Alone or Lonely?

Alone or lonely? I can’t decide which one follows me. I have always liked to be alone, but this season is nothing like what I used to like. In college I would drive from California back to Nebraska to visit my mom, alone and many times with no music. The stillness and quiet was restful and refreshing. But this, this present aloneness is a mystery all its own.

Kara hated to be alone. Once after taking the Myers-Briggs personality test, she was angry because she wanted to be an introvert—she tested as an off-the-chart extrovert. She said she wanted to be an introvert because they seemed wiser to her; as an introvert I did not argue her assumption. I asked her, When was the last time you were alone?

She said, Yesterday—you and I went for breakfast! She honestly thought time with me was alone time! Not a bone in her body liked to be alone, and it was great.

In these recent months I have adjusted to being the only parent to my kids, the only one who enforces things like showers and brushing hair and teeth. Adjusting to the runaround of kids in school and sleepovers is exhausting. But the alone feeling is awkward, like unfinished business. I sometimes think this feeling will just go away, but I think it is making a home.

Alone but not lonely. Alone is an ache while lonely feels like something that can be fixed. My days and evenings are filled with friends, texts, and emails. The companion of kids, friends, and community cures my loneliness. In my experience, marriage—and now widowhood—is nothing like my experience as single. Now I know the loss of what I had, not the missing of what I expected something could be. Both are struggles, yet both paint a different picture.

At some level my aloneness will travel with me as a companion; we will be friends and live life together because I can only embrace it. Alone is not bad—it’s just different. Several months ago I went to a counselor, because that is what grieving people do. She said something that has stuck with me: she said that I was processing grief well but my struggle might be that I didn’t like grief.

I often function out of the idea that if I don’t like something, it must be wrong. I must fix what is broken so I can like this part of my life. Although to rid my life of grief and aloneness would not make me whole; embracing this with God’s grace allows me to see the beauty of God in grief. How many of our struggles entangle us because we assume that we are to like everything about our lives?

This life is a broken life with plenty of things we don’t like, and our goal should not be to like everything. Our aim is to see what can be redeemed, and to be faithful.

Matthew 28.20 ….I am with you always…..