Bry and I have sold our souls to Scandal, as in, some nights we watch episode after episode into the wee hours of the morning, because, Olivia Pope, people. Enough said.
There was a recent episode where she was kidnapped and thrown in a dingy cell for days. Alone.
And then she perished.
If you’re not watching, start like yesterday. Anyway, it got me thinking about what I feel and ponder when I’m alone. Sometimes I welcome it, relishing the peace and quiet and awareness. But during those moments when I crave companionship and find just ‘lil ‘ol me, I can easily equate alone to mean loneliness.
I’m learning to transform the idea of loneliness into a celebration of solitude.
And it ain’t no let’s-tie-a-bow-on-it-cuz-it’s-all-pretty-and-finished learning. No, it’s somewhere between messy and whole and freeing, and even as I process the baby steps of growth, I could hug myself. This is the growing me, the real me. The me that enjoys me.
Bekah, that sounds super weird. Yes, I know. Let’s walk for a bit.
You see, I’m discovering who I am when no one is around. I am learning what it means to be, and most importantly, to be enough when alone. Instead of believing it’s loneliness I’m the victim of, I’m slowly understanding how to be enough in solitude.
One of my favorite topics to share on is The Social Media Game and how to find freedom in an online culture. As a society, it’s so easy for us to believe something is either all good, or all bad. Such as community is all good and loneliness is all bad. Henry Cloud talks much about this idea in his incredible book (and one I’ve been deeply impacted by) Changes That Heal, stressing the value of finding balance within the tension of good and bad. The same balance can be applied to social media.
Sherry Turkle, a professor, noticed what people do when they pull up to a stop sign. Any guess? Her research draws the conclusion that, “there’s less tolerance for the boring parts of life. Part of my fieldwork is to stand at stop signs and watch what happens in cars. The moment people stop, they reach for their phone. They can’t be alone with their thoughts. Parents need to show their kids that there’s no need to panic if you’re without your phone. If you don’t teach children that it’s OK to be alone, they’ll only know how to be lonely.” And since much of our life is spent alone, isn’t it necessary to learn that alone doesn’t have to equal loneliness, and to teach our children this truth?
I could share stories and stats for days, but the bottom line is, people believe they are lonely when alone. We can mask loneliness with both positive and negative distractions: friends, technology, ministry, parenting, work, and the list goes on. When those hollow, lonely feelings knock, my old habit naturally kicks in.
Problem: I’m lonely. I must distract these negative feelings and “connect” with someone.
Reality: This isn’t true connection if I’m trying to cover it up with something or someone else. If I’m even more honest, my desire for “connection” is really my need for validation. And I could beat myself up for needing validation, and dump shame, but no no no, that’s not what I’m learning to do. It’s about celebrating growth, and growth means recognizing my negative habit, and instead, choosing to be comfortable being alone, instead of pity partying it up with a name-tag marked loneliness. Loneliness, you’re so last year. Solitude, come to mama.
I am learning to heap buckets of grace and compassion on myself.
I am learning to be, not do.
I am learning that whether in a crowded room, or alone, to reflect His confidence.
It’s a heck-of-a-lot of work, people. But I don’t want to look back on my life and realize I wasted it being who I thought I needed to be, including masking alone time with false connection. Instead, I’m learning how to find solitude freeing, not fearful. And in some small way, I hope by sharing what I’m learning, helps you explore what you believe, or how you you distract when you find yourself alone.
Who’s with me? As we dig into the core of who we are, let’s transform the idea of loneliness into a celebration of solitude. I’m inspired by Henri Nouwen’s wisdom in Reaching Out:
“This difficult road is the road of conversion, the conversion from loneliness into solitude. Instead of running away from our loneliness and trying to forget or deny it. we have to protect it and turn it into a fruitful solitude… This requires no only courage but also a strong faith. As hard as it is to believe that the dry desolate desert can yield endless varieties of flowers, it is equally hard to imagine that our loneliness is hiding unknown beauty. The movement form loneliness to solitude,, however, is the beginning of any spiritual life because it is the movement from the restless senses to the restful spirit, from the outward-reaching cravings to the inward-reaching search, from the fearful clinging to the fearless play.”