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.


JM said...

I know you are a wonderful person and while I am so glad you were able to write out some of your feelings, I am also sorry to hear that there are people who express judgement to you (sounds like "they" had a conversation with you)... Hope that I have never judged you (also assume you would just tell me if I did!) -- and you know I do believe in God but I do NOT think that you (or anyone who tries to do good/does not try to be harmful) would end up in a "bad" place -- oh! And who, knowing you and C., would try to even think that you do not care with all your heart and that you do not try to do positive things? (Ooops, turning into a rant. Sorry).

You are a positive and good human being ::HUGS:: Your family and friends love you and are here for you!

Lulu--Back in Town said...

Thank you so, so much, hon - I know you love me, but it still means so much to hear that from you.

It's really usually not directed at me--I don't bring it up around here, and I don't think most people are wondering whether or not there are non-Christians in the room before they start talking about these things. It's just that when they talk that way about people who don't share their beliefs--even their own families--I know I'm in the same category, even if they don't necessarily know I am (if that makes sense?).

...I did really want to let the lady telling me about the unhappy couple know, though. I don't know if she'd have believed me if I'd told her my secular marriage isn't loveless and that we're very good to each other when we're sick--and that though that's a far cry from major illness, I think it's a good indicator of our general feelings about each other. She seemed very sure of herself.

::Hugs:: Anyway, thank you so much, honey - I love you, too.

JM said...

So much I want to write but not a good week to try and communicate (shall probably email or call you next week) -- but I unfortunately know you are right about the amount of religion that even I felt was absolutely crowding me in while living there. Any and every faith seemed to have at least half a dozen official places to worship, not to mention all of the unofficial gatherings, etc!

There are many people (sometimes myself included) who really do not think before speaking -- and yes, your post and your reply make sense to me :)

Do wonder what the lady would have tried to say if you had explained your life to her -- but I do not think she would have understood, even if she pretended to. That might be a bit of a harsh judgement considering I have no clue who you are talking about, but she sounds...inflexible?? The important thing to remember is that YOU know who you are and what you do (not to mention what you are capable of doing as well! Lots of good!)

I have known you for over a decade now (weird how quickly a third of our lives seem to have just slipped by!) and I am always glad and feel lucky that we are friends :) Maybe just try to leave all of your feelings towards this particular incident online? I think that is why I started to write -- if I put something on paper or in a computer then I could get it out of my head.

Then again, maybe not! Love and ::HUGS:: always!

Anonymous said...

Been thinking about this all weekend, as I am in something of a spiritual searching mode myself.. .and I use that term pretty loosely, because I'm not even sure a spiritual search is something I need or just something I want. Anyway - very confused.

I think sometimes I get jealous of people of faith - because they seem so sure of themselves. Of course - that sureness it what leads people like the lady you described above to say such unthinkingly mean things.

This is likely going to turn into a post on my blog - because I don't want to type a whole book here in your comments ;)

Anywho... you aren't alone.

Much Love!! (also, give Chris a hug - I think you could both use one ;)

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