Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Auntie Seraphic & Living With Loneliness

Dear Auntie Seraphic,

Over the past few years, I had managed to forget that I was lonely in my singleness, which recently got me into a bit of trouble (thankfully, only a bit). In recovering from this trouble, I have been learning that it is not in forgetting or ignoring that loneliness but in coming to terms with it that one is able to live a healthy single life. Now I get to learn how to live as a lonely-yet-healthy Searching Single, and I'm curious to see how that shapes up.

I expect you might have some wisdom to impart on the subject of living with loneliness, and I would love to hear it. I know this isn't your typical Auntie Seraphic letter, but I look forward to reading your response.

Living With Loneliness

Dear LWL,

Loneliness is so much a part of the Single life that an entire section of my book Seraphic Singles is entitled "Loneliness Happens."

Although everyone in every state of life sometimes feels lonely, I must say that I feel loneliness a lot less now as a happily married woman than I did when I was Single. However, the loneliness I felt as a Single, divorced-and-annulled person was nothing to the loneliness I felt as an unhappily married person. There is no worse loneliness than being in a marriage with someone you dislike and who quite obviously is disappointed in the reality of you.

So the first thing to say is that there are worse kinds of loneliness than the loneliness you feel because you are not married.

The second is, of course, that everyone feels lonely at least part of the time.

The third is that having a boyfriend or a husband is not the great cure-all for loneliness, although being married to the right person certainly keeps it at bay quite a lot of the time.

For some reason probably having to do with the odd nature of teenage brains, I was sure that the deep, deep loneliness I felt at 16 would be alleviated if I had a boyfriend. Logically, what I needed to do was find more friends, and hang out with lots of friends, instead of pining for my best friend, who was always out with her boyfriend. And, indeed, eventually I joined the local student pro-life movement, and then I barely had time to be lonely. My life was jam-packed with people and activities.

The fourth is that loneliness has its bright side, which is that it forces the lonely person to cry out to God and beg for God's company in one's aloneness. Loneliness is a holy suffering, mirroring Our Lord's ultimate suffering on the Cross, which seems not to have been His battered body's war with gravity, but His sense of having been left totally alone: "My God, My God, why have You abandoned me?"

The fifth is that, aside from its spiritual opportunities, too much loneliness is a dangerous thing. The last time I dated a man of bad character, my judgement was swayed by the anger, resentment and loneliness I felt when my male religious classmates were sent to exotic lands to do very meaningful work over the summer, and I was assigned an almost meaningless make-work parish placement a twice-daily two-hour bus journey from my home. It was absolutely ridiculous, and today I think that was a terrible position for a lay woman to be in. (For true loneliness and humiliation, try standing outside a church, trying to gladhand parishioners like a trendy priest while they file by with embarrassed eyes averted.)

Therefore, I encourage Singles to reduce your loneliness as much as you can without forgetting its central holiness. Single people can live with those family members you get along with well or with friends. You can adopt pets. You can go to daily Mass. You can get involved with MeetUp groups or parish activities. You can use the internet to chat with others as long as you remember that this is a poor second-best to real relationships. You can blog. You can read and research. You can take night classes. You can budget to take taxis instead of busses home at night. You can prepare for empty evenings with specially chosen CDs or DVDs. You can reach out to friends more often. You can pray. You can remember that God wants to be with you, and will be if you choose Him.

I hope this is helpful.

Grace and peace,


sanabituranima said...

Archbishop Fulton Sheen on lonliness http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KX-Htjo-Gxw

Jennifer said...

Loneliness also isn't always the worst option.

I remember a former boss asked if I was going to start dating again, a year after I'd broken up with a guy who had claimed he wanted to marry me (and who had bought the ring, and announced this to his family, talked with my dad - and then panicked and changed his mind) - and I recall that my answer was that a chronic, low level of loneliness was preferable to the sort of heartbreak I'd encountered thus far, so, no I wasn't planning to start dating again.

Fast forward almost 6 years, and that's still my answer, although at least now I leave myself open to the possibility of some nice man coming along and deciding I'm 'The One.'

But in all honesty, once you realize that relationships don't save you from loneliness, and you find ways of handling it when it comes along, it's really not the worst thing ever. And sometimes, it pushes you to grow in directions you might not have anticipated. :)

Maggie said...

today Fr. Z did another "good news" post in which people post joyful news from their lives. One of the comments was particularly beautiful; a woman wrote of suffeings in her life and how she has been able to offer them up for the Poor Souls. She included the humorous image: "' I amine as a could flies out of Purgatory it says, 'yahoo! Banjogirl offered up for me!'"
so similarly, we can offer up our lonliness for the good of others - on earth or beyond- for whom our sufering can be beautiful.

Maggie said...

d'oh! Silly autocorrect! Should be, ' I imagine that as a soul flies."

Alisha said...

I wholeheartedly second Jen's comment

Christine said...

@Jennifer - Thanks for putting it in perspective. <3