Since I last posted (see “The Loneliest Year of My Life”), I’ve been talking with more people who’ve felt as I have this year, and I’ve talked with others in different situations who have been through the wringer in their own way this year.
I feel like I missed some things in my last post, partly because some of the context for my loneliness is in a post I wrote in May but haven’t yet shared and partly because my last post was already long (shocking, I know). So I wanted to add three more clarifying thoughts, or three “footnotes.”
First of all, Covid has not caused my loneliness. That’s been lurking beneath the surface for the past couple years, and it really ramped up in January, sparking a frien-tervention before Covid even became forefront in our consciousness. Covid has, however, magnified my loneliness because of the resultant and even sometimes needed isolation. So isolation during Covid has exacerbated the struggle I’ve been sitting in for a while. I don’t know why it feels important for me to say that, but it does.
Maybe it’s because I don’t want to give “2020” and “covid” too much personified power, but maybe it’s also because I know once Covid “ends” and stay at home orders lift, the loneliness will likely still be there. There will just be more distractions and ways to divert my attention from the pain of that loneliness.
Secondly, I said it in my last post and I 100% mean it: This is not an indictment of anyone for not reaching out or for closing their doors and homes. In 2020 it feels like we have to have a million disclaimers about everything we say so as not to offend, but I’m hopeful that at the end of the day, we can give more benefit of the doubt to others and trust their hearts—who we know them to be—rather than supposed offenses in social media and tone-less words on a screen or page.
I digress though. Back to my second point. One of the things I learned with much more angst when walking through cancer was to be grateful for those who show up rather than disappointed by those who don’t. So many people showed up then—many unexpectedly!—so I wasn’t dwelling on who didn’t show up most of the time. But afterwards, I looked back and it took the slightest bit of conscious effort not to note the absence or void of some I assumed would have shown up.
I got over it—and pretty quickly at that—because of who did show up, and I learned in processing that many people just don’t show up because they have no idea where to start or how to do so, or because they’re going through their own muddled mess. Let me tell you: It is far more fulfilling to look around and be grateful for who shows up and then look up and see how God has provided than to look around and count anyone who’s absent.
In this season, I’ve leaned on that lesson much more readily and less painfully (progress, woohoo!). I am sincerely grateful for those who’ve shown up, opened doors and lives, and been the lifeline in this season. I’m not keeping track of who has closed doors nor marking people on the naughty list (had to; it’s December).
In addition to having (hopefully) more maturity than when I was 21 and struggling with those who showed up and didn’t, I also have learned tons about grace in the past few years. “Grace” is what my name means, and the more I learn about it, the less I know I have inside and more I need to receive from God. I am the worst, but God’s holding me to a standard of grace, not perfection or success, so I’m getting much better at resting in my worst-ness.
Furthermore on the grace train, in this season, I have 100% NOT shown up for people. Hopefully that hasn’t been across the board—I’d like to think I’ve shown up for at least one person in 2020—but I’ve pretty much been working off of a 2 month delay with following up and being intentional and even just responding to texts and DMs this year. There’s not going to be any way I can actually explain it to you since, if ya girl can throw up some sardonic post on her Instagram story, one would think she should be able to respond to a text.
All I can say is that my head and emotions have felt at or above capacity for much of this year. That doesn’t make logical sense for why I can do one thing and then not simply respond to a text, but when your brain is over capacity, the logic center is a shamble shack (it’s science). I know that makes no sense, but when your brain is a shamble shack, the logic center is thrown off, so that reinforces my point—there is no logical reason because there is no logic happening with my 2 month delay and failure to show up.
I’m not sharing that as an excuse—remember, I’m the worst and I know that. I share about my shamble shack capacity struggles and ineptitude at responding this year because I know if that’s where I’m at, others who “haven’t shown up” this year are probably fighting off their own shambles in some capacity (because truly, we all are and could all use more empathy and compassion since 2020 is the shambliest of all shacks).
In wrapping up my second point, the challenge is to look around and make the choice to be grateful for those who’ve shown up. And the second part of that challenge is to extend more grace and empathy to those who haven’t while praising God for what He has given and how He has provided.
My final point is this: I know that last post was dark and probably heavy. Much of 2020 has been just that, and seasons of 2018 and 2019 have been, too. “A thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” has long been one of the most sobering and poignant song lyrics for me. But if you look back just a bit further in “O Holy Night,” the lyrics right before my favorite lines are equally powerful: “Long lay the world in sin and error, pining til He appeared and the soul felt its worth.”
This previous couplet is why “a thrill of hope, the weary world rejoices” is my favorite. The incarnation—God showing up!—is my thrill of hope and the reason why my weary shamble shack self rejoices. Out of my being the worst, the most in need of grace, and the least proficient at living up to my name PLUS my brokenness in the pit and deep loneliness—out of all that, Christ appeared and the soul felt its worth.
Wow. That is why the pit hasn’t swallowed me in this apparently never-ending season. It’s probably come close, but that thrill of hope, where Christ chose to enter in through the incarnation, to enter into my mess and to choose that knowing how shambley I am—that is why my weary heart rejoices. And it’s able to because I know Him and my soul feels its worth in Him alone.
I don’t have a spouse or my own family I’m building, if I stay in California I will never own a home, my job was tenuous this year, my rent increased as my pay got cut, my health is often an annoying hassle, and I fail at even simply just showing up for people who’ve shown up for me and aren’t asking a ton. Let me reassure you that my soul isn’t feeling its worth from anything but the incarnation, from Christ entering in. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again and again and again: read Steve Garber’s Visions of Vocation for more on the hope and profundity of the incarnation (not a theology book, though, so #understandable).
To summarize: Covid hasn’t caused this deep loneliness, though it has certainly magnified it and stripped away any veneer of distraction from it. Amidst this, I’m grateful for the gift of those who have shown up, for their presence and open doors, and I’m reminded to look around at those who’ve shown up then look up in gratitude rather than taking stock of who hasn’t shown up. That is a way more freeing posture, especially when I have failed to show up for others, too, in this season.
And finally, my experience has been that there are some really dark days. I hate being so self-referential, and I know we all have different experiences, but I’m also convinced most of us walk through those really dark days. This is not the first time I have sat in seasons of loneliness and pain, and it won’t be the last. The reason I have hope amidst that is because out of the long seasons of waiting, of “pining” for relief and rescue, the incarnation happened. Christ chose to enter in to our world and mess, causing the “soul to feel its worth” and bringing that thrill of hope a very weary world is desperate for.
The end. Off to work I go (also had to). Please don’t let any of this or my shamble shack self stop you from reaching out. I’m working on cutting my 2 month delay to merely a 1 month delay, I promise. But in the meantime, I’m resting in grace and the hope of the incarnation.