I’ve been thinking about you today. I’m thinking about all the ways we get things wrong on this earth, in this country.
I’m thinking about all the different forms oppression can take.
I’m thinking about the reality that we’ve created a social environment in the United States (and in other countries) that doesn’t lend grace and compassion well.
We criticize each other’s weakness. We berate one another’s stories and experiences.
I’m thinking about mental health and self-care. I’m thinking about the work of listening to the needs of the soul.
What does it mean to be lonely?
I’ve heard so many times the phrase “we are lonely, but not alone.”
But it’s okay to feel alone, right?
We’ve created a world that says loneliness is our fault, mental illness is either a myth or a problem that we must suffer with or fix quietly, so we don’t disrupt the way of things.
But loneliness is not wrong.
Depression, anxiety or any host of feelings are not sources of shame, though we shame one another for experiencing them.
We shame one another for going to therapy, for taking medications, for admitting that we are tired. We forget our humanity for a moment. We forget what it looks like to hold one another. We forget that self-care is not laziness.
And we forget that the voice of Love is everything.
And our work right now is to break the chains of shame for ourselves and for one another.
Friend, I want you to know that loneliness is not a sin or human flaw.
It also isn’t just a lie that we believe, because loneliness is real. We see it in ourselves and in others everyday, in every work environment, in every community, on every street corner.
So what if we thought of every space as an opportunity to commune?
What if our digital and physical spaces were considered sacred, just as everyone who inhabits them is sacred?
What if we live in such a way that even our online interactions create space without reducing one anther to labels of weakness or unworthiness?
What if we learn to tell ourselves that we are worthy of love?
Recently in a therapy session, I tried to explain the constant tension I walk as a woman who is Potawatomi and white, Christian but not colonized, American but also indigenous.
I feel like I am never fully one thing or another.
And while it’s lonely, the more I share my story, the more people I find who feel the same way, who are fractured, who are trying to find their footing in a world that doesn’t accept some part of who they are.
Then I remember something.
I remember the stories of Jesus, a man who seemed to be lonely a lot.
He went to quiet places. He had some close friends, but he still struggled.
“Will they ever understand?” he quietly prayed.
“Can this cup be taken away? I’m tired.”
Many of the world’s greatest leaders admit to loneliness. And in those spaces, a lot of soul care is required to remember what it means to be a leader, what it means to carry compassion and empathy as a model for others.
But what about us? What about our daily lives? What about those moments when we are too weary to do the work?
Friend, I want you to know that I’m not expecting anything from you, but to learn to love yourself and then work on the empathy and compassion that fuels you to love the world.
This is not strictly linear work, but cyclical, seasonal, an ebb and flow that doesn’t always make sense.
If you grew up in a religious or social environment that wanted rule following over love of self, you know that even as an adult it’s hard to unlearn those thought and heart patterns. I’m still working, and I bet you are, too.
But it’s possible. And it’s not selfish.
So we re-wire the way we think about ourselves. And over time, we re-wire the way we think of others.
But it doesn’t mean that loneliness isn’t a constant companion. It means that while loneliness is there with us, we are still called.
We still have important things to contribute to our communities, to our families, to the world. We still have good work to do, and that work is connected to resting in the faithfulness of this earth that we get to inhabit.
Maybe the trees can remind us that we are loved and valued.
Maybe the bird on the windowsill or the constant rising and falling tide can tell us that the world wants to continue her work because we are a part of it.
Maybe then, we’re not quite as lonely as we think.
Maybe creation meets us in our loneliness and whispers I’m still here, after all these years.
And maybe the fact that we all feel loneliness in a spectrum of ways means that loneliness is universal.
Maybe that brings us closer to one another, closer to the stories we read about a man named Jesus who was lonely because he never quite fit in the spaces he inhabited.
May we never fear our loneliness.
May it lead us both into ourselves and back out again.
May it lead us into this world we inhabit, this world that inhabits us.
Until then, I guess what I’m trying to say is, you’re not so alone, after all, and neither am I.
All my love,