Why is Loneliness Difficult to Confess?

Why is Loneliness Difficult to Confess?

Olivia Laing describes loneliness as “difficult to confess; difficult too to categorize.  Like depression, a state with which it often intersects, it can run deep in the fabric of a person, as much a part of one’s being as laughing easily or having red hair.”  Laing’s words left me gasping, like a sucker punch to the gut.

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Favorite Part of the Day

Favorite Part of the Day

I started when my boys were quite young. 

My sons, 16 months apart, needed me at every 5-minute interval…or both at the same time. 

I started to see the days meld into one another, an endless sea of diapers and yoga pants.  I needed something, even just one thing to set them apart.  Each night before sleep, I’d write that one thing down in my journal.  That one thing I could hold on to for that day.

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Fruit Tastes Like Love

Fruit Tastes Like Love

No music.  No singing.  These were not women who would pat my red head as I passed them by or give me a little squeeze.  They didn’t pop a piece of ripe cantaloupe in their mouth as they chopped.  They simply cut, chopped, diced, sorted into dixie bowls.  This was the morning snack for the Vacation Bible School kids, including me.  Fruit I normally would not have a home.  Fresh fruit that was not from a tree in our yard was a treat, a luxury.  I looked forward to 10am when I’d be passed one of these bowls along with a little plastic fork. Was it duty?  Was it a job that needed to be done so they signed up to do it?  Was it an act of service to God?   Not sure which but with each bite, I felt loved.  

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Running Through Downtown Los Angeles

A few months before my 25th birthday I found myself fat and dumped.  I had to move out of the cottage that we shared and move into a series of temporary living situations that I hated.  In an effort to get out of the house and shed some of the extra pounds I took up running. 

Anyone who knew me before age 25 might find this comical.  I was never sporty and had such a severe case of asthma that a good joke could send me into a dreadful attack.  Yet I needed an outlet, something to get me through the pain of the break up and the stress of moving forward alone.

I began at the start of summer, in the evenings after work.  At first I could not run past two driveways on the suburban sidewalks without having to stop to catch my breath.  By the end of the summer, I was running two miles without stopping.  My asthma has rarely bothered me since. 

In the 15 plus years since I have taken up running, I have moved to 3 different states. Travelled to many others on vacation. Nothing thrills me more than to explore my new surroundings by lacing up my shoes.  I have run Central Park in NYC, rural Easter Oregon and Downtown Los Angeles. 

When I lived in a loft in Downtown LA, I would run each evening before dinner.  My husband and I lived in a loft located adjacent to Skid Row where I worked with homeless women and children.  Each evening as I would run, the men who lived in cardboard boxes and tents along Spring Street would call out, “Here she is, right on time! You can set a clock to her”.  They’d clap and cheer as if I was in a marathon as I ran by.  One time I turned the corner and into the exhale of a man smoking PCP.  The route took me through the spectrum of social classes as I would run up Grand Ave, pass Disney Hall.  Men in tuxes and women in diamonds would stand at the crosswalk with me as they walked from dinner across the way to the symphony.  Dripping with sweat I’d turn up the Jay—Z in my headphones, embarrassed at the contrast in our scent.

There was one incident that always stayed with me.  Running near City Hall I noticed a young man, around 19, running parallel with me across the street.  Small and wiry, he was sobbing and appeared to have metallic paint over his eyes, nose and mouth.  He was running with determination toward the 101 freeway over pass.  I increased my stride and crossed the street to meet him before he reached the overpass.  “Hey!” I said with a small smile as I ran along side of him.  “I am just so sad!” he screamed sobbing.  We were on the bridge now. Without time to think I said “I know you are, sweetheart. I’m here.  I’m listening.”  I wanted to get him off that bridge.  He was clearly high.  “Let’s go sit down and talk”. Miraculously he back tracked back to City Hall with me and we sat for two seconds on a planter wall.  He sobbed something incoherent, got up and ran down the street. I had a good 40 pounds on him, there was no way I was catching up and I thought to myself, “how far am I actually going to take this?”  Shook up by the experience I went off to run an extra couple of miles.

I have slowed down in the past few years.  Unable to run as fast or as far as I once did, running continues to not only, help me work out things in my own mind, but to see past myself to people I wouldn’t normally interact with in the rest of my day to day life.  May I always be quick to see those around me.

 

 

 

Facts: The Gift of Self

Fact:  My Grandma and Grandpa got married on New Year’s Eve.

Fact:  I cannot swim.  Never learned

Fact:  I secretly enjoy ironing.

Fact:  I lost my glasses

Each morning when I wake up, I send an email to my friend, Gabrielle.  The subject line says “FACT”.  We simply type out a fact about us. 

Gabrielle and I went to school with each other for 8 years as children. She was a year ahead of me.  We knew of one another in our tiny private school but we did not often spend time with each other.  It wasn’t until junior high, that we were both thrown in together in a free period as teacher’s aides.  I quietly admired her poise and humor.  I thought she was too lovely, too good to be real friends with someone like me. I had the magic of the elective period alone with her to enjoy her.

Twenty-five years later we reconnected on Facebook. She revealed that she too had enjoyed that free period together and had admired me.  She suggested that we catch up on the last 25 years and in some ways, get to know one another, by sending each other a FACT each morning.  We surmised that both of our OCD laden, Type A personalities could keep up with the commitment.  We didn’t discuss how long we would do it, only that we would begin.  It has now been over 2 years.

We are both early birds, most mornings we send out our email in the 5 o’clock hour before I leave for my morning run.   Whoever sends their fact second, comments on the others and then shares her own.  It takes us each 2-3 minutes total.

At first our emails were basic details about us.  Most of our facts have a positive tone to them.  We share happy things.  We share highlights.  They began to change into what we looked forward to in the day ahead of us or the best of the day before.  They continued to evolve.  Sometimes deeper evaluations of our thoughts, fears, concerns.  This is where we have been able to get to know one another, understand each other.  She is an amazing person whom I hope to be more and more like.  Funny how even as adults, it’s terrific to have a role model of how to do things well.

I live with chronic depression.  A fact that was shared with Gabrielle a few months into this experiment.  I have been able to manage it for the most part with a combination punch of regular exercise, schedule and forcing myself to stay connected to community. Still there are usually several days a year that depression peaks it’s head out of the hole in the ground.  My sister recently pointed out that there has been fewer of these days.  I startled at that comment.  I looked over my calendar and journal, where I tend to document those down days to keep track of it.  She was right.  There have been far less of these days...in the last 2 years.  

Yes, I credit this experiment.

Each morning I pop out of bed and my first thoughts are of Gabrielle and what cheerful tid bit of my past day or the day to come I will share with her.  I know that if I delay in sending it, she will be concerned.  Not because of my depression but because of the regularity in which I usually send these out.  My immediate thoughts each morning are of something to be thankful for, look forward to and that someone cares about me.  It is a powerful notion, especially for someone for whom this does not come easily.  What a gift to give someone!  I don’t think she knows the power in this one act of curiosity, kindness and Type A at it's finest.  

I think this will be my fact tomorrow morning.