Is it Lonely or is it Blessed?

I’ve been thinking about the aloneness I’ve experienced this month being in isolation for the whole month of December, a month that is usually full of gathering and parties and general merriment. I have suffered from many tortured, nonsensical thoughts of what I did to deserve this, and then followed closely on its heels is a question of “maybe I might prefer this... maybe I should put my heart into it”. Of course, when you’ve had a bout of pretty bad covid, you’re recovering, and caring for kids and a husband also recovering, and your kids are toddlers, the amount of “heart” you have left lying around to put into anything is quite limited. But, one does one’s best.

It does seem as if social media culture has rendered the word(s) “blessed/blessing” nearly meaningless. And if that wasn’t enough, we hardly, even as Christians, do anything ceremoniously anymore. I even felt it was implied that ceremoniousness was a prerequisite for disingenuousness. I have found as I’ve gotten older that ceremoniousness speaks to me, and it comes naturally to make a big deal about the things that mean a lot to me and to be a little silly and indulgent in expressing that. I only say silly because I was raised by a long line of stoic Germans who didn’t raise a fuss about any sentimentality, and might even apologize for ever allowing it. I actually do not think such things are silly in the true sense, however, I’ve often had to give myself permission to be a bit silly because practicality resounded like a gong throughout my entire existence. On another note, I’m endeavoring to learn practices to quiet my ever-active mind, and I’ve observed that being ceremonious puts my body and mind into a certain posture, and without said posture, I often have a hard time truly quieting my mind and focusing in on the present moment before my brain is off again to the races.

I was reading a passage in “Gilead” the other day (as previously mentioned in my last post), drawing towards the close of the novel, there’s a particularly touching scene where Reverend Ames blesses Jack before he boards a train out of town. Jack is the reverend’s namesake, and means a great deal to him, however, their relationship has been fraught with misunderstanding and trouble. Yet, indeed, there is much love there. The Reverend blesses Jack in this scene, by the train station, on a bench, with his hand on Jack’s head, and it was incredibly moving. The heavy weight of emotion Jack felt over this blessing was palpable; he wasn’t sure that he deserved it, but he longed for it, and I longed for him to have that blessing. Truly, I longed for myself to have that blessing. I wonder, if we would take back a bit of ceremoniousness to give to each other every now and then, it might do our hearts a great good.

Now, back to the point at hand, is it loneliness or is it a blessing? I felt resentful of the idea of being alone for the holidays, picking at the wound of 2020, feeling like life right now is a big pile of stuff no one wanted and we’re just trying to make the best of it, but, you know, most of the time we’re fully aware that it’s actually a pile of things no one wanted; and then I kept remembering that I had wondered for several years what it would be like to have a quiet holiday, the type of holiday where I might feel rested afterwards, I might feel closer to my husband and children; re-centered, calm, at peace. I love busy holidays, I do... but maybe I don’t? I don’t know, I had never given myself the chance to find out for myself because there’s a lot of pressure and expectation and it seems like I really have to have a conviction to go against pressure and expectation (uh, because everyone will be mad at me). It was kinda this pipe dream whispered into the aftershockwaves of the holidays “hey... what if you felt relaxed right now...” So I had never even tried and didn’t know if I ever would.

Enter this year, thick with experiences we had never even tried and didn’t know if we ever would, and honestly would never, ever choose. And here we are at home, as always, just the few of us, and we get to do only the traditions we like; only the ones we have the energy for, only the food we want to make, plenty of time for play and rest, and staring at the fire, playing chess, discussing our dreams for the future, the things we don’t understand about ourselves, working out as a family, lacking no good thing. It’s different, but it is fully good.

I don’t know if I would’ve taken that independence for our selves without my hand being forced, but I certainly am grateful for the experience, and I certainly would imagine there’s great blessing in it.