Friday, September 7, 2012

Surrounded by community and lonely

I feel pretty lonely, right now. I've been struggling with this for a while, and with whether to even write anything about it, but here goes.

 I finally feel like I've built some community, here - that I have made some friends, that there are people here that I love. But I always have this aching feeling that in a lot of those cases, that love will never come back to me. Some of it I hope is just ungrounded fear, a symptom of depression and anxiety and insecurity. And sometimes I think it has to do with a a personality defect I suspect I have (maybe a topic for another post). But lately it has been a more existential loneliness.

 I live, now, in the church capital of the country. Almost everyone I meet here is a person of faith--of strong faith that plays a large role in their lives. I understand and appreciate that - it can give community and wholeness to a heart, and direction. It makes the existential terror of death livable, and there is no reason to live your life in terror and insecurity if you have something to believe in. And faith can sometimes bring out the very best in people, propel them to great acts of good, give them the strength for kindness, and I deeply respect and admire that. I am not willing to dismiss the importance of someone's faith in their life.

 But I have no belief of my own. I am something like an agnostic in the original Greek sense, because I know that there cannot be an absolute proof of one faith or another or none, that any one may be right or may be wrong; I know that I cannot know. And in the face of that I cannot dismiss anyone's beliefs, but I can't make myself have a belief in any one thread of millions, either, be it a belief in a god, an afterlife, or the absolute absence of either. It isn't part of me.

 Which is a lonely place to be, especially here.

 I don't talk to people of faith about my lack of it--it's my general policy to leave it be; no one would gain from it. But in a culture of faith, it's probably no surprise that strong believers do talk about their beliefs about the faithless; it's part of their lives and worldviews. It does mean they're telling me what they think of me as part of this nebulous class of people, though.

 For instance, last week I was told about a couple who were terrible to each other, didn't love each other and wouldn't care for each other in their times of need--and that they couldn't, because they hadn't built their marriage on Christ. And I realized that this person I know and am friendly with believes that I wouldn't change a colostomy bag for the love of my life, that I am incapable of care and devotion. I build my life on a love and respect for life, and cherish my loved ones, and believe that people on any path are capable of that, but that doesn't enter into it for her. I didn't know what to say. I was quiet.

 I also hear stories of fear, that loved ones who haven't seen the light will be lost and condemned; and stories of hope and peace, that those who have should not be missed or grieved, for they are in paradise. And I am so grateful for the comfort they can take from that, and that they can feel free to express it, to share fear and love and comfort, to have rich community in times of sorrow. But part of me is reminded in those times of my own losses--and that I never feel that comfort. And part of me is reminded that many of the people I know and love, friends and family, believe I will burn in eternal damnation; that regardless of my kindness or my love or any other goodness they might see in me, I cannot be part of their universe.

 And I wonder which of them know that I am one of those, and which ones don't; which ones suspect it, and whether or how our relationship would change if they knew, and whether some of them will never be close to me because of it.

 At those times I feel just how apart I am from so many of the people I love, and it's hard not to feel lonely.

 I don't know that there's anything to be done about it. I'm just hoping if I can talk about it somewhere it'll ease the feeling a little.