Could Loneliness Be Good for You?

Carla: My dear friend Tim Keel posted something on his blog that got me thinking differently about the issue of loneliness. You can read Tim’s post here (and I encourage you to read all the links, especially this one).

If you’ve spent any time here at the Mommy Revolution, you know that loneliness is one of those issues that keeps coming up. It seems to ripple in to all kind of other conversations–jealousy, community, boredom, the mundane details of maternal life. It’s a subject we could look at from several angles. But I think this one, this idea that there might be something redemptive in the midst of loneliness, is worth digging into.

I find that loneliness is one of the most pervasive issues I face as a mom. The irony of course is that I’m rarely alone. I have company in the shower (and not the fun kind of company), in the bathroom, in my bed, at my desk, when I’m trying to make lunch or read or get dressed or water the plants. And yet most days I feel such a deep sense of loneliness it almost makes me crazy. It’s why I’m addicted to Facebook. It’s why I get excited when the mail comes. It’s why I blog. I am starved for some kind of connection with other people, the kind that’s rich and meaningful and intimate.

This feeling isn’t the result of being an at-home mom, either. I felt the same way when I worked. In fact in some ways it was worse then because I was surrounded with potential connections that, for various reasons, never quite turned into what I longed for.

But Tim’s post has me wondering what I could learn about myself in the midst of this loneliness. I don’t see it going anywhere anytime soon, but I do think that there might be a way to reconsider loneliness through the eyes of redemption. But I also know that I need some help from you smart women (and Steve), to help me figure out what that might look like.

So here’s what I want to know: What have you discovered about yourself, about God, about life, about anything, in the midst of loneliness?

Caryn: I’m seriously having a hard time responding here. After reading your entry and the links, I just want to curl up in some corner and cry. Lonliness is probably THE big issue of my life. The thing I wrestle with the most. The thing I worry about most for my kids.

But, alas, as you and your friend Tim and the other guy so beautifully shared, loneliness is also one of the biggest blessings. God has used it probably more than anything else to shape me into who he wants me to be. It’s almost weird, too, how he uses it. That it’s through times of desperate aloneless and the resulting deep introspection that has turned me less inward and more outward. God has used my own loneliness to soften me, to sharpen me, and to–as it’s been pointed out–connect with others.

And beyond a blessing it also certainly is a Muse. The least lonely years of my life (my early marriage, my work-in-an-office-career-years) were my least creative. I only wrote when I had to, and much prefered editing other people’s stuff because I just didn’t have any “juice” of my own. And that juice comes from loneliness—among other things. (FYI: this is not a sex reference. I’m not like you, Carla, with your little shower imagery up there…).

So, yes, I think loneliness can be very good. I now like it a little even—in certain circumstances—because I know it’s a gift of sorts. Something that if we allow God into, he can use and redeem and work with in so many ways.

Sorry. I seriously am feeling all emotional and the need to cry, but I have to run to a meeting. I do have a story about being at the pool today and feeling all lonely seeing the other moms talk, but maybe I’ll just comment that later.

Thank you for starting this one, Carla. I feel sad that you were lonely at a time when we worked together. I’m so glad, though, that out of our own crazy loneliness we could do this Revolution thing and make at least ourselves feel less lonely. We’re in this crazy together!! With all you Revolutionaries too!

Carla:  I’m sorry to make you almost cry Caryn. I think that there is, as the second link above says, a very fine line between the redemptive loneliness and the horrible loneliness that no one ought to have to live through. For me, the trick will be learning to tell the difference.

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