me down with it. Thank God I had people who loved me just waiting to throw me a rope and a life preserver.
It was January of 2017 when I received that text message that stopped me in my tracks and sent my heart into the depths of despair. Actually the first reaction was shock: shock and disbelief. It said that he was moving her to Texas that week to live with him, and he thought he should let me know… Gee, thanks for the heads up…
So, pulling up to my old home to drop off my daughter on his weekend and seeing this other woman walk out of the door, made me feel lonelier and more rejected than ever. Not only was I alone, my ex already had someone else living in our former family home with him. Double whammy. Talk about loneliness giving you a good, swift, punch in the face. It took me down, and for a minute, I wasn’t sure if I even wanted to get back up at all. For a minute, I really wanted to quit, and the only thing keeping me from quitting was my kids and my faith.
At the time, it had been six months since we separated, and the whole time I prayed for God to turn my husband’s heart back to mine. I prayed for restoration of our marriage. I prayed like I have never prayed before. I prayed, and I believed that with God anything was possible.
I learned that sometimes, even though it may be possible with God, what you ask for may not be what is for your highest good. I learned that sometimes, the kindest answer God can give us, is, “No.”
We do it with our own kids. We tell them, “No!” even when they want something with all of their precious yet ignorant, immature hearts. We sometimes must tell them, “No,” because we love them with all of ours. We tell them, “No,” because even though they can’t see or understand it now, we know (thanks to our experience and wisdom) what is for their highest good. We do not thwart their requests because we are mean, spiteful, punishing disciplinarians.
We simply know better than they do what is for their highest good in the big picture of things.
In the moment, I just wanted my family back. I wanted my husband back. I wanted my life back to normal. I wanted the pain to stop. I wanted to be able to breathe again without feeling the huge weight of grief sitting on my heart.
I couldn’t see it until I had enough distance from it, that what had become my normal, wasn’t normal at all. It was far from normal, and as much as I was loyal to and loved my husband, he was toxic for me. My parents, sister, and best friend all tried to convince me that in the long run, what was happening was going to end up being the best thing that could have happened to me. It didn’t feel like it at the time, but they were 100% right. Because the truth is, as disrespectfully as I was treated, I never would have left.
I don’t blame my ex anymore. I don’t even blame the other woman. As a matter of fact, I should probably write them both a thank you note for setting me free. I realize that he was only doing what he knew how to do, following the only program he knew.
Now, I can see that the betrayal I had no control over ended up being the biggest blessing of my life.
It set me free.
While the grief of letting go was excruciating, I do realize today that it truly was for my highest good. I realized that God heard all of my prayers, saw all of my tears, and said no because he loves me. No longer do I live in an unpredictable world of chaos and drama where I was showered with unkind words and actions, random episodes of abandonment, habitually disrespected, and then treated as if I was “crazy” for having any sort of a normal reaction to it. I look back today, and I don’t feel like I lost anything except a constant barrage of bullshit. I look back today, and I wonder how in the world I ever thought that was love?
Today, I have peace, and while I do get lonely I would rather be alone than stuck in a life with someone who didn’t value or appreciate me.
Today, I would choose being alone over being with the wrong person any day of the week.
The day I read that text message from my ex, “I’m moving her to Texas to live with me,” I realized that God was answering my prayers with a, “No.”
In that moment, the rejection, the loneliness, the feeling of being so easily discarded and replaced sunk into my heart like a red Kool aid spill on a Bounty paper towel . I felt drenched in loneliness. It was all over me. It was inescapable. All this to say, if you are in the middle of such a time in your life, if you hold on, it is going to get better. It really is.
Loneliness, I’ve discovered, is just an illusion. Loneliness finds us and lies to us that there isn’t anyone there for us. It tells us no one cares. It tells us we are hopeless. It tells us we are alone in the world. It may even tell us that since person x,y, or z discarded us, that we are worthless.
Don’t believe those feelings.
For me personally, the best relief I got from the worst moments of loneliness was when I would retreat, close my door, and pray. It wasn’t pretty. It was ugly: ugly crying, Kleenex flying, grief. I poured my heart out to God, and I just kept believing that things were going to get better, and guess what? They did. It took almost two years to feel normal again, but things did get better.
The second best relief I found in those moments were the three people I knew I could call any time of day who know me almost better than I know myself. You need those people, and you need to remember you are never a bother or a nuisance to those people who really love you. Never did one of these people fail to make me laugh. They got me out of my head and reminded me who I was and who I was dealing with. In those moments, you must reach out. Put the ego aside, and make the call.
Now, I don’t want you to think I was walking around looking like a wreck. I looked really together. At work, I kept it completely professional. No one would have known I was getting into my car and crying all the way home every day. Looking at me, no one would have a clue what was going on inside my heart. I was really good at faking it and saying I was fine. I wasn’t fine. I was anything but fine, but we learn to lie and hide.
But just like we can learn to lie and hide, we can also learn to to find safe people to be honest and transparent with.
We’ve all felt lonely, and as long as we’re still breathing, we will definitely continue to have more of these moments. One of my goals through the process of grieving was to find a healthy way to manage those feelings.
The feeling of loneliness, while as seemingly palpable as being punched in the face with a strong ocean wave in the moment it sweeps over you , is just that: a feeling.
It was during these moments, that I learned a trick. I started stating the opposite of what I felt out loud. I started affirming the truth that I really wasn’t alone, ever.
“I trust you, Jesus. I trust you,” became my mantra in those moments. If I was alone, I said it out loud. If I was around other people, who obviously would think I had lost my ever living marbles if I started talking to myself out loud, I affirmed it silently in my heart. When fear would rise up in my heart, I reminded myself I had a higher power who had my back. I reminded myself there was One I could always trust.
If you aren’t a follower of Jesus, insert what works for your belief system: God, Source, your Higher Power, etc. If you believe at all in a higher power, you likely believe that source is where you came from. So, if you are a part of that source, in truth, you are a part of something bigger than yourself. You can’t be separated from your source, from God, when God is a part of you. It is impossible for you to be alone.
Another one of my mantras during the “letting go” era was, “I let go of everything not divinely designed for me, and the perfect plan for my life now comes to pass.” (Florence Scovel Shinn) Learning to truly let go was likely the most profound lesson I learned through divorce.
No matter what you may be going through, keep hanging on just like that lady in the picture is holding on to keep herself steady through the rough spots of her journey. One day, that lady is going to smile again. The loneliness train is going to come to a stop and open its doors into some place brighter and full of hope. Chances are, there are more than a few people who love you more than you could ever possibly know. Chances are, there’s likely someone waiting there who needs you and would never be the same without you. Chances are, if you just look up, someone’s there just waiting to throw you a lifeline.
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