Friday, October 07, 2005

Loneliness and solitude

A question was asked on one of my email lists: " I wonder if one clue to a possible vocation as a Solitary is a preference for solitude, or at least large amounts of time that way? For me, that is not a sacrifice, but a pleasurable gift. "

I have no idea. I have read in a few places, forget where that some hermits are in fact extraverts. I would have thought introversion would be the primary prerequisite for the solitary life, but I may well be wrong about that.

The question " Is loneliness a pat of our individual solitary experience?" asked earlier this week has really caught at me. I am assuming that the person who asked really meant *loneliness*, that experience of feeling isolated from the rest of world.

In my life I experience solitude and I experience loneliness. I often experience loneliness while out in public. For months now I have been going to church on Thursday mornings to make things for the Christmas Arts, our church's major fundraiser. as the newest and youngest (at 55!)member of the Christmas Arts, I am also the most isolated. I have worked for months by myself on some angels with 'tude. I have sat at my table alone surrounded by other tables full of chattering women having fun catching up with each other.

This hurt and I didn't feel very welcome, but slowly oh so slowly, as I continued to come and work on my project, more and more of the women gradually warmed up to me and would stop by for a quick chat. Also as my project developed, i needed a whole table to myself as it really needed spreading out!!!

I also noticed at lunch time that people who worked together at a table also ate lunch together and as I had no group, I decided that I would eat lunch at a different table every week. at first i could see that people thought I was intruding but i decided that was their issue not mine and that if I was going to be a part of Christmas Arts, they would just need to realize I'd have to sit somewhere to eat lunch with them.

Now that the project is nearing completion, I am surrounded by the Christmas arts ladies who want to see what it is that I have accomplished this week. My angels with 'tude, even if i do say so myself, are spectacularly beautiful.

I digress.

The thing is, I often choose solitude over assuaging loneliness in the usual manner of filling up my time with people. I now frequently have the opportunity to spend more time out with people and I chose not to develop relationships from acquaintance into friendship because I would not have as much solitude. Sure, there is loneliness and grief.

It's hard to come into church of a Sunday morning and sit alone in a pew. I get there early because I like to pray in silence in that environment and then concentrate on the prelude our organist always plays so beautifully. I am often one of the first people there. Pews fill up around me, but I am often alone.

There was a time in my life when I would go home and weep over that. But now I realize that the Holy Spirit and I are together shaping my life independent of the considerations of others. I have somehow arrived at a place in my life where the Lord's concerns are truly first in my life... not what others think or want of me. And if a certain amount of loneliness is the result of these choices, then I recognize it as part of the cost of living the sort of life I consider most worth living.

And as it often happens, mornings, which are the hardest part of the day for a depressed are also the parts of the day when I feel the most lonely. This is true of all of us with depression... there is something about morning that is **unbearably** difficult. I wake up most mornings with a feeling of deep bereavement and grief, sadness too deep for words.

I have learned, finally!!! to respect my process and have a slow morning. A cup of tea and read some email before prayer, for instance might sound ludicrous for some, but it gets me over that shock of waking up, let's me know I am not all alone in the world, trapped and abandoned and eases me into the day and then I can go to prayer with a glad heart.

I have recently made some decisions which will cut in on my solitude and my slow mornings... I have managed to join the Y for only $18 as month and am doing a water exercise class and some guided exercises on the scary machines. I need to lose weight, get fit, get lower numbers (cholesterol, triglycerides, blood pressure, etc. But I believe ultimately this sacrifice is worth it. It ios tricky getting my balance back again, but I will eventually.

And the thing is about my loneliness, as I turn my attention to prayer, lectio, holy reading, knitting the prayer shawls, any of the discomfort of loneliness itself fades away to be replaced with a sort of quiet gladness in the company of our Lord.

Facing up to these real considerations, I learned that while I may pursue a solitary life, I am not a hermit.