Love Letter to the Lonely

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.

Friend,

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.

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,

Kait 


Remember, your pain isn’t wrong or a weakness. If you’re lonely and need to talk to someone, there are people available to you.
National Suicide Prevention Hotline:
Call 1-800-273-8255
For LGBTQ:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/lgbtq/
For Youth:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/youth/
For Loss Survivors:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/loss-survivors/
For the Native American community:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/native-americans/
For Veterans:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/veterans/
For Deaf/Hard of Hearing:
https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/help-yourself/for-deaf-hard-of-hearing/

 

birthday lesson #28: who am i, again?

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I turn twenty eight this week.

Last Sunday at church all the songs I led for worship echoed the seasons, the way our lives shift and change and become something different every now and then. We all remembered there in that space that if life is one thing, it is not boring.

And every year we are reminded of those seasons on the one day that celebrates that moment we were born, that space where we entered into the world of oxygen and music and sight and miracles.

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Last week, we got a batch of files back from a photo shoot  with our friend Connor, and I as pulled up the pictures of myself, I became so nervous and embarrassed, sitting there at the computer with all my guys– my husband and our two sons next to me.

And I realized that there is this disconnect between who we think we are and who everyone else sees us as–

it’s so multi-leveled, of course; and with the continual advent of social media, it becomes more difficult, because we give the world the view we think the world wants of who we are and we hope to be.

So it’s good timing, then, that I turn twenty eight soon and that fall is coming to show me something new of myself.

I told my family that I wanted practical gifts that reflect my Native American heritage. I want to visit some tribal sites and hike places in Georgia where my ancestors once walked.

I look at these pictures of myself and my family and realize how old I look, how different I look from the 27 year old that I was or the 19 year old who got married eight years ago and was changed forever.

As an early gift I received moccasins from my mom, and so I place them at the floor by my bed and slip them on in the mornings, remembering that ritual is something sacred to me now, in a way that is different than before– a lesson learned.

As we grow older, we collect lessons– we learn and we mistake and we learn again, and if we’re lucky we recognize that there is grace in all of it.

When I was very young, I learned lessons of giving and sharing and being part of a family.

In adolescence I learned grief, the hard pain of losing someone close and steady, the lesson of finding God where I did not know God could draw near.

And then I got married, and I learned that God is different and bigger and more kind than I’d ever thought, that those kindnesses could help me love a spouse and one day bring children into the world.

When I had children, the lessons became more tangible and they humbled me deeper, to the most closed-off parts of myself. They taught me all over again that I am like the child as I lean into my own children, that curiosity is our best guide.

Last year I became an in-the-process-of-being-published writer with Paraclete Press, and I learned that life is never what I expect and God is Mystery, always full, always life, always more.

And the lesson for this year, for the first day of my 28th round of 365 days?

This lesson is to ask who I am again.

And perhaps that’s the ultimate lesson, after all, but for this particular year I’m asking who I am as a Native American woman, as a Christian, as a person being molded into a craft, as a wife, as a human who holds a sacred soul that needs to be listened to.

I’m learning to take my health seriously, to rest and breathe deep and enjoy quiet in a new way.

And I’m holding onto that hope that lessons find me year after year, decade after decade, mysterious secrets revealed little by little, puzzle pieces fitted together each day that I take the time to ask the questions and ache for a fuller living.

A happy birthday, indeed.

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Coming Alive Inside Your Own Skin

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Can you imagine something with me?

Imagine that you were created to be the person you are today. Imagine that your skin is fit to you just as it should be, that you’ve got traits and characteristics that are yours because they are what make you, unashamedly, you.

The problem is, we see ourselves reflected a little too often in some else’s mirror; we find our uniqueness shadowed under someone else’s “normal.”

This last weekend, we attended the Stone Mountain Indian Festival and Pow-wow.

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We watched dancers and listened to drums and booming baritone voices mix with shrilling high notes.

We looked at jewelry from South and Central America.

We walked inside a tipi, gawked at a giant stuffed bear standing tall near a blazing fire.

But the dancing.

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The Dance of Butterfly Wings
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Potawatomie/Northern America Dance
I’ve never seen such colors, never come so alive to something so deep in myself.

They were moving in the way that I thought I ought to have been for years, but haven’t known how.

I’ve been a Native American my whole life, Citizen Potawatomi Band and Cherokee out of the southern Oklahoma plains.

I’ve always belonged to this skin with these high cheek bones and this dark hair.

But now, it seems I’m running full speed out of the shadows of who I thought I was, running to see and know and experience more of my present identity–more of who God reminds me to be.

And I pray that life won’t run out before I get there, because there is so much to learn for us, so much to venture into and embrace about who God asks us to be in those quiet and open places.

I watched my oldest son dance in the middle of a circle of Aztec dancers, shuffling his feet to the beat of the drum.

These are the things that make him come alive.

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Somewhere along the way, we leave bits of ourselves behind. They get shuffled underneath something else, layered in with the babel of voices that tell us who we should  be.

Erika Morrison, in her book Bandersnatch, puts it like this:

“…the Christian traditions are often afflicted with a pandemic of uniformity. Many of us in it are afraid to venture outside the norm even when our whole beings ache to break prototype. We were fashioned for the blazing glory of a divergent God to be displayed within the collection of us.”

I am in my 27th year of life, and God tells me again who I am. He speaks to me in the things He’s always spoken to me, but I see it all afresh.

He tells me who I am when I see a turquoise stone or a firing flame, when I hear a drum or see an eagle feather.

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When I sway in worship, lift my voice, put on my fringed boots, or braid my hair– He’s calling me into myself, back to the people who have always belonged to me, back to my very own DNA.

Those things that  I lost for a few years, He’s gently pulling me back to with grace on His fingertips.

And Eliot dances. He dances at church, and now he does the dance of the Aztecs, the dance that thanks the deer for their gifts, the dance that thanks God for His acts of mercy towards us.

Eliot dances, and I cannot and will not say no, because it is in his skin to find God in the movement, and to find God in the hum of violin strings and in the white of the nighttime moon’s gaze.

Do you remember that scene in Disney’s version of the classic tale Beauty and the Beast, when Beast’s entire body fills with rays of light right before he transforms?

That’s how I feel now– like God has cracked open every part of me to let light in and back out again, and I just rest and breathe and let the transformation swallow me whole.

How magical is this King, that He takes our tiny stuff and makes us Kingdom-sized, ablaze with glory and radiant with light?

How gracious is His love, that He doesn’t desire uniformity in us, but for each of us to dance our own dance, to embrace our very own identity, to call out the pieces of ourselves that make us exactly who we are in all our individual, radiant, and curious glory.

Kingdom come, I say.

And as it comes, may it beckon us to come alive inside our own skin.

Hallelujah and Amen.