On a typical morning several months ago, I drank my cup of coffee while Tod and I finished our devotional, and as I looked at the day ahead of me, I wished it had already passed. I wanted the day to hasten, which was troubling because up until a few months ago, I was trying to slow time down because of my business at work and the excitement over moving back to California. I craved for that time to leisurely drip, like real maple syrup does from a spigot tacked into the trunk of a Maple tree.
Moving back home to California over six months ago had been a celebrated answer to our persistent prayers begun many years ago. We were in a heady state of wonder for weeks as we enjoyed our trips to visit friends and family and explore our breathtaking new geography. From the deep blue-jade Pacific Ocean, to the stunning Sequoia parks and mountain trails, we soaked it all in.
However, as always, vacations end and then it’s time to settle back into normal life. But for me, my transition back to California wasn’t as smooth as I had expected.
When Tod went to work at his new job, I was working from home overseeing client business in Florida, and my laptop became my office. I had been working from home for several months and spent most of time alone during the day, which had led me to feeling isolated.
I had missed seeing my friends whom I can be completely myself with. I had missed bumping into familiar faces socially for a “Hi, how have you been?” And I had missed our new church family where we made warm friends that felt more like instant cousins.
I knew that moving to a new part of California would require adjusting, but I had experience with that already from the many times we have moved over the years. Everyone said, “Oh you will have no trouble making new friends, you?” Yes me.
Over the first several months of becoming lonely I grew sadder and wondered how I would get over “it”. I threw myself into activities that I knew should help me establish a community; like volunteering at a local philanthropy and joining a local running club looking for my fitness community. Yes, I met some nice, upbeat people, but no real friendships developed from that group. They all had their friends, you know?
On the spiritual front, Tod and I searched for a church finally settling on one, but until we commit to a small group, we know we probably won’t really get to know anyone on a deeper level there either. Friendships usually take time to slow cook and I need a microwaved friendship platter.
I joined a book club and attended my first meeting, which had promise and I met interesting, diverse, women, but my schedule and their calendar didn’t often mesh.
I even began buying plants so that I could touch living things during the day and talk to them like a crazy lady. If I had to buy friends in the form of plants to have a little community, so be it. Looking back I’m surprised I didn’t name them. I was becoming desperate.
I asked Tod to pray for me and he hurt each time he saw my tears quietly fall during the day. And I often talked to God about my loneliness, asking him to help me find what I needed and let this season pass on.
I also began calling old friends from far away to stay in touch more on the phone, I needed real conversations with people who knew me, and I wanted to hear their voices. I let my vulnerability show and told a few friends that I was hurting, and in their beautiful ways, they reached out. God love and bless good friends! I could feel their presence and spirits through their voices during real phone calls. Texts, social media posts, or anything else can never replace the feeling of them with me through their voices. One friend called me weekly so we could catch up together, the other sent me cards and small gifts with follow ups. Those acts of love were a sweet balm over my heart.
I came this close to bringing a dog home. Tod wasn’t ready, but he saw how much I was struggling and would have done it for me. I imagined all of the dog lovers I would meet at dog parks and the farmer’s markets and wherever! I do miss having a dog, their companionship is divine. But I didn’t want to rush into it. I knew I had to really “be” in this lonely place without escaping it, I had to just be in it. There was something that I needed to learn from it. And in time – I did.
What I have learned from my loneliness this time is that I had to surrender to my feelings and accept them instead of running from them. I knew that it wasn’t going to be permanent, one way or another, I would eventually get into a community, either through a different job, a church, and new friends I would eventually find along the way. I trusted in God. But what was I supposed to learn from this empty space that I usually would have filled with so much activity and distraction? It scared me.
I began reflecting on my journals prior to moving here, and do you know what I found I was asking God for back then? Time. Time to write and draw closer to Him. I wrote in my journal, “God, I pray that you help me complete this dream of writing mom’s story, help me to finally finish, and help me fall back into the desperate love I felt for Jesus just like when I was a lonely 14-year-old girl.” The word LONELY sprung from the page. Sometimes I just want to kick myself for the things I write. But there it was. The truth written with my hand on paper as evidence. Time was what I needed, and time is the gift I have been given, even though it came wrapped in solitude.
I made the decision to trust in God in this process, believing it had a finite time frame and looking for the light in my situation. I began writing more because I could, I was gifted the time and the precious silence to write without distraction. I paid attention to my feelings and validated them. I accepted that I couldn’t distract myself with noise or activity, I needed to just feel my feelings through the quiet path I was on and listen, paying attention to whatever beauty and blessings God had planned for me here too.
Each day after I made that decision trust God, I prayed for him to open my eyes and ears and help me surrender and accept. And then I felt my mood lifting because I began seeing this as an opportunity, it was an answer to prayer I read in my journal. God was providing my prayer requests in my lonely space.
I wrote my first draft of my book in a few months, over 70,000 words that I had saved from journals and my thoughts, and let languish on my desktop for years. Without this space and silence, I don’t know if those pages might still be waiting on me.
If you are experiencing loneliness, understand that it is temporary and there are things that you can do to help you cope. Many Americans deal with loneliness today, unfortunately it is on a dramatic upward trend. Some recommendations I found helpful are to join groups that share your interests or new hobbies you’d like to explore. Instead of searching for friends directly, join in activities you are interested in where you will meet like-minded people. If you attend church, join a small group. Try new hobbies, expanding yourself through learning. Our minds love novelty.
Joining a volunteer organization is another way to meet good people in your community. It creates a sense of purpose and these activities elevate brain chemistry. There are real mood boosting benefits to enjoy as you do some good in your community.
Spend time in nature. By placing ourselves in a beautiful environment, breathing in fresh air, and seeing the world from a new perspective, we can find healing for wearied minds and spirits.
Tell someone how you feel, whether it’s a friend or a professional. The act of just sharing our vulnerabilities helps us to release them in a way and connect to another person through humanity. I am certain that most people will be able to relate to feeling lonely at some time.
And while you do some work to help yourself, also realize that there is a lesson in this season to learn something deeper about you. Sometimes we are afraid of silence, we are afraid of feelings and thoughts we have buried deeply but have never healed from. That is an area a professional can help with and no amount of busyness or noise will ever heal that place, it needs attention.
In my lesson through loneliness, I had to dig deeper into God and learn to trust him and the process. This grew my faith and I learned not to fear my season of loneliness, I would get through it. There are things we can do to help ourselves, but looking for the hidden gifts there, like time to write and appreciate silence, is something I really wouldn’t trade now. It is a period of time that I look back upon and feel gratitude.