Sunday, April 21, 2013


2: without companions; solitary

The last seven days have been busy: filled with the work of homeschooling, scheduling volunteers for May and June, driving my dancer daughter back and forth to rehearsals, ordering curriculum to finalize plans for next year's tutorial and scheduling everything that needs to be done in Nashville before being out of town for a month.  As I've moved through these busy days, I've tried to be aware of what I am feeling and one thing I'm noticing is how lonely I find work to be.

On Thursday, I came home from driving K to golf, A to ballet and making a quick stop at the library in preparation for World Book Night to find that B had cleaned the house in my absence.  The books that cluttered the dining room table were gone, the kitchen counters were clear, even the dishes had been magically moved from the sink to the dishwasher (isn't it always magic when that happens without your own two hands doing it?).  I nearly wept with relief at the thought that perhaps not every step of my work must be done alone.

I tried to explain to B how meaningful this was for me.  I told her how lonely my work makes me feel, that I feel the burden of people's expectations and the desire to not disappoint them.  To illustrate, I referenced the most recent Project Runway episode we had watched together.  I reminded her of how one contestant wanted to be totally in charge of her team - she wanted to own the vision, but not do all of the work.  Her own dress was 100% her creation, but her teammate's was 50-50.  Unlike this person, I don't desire to take all of the credit - if all of these jobs in process are carried through to completion, I am happy to blend into the background.  But if something goes wrong?  That's all on me.  I bear the burden for every detail that goes undone.

This is a lonely feeling.

And as I sit with my loneliness, I am realizing how lonely I am in various aspects of my life.  I spent the last hour or so typing words and erasing them.  I'm inclined to tell you about my various responsibilities and how they make me feel lonely, but I think more important to share - and see clearly for myself - is the reality that responsibilities and carrying them out make me feel lonely.  In short, I find work lonely.

I suspect this is because I feel inadequate to the tasks before me.  Since inadequacy = shame on my feelings chart, I'm sure there's an important kernel of truth for me here.  Sadly, I can't find a few simple words to convey this truth since I'm not even fully sure what it is.

What I do want to ponder further is how to do without feeling lonely.  If work makes me feel isolated from those around me, how can I use my work to connect with God?  A book I am reading talks about how when the author tries Brother Lawrence's way of finding God in the small, mundane tasks, she is able to do so, but finds she is slower and less productive.  Am I forfeiting intimacy with God because of a (self-imposed) pressure to manage all the details myself?  Or a (again, self-imposed) pressure to do everything on-time, as close to perfect as possible?  Am I still a perfectionist, not a recovering one, as I like to believe?

Or am I just in over my head?  Have I taken on too much?  Frankly, this seems like the easy way out for an Ennegram 9 like me.  I am only too willing to admit I can't do it all.  Even as I type the words, "Am I just in over my head?" my heart constricts - I do not think the solution is to start dropping responsibilities.  This might ease my loneliness short term, but I don't think it is where God is leading me right now. Instead, he is encouraging me to leave the safety of the known pasture for the intimidating freedom of the open road.

I don't know what awaits me.  I could fail miserably in any of these ventures and find myself lonely in failure instead of lonely in competency.

What I do know is that I don't want to remain the same person I have always been.  I want to find a way to work within my gifts and stay engaged.  I want a path to being present even when my mind is task oriented.  This feels like hard heart work for me.  But maybe the hardest, best work is always lonely.


RBM said...

So I have been mulling this post over in my mind, thinking about loneliness. On the one hand, it's hard for me to relate, because I have never felt lonely in my work. I often find it hard to get started, but always very engaging and fulfilling once I am into the task. However, I was just thinking that I often feel lonely in my relationships with other people, if that makes any sense at all. Not usually with close friends, more with acquaintances, but truth be told sometimes also with close friends. I was thinking about this as I read the chapter about Enneagram 6s. This made me wonder if we each experience loneliness in our personalities/lives in areas that are more difficult for us to navigate. For example, *generally* 9s tend to fight taking on too much work and 6s tend to fear losing our most important relationships. It helps me to think about part of my journey as sitting with and working through my fear manifesting itself as loneliness in my relationships. I wanted to offer you my thoughts in case it would help you as well. :)

WordGirl said...

I think you make a great point about loneliness being uniquely linked to our enneagram number. As I was talking with a friend about this, she asked, "When do you not feel lonely? What makes you feel connected?" So I've been pondering that and realizing that for me, a lack of loneliness is (ironically?) when I have time alone with my soul.

I think work leaves me lonely because of the time it consumes and the way it takes me away from prayer or even just moving through my day prayerfully. I definitely don't see signs pointing me towards walking away from any of my current work load. I think this is an example of something worth noticing about myself and waiting to see where it takes me.