I’m having trouble with loneliness lately.
And this annoys me. I’m an Introvert! I love solitude! I have absolutely no desire to get a pet (I’ve spent enough of my life — including childhood — caring for others). I don’t want to add more activities to my life. (I have added some, and it’s been a good thing, but just to add activities? No! I want more alone time.)
There are reasons why loneliness has become a problem recently. My youngest turned 21 and started his last semester of college. My oldest lives far away and is changing gender. I’m missing being married, missing my ex-husband-as-he-was or at least as-I-thought-he-was. And I recently had something happen that discouraged me about the chance I will ever find an available man who loves the Lord and wants to follow him.
Mind you, I know good men, intelligent men, attractive men exist — I see plenty of them at church, devoted to their wives. And I’m not wanting to be envious or covet other people’s husbands. If they showed any signs of preferring me to their wives, they would instantly lose all my respect! But it is easy to look at other people’s situations with envy (not reality) and at my own past with nostalgia (not reality) and forget about all the good things in my life now.
I’m coming up on 10 years since my ex-husband moved out. And I maintain that those are NOT wasted years.
But it dawned on me that I was always a person who invested a lot of my purpose in my marriage. I always wanted to be a wife and mother, and became both relatively young. And I wanted to stay home with my kids (always hoping that would give me time to be a writer, I have to admit). I did end up working part-time, but I didn’t really have a career until after my husband left. And I happily moved around the world wherever my ex-husband’s job sent us. Mind you, that was to Germany, a place I loved wholeheartedly! But I didn’t have to work out where I wanted to go or do — I was part of a couple, a family.
I wish there was one answer to loneliness. If you’re feeling lonely — do this! The truth is, there are strategies. I know about many of them. And I practice them. I wish that took care of it!
One strategy is gratitude – which is why I’ve revived my Sonderblessings blog. Another strategy is going out and doing activities (Yes, I do some.), which is why I joined a gaming group, competed in a Splendor tournament last week, and went to the National Book Festival yesterday.
But today I’m thinking about Meaning. I catch myself thinking I might not ever find another partner — and that that would be a tragedy.
It’s true that I might not ever find another partner. But I declare that that would NOT be a tragedy!
The fact is, when I’m thinking rationally, I would rather not be in a relationship at all than be in a relationship with someone who isn’t trying to follow the Lord with all his heart.
And I definitely don’t want to get my meaning from a man. (Though at the same time knowing I would throw my heart into helping a partner accomplish his purposes. But I don’t want that to be my only meaning.)
So the strategy I want to talk about today is finding meaning, purpose, and joy in life alone. Why did God create me? What does he delight in about me? What ways can I uniquely serve him and make the world a better place?
Today in church the person who gave the message talked about going barhopping with a friend — for Jesus! That is not my mission! (See above: Introvert.)
However, I am a writer at heart. I want to write more about my journey, reaching out to my fellow travelers. We’re all in this together. I know I’m not the only woman walking alone for a season. And I know we women walking alone aren’t the only ones who get lonely.
So I offer this idea: Create a visual mission statement. Here’s mine.
I don’t remember why it came up, but a friend who’s a coach at heart suggested this idea to me awhile back. He showed me his, which was tiled with stunning images as the background. (Judging by his Pinterest page, he is exceptionally good at finding stunning images.) At first I thought I’d use my own castle pictures to do something similar. Then I thought of this picture taken last year, when I was on a 50th birthday celebration trip with two of my dearest lifelong also-50-year-old friends. We took it on the top of a mountain at sunset, and it speaks to me of possibilities, lasting friendship, and joy.
As for the mission statement itself, I like sevens. And I was thinking about what things stir my heart, put a sparkle in my eye, and make me uniquely me.
I now have the mission statement on my computer desktop. Looking at it helps me with loneliness because it motivates me not to waste time with computer games, but to enjoy the opportunity to do things I was uniquely created to do. (Like write! And that is more easily done, honestly, when one has solitude.)
Your visual mission statement won’t look anything like mine. But if you’re going through a solitary season, your life is not any less meaningful than it is when you’re in a partnership. This isn’t a “between relationships” time, it’s a meaningful, rich, joyful time of its own.
Or so I’m telling myself. 🙂