Her eyes are dry as she talks to me, her tears bored with their constant repetition. "I'm alone," she tells me. "I have no friends. My family is far away." She's also recently started school, the responsibility an unfamiliar weight. "Life's hard."
I pray with her. There's little more I can do. I ask that God bring her friends and encouragement. But the bosom buddy, the kindred spirit, the friend closer than family ... that person doesn't show. I lose touch with her while she walks the college life alone.
Then, a month ago, she appears, smiling, joking, telling both me and her husband that we introverts really can make new friends. "If you don't know what to talk about, ask about their dog," she suggests. Her husband gladly tells me about their new pet before they move off, arm in arm. And I'm left there, alone, wondering what happened. How did she get from there to here?
I don't know that story. Wish I did. I feel like I'd have more to share with you.
My lonely years weren't that lonely. My abandonment issues were with God, not people. I have some empathy for those who experience isolation and the fatigue of carrying themselves day in and day out. But that utter loneliness, the experience of being truly alone? ...that I've never had.
Then Bethany wrote a post about being a control freak that spoke much more, to me, about the experience of being really alone. More than that, I think the post is about the experience of being completely alone as a new mother. And if I've read other blog posts correctly over the years, I don't think she's alone in that experience.
Here's the thing that's got me thinking: Bethany doesn't share the story of how she got from there to here. Wish she did. I feel like there'd be something super useful to share with you in that.
Instead, she glosses over those years of her life. She sums them up as years of "prayer, reflection, and conversations with good friends." I want the specifics because I have this nagging thought that there'd be a pattern in them, a secret, the secret to not being isolated, or -- at the very least -- how to survive the lonely days and nights and hours.
My guess is that the reason we don't know these stories and get to peek behind the curtain and find the nugget of truth is simple. The story is boring. The "secret" is common knowledge. The answer is simple, but painful: When you really are alone, you're not.
The Lord's sufficient grace is there.
'So what?' my inner trust issues ask. 'Grace isn't a real person, a hug, encouragement. It's not something that gets the laundry done or deals with your child's temper tantrum.'
You know what? I almost believe that guy. It certainly feels true.
But grace is embodied in a Person. And while it may be long spans between hugs, His Body is pretty good at giving them, at least at my church. And by His grace, I find myself encouraged by strangers and "e-maginary friends" on the internet.
Being alone isn't easy. But the story, if I had to guess, is one of slowly learning to draw closer to Christ. Bethany says it this way in her post:
I don't need to be in control. I just need to stay close to the One who is. I can't possibly plan around what He will send each day, but I can choose to accept it, humble, broken, and open-handed.
If you're feeling alone on your journey -- be it as a mother, homeschooler, or otherwise -- stay the course. What you are doing matters. What you are sacrificing is worth it. What you are losing is nothing compared to what you are gaining. And as you let "good enough" be good enough, you'll certainly learn how to do things better. And even if you are really all alone, you're not alone. If nothing else, there is a community here on this blog, on Facebook, on the Forums. And there are homeschool Advisors ready to answer your questions, weigh your options, and pray with you.
If you've come through a time of being utterly alone, do you have any wisdom or encouragement to share? I'd love to hear your story!
Filmmaker, Writer, Pseudo-Dad