I have found such deep healing in the love and acceptance of knowing my God loves me - flaws and failures, quirks and smirks, whether I’m happy or sad, grouchy or glad. There is a comfort and peace these recent months; more than I have ever known. Yet, the last couple of weeks I have felt the return of some of the less pleasant feelings. This has been troubling and challenging because I am wrestling with a returned intensity of loneliness. I acknowledge that in struggling with these feelings, I am again finding myself wanting to minimize them and dismiss them as unjustified and unwarranted. Fortunately, these many months of therapy have brought gifts of awareness and there is a more compassionate me to be less critical of myself when these feelings surface.
Having said that, I can also identify that I am susceptible to addictive behaviors since the unrest and discomfort prompt those feelings of pain to the level of wanting to escape and medicate. I know well enough that acting out in my compulsive behaviors or numbing away my feelings will only delay what I need to face. My commitment level to my healing is much greater than that; no – the Sara of recent years is “lean in and own it”. That’s just how I bend these days; I do not want to return to the numb Sara.
So let’s lean in and find out what I need to own. What is it about this loneliness that is so difficult? I begin with asking myself when is the pain the worst? The bewitching hour is when I go to bed; I simply want to share my life with someone, and I don’t like sleeping alone. The intellect of that statement is simple enough; I believe by design we are programmed to want to connect. I can see that loneliness is part of accepting my present circumstances. What has been particularly difficult is the intensity of these feelings, though. They can be rather unpleasant.
I am all too familiar with gripping pain. I remember feeling a deep, into-my-core, kind of pain when I was married. This was perhaps the worst of the worst since I was physically next to someone whom I loved, to whom I had made vows of lasting love and commitment, and who I wanted desperately to love me. Yet, there I was – devastated in the bitter loneliness of rejection. That kind of loneliness is truly debilitating. My medicating and escaping were understandable, albeit so very unhealthy.
The loneliness that I am feeling of late is not the same thankfully. I am not rejected and I am aware that I am by myself, yet I am not alone. Rather, this loneliness has some residue of an early time from my childhood. What I recall from my days as a young girl growing up in my family of origin is that I knew I was loved; that I was aware that I had a very good life because my parents provided for me and took care of my (physical) needs. I had such compassion for those I perceived as less fortunate than I, especially those existing on such minimal provision. I wanted to be grateful for what I had been given. I suppose I learned at an early age to minimize my needs because I didn't feel that I was particularly worthy of having it “better” than someone else.
There is a certain type of loneliness in that kind of thinking because I couldn't share those feelings deep inside me. To do so would expose something very shameful in me – that having such emotional needs was to be greedy, needy, demanding, and ungrateful. I think what I wanted was the kind of attention of being seen and appreciated for in my complexity as a person, not merely for the compliant child who did for others. There was a sense that because I had been given more than most children, to voice any additional need was to be ungrateful. I hadn't done anything particularly worthy of what I had been given so asking for more than what I was given would have been audacious, and that was very unacceptable. In fact to express it would have been shameful.
Back to today’s loneliness: what does all this have to do with my recent feelings (I’m leaning in; I’m willing to own it, but it doesn't always make sense to me.) I suppose I’m back to the issue of asking for more. Do I get to voice my needs, because I’m feeling very undeserving and unentitled. Yet, if asked…I want more. I see that more is available and I want the fullness that I see is available. Wanting that exposes some guilt and shame (again?! They seem to reappear over and over, don’t they?) because I think it says that I am ungrateful. I know that I have come far in my healing; that I have awareness and acceptance. I have worked through so many issues, I have overcome a lot of my harmful and unhealthy behaviors. There is this sense that my gratitude for this should suffice. I am truly grateful. These feelings of wanting more expose how young Sara related to her world. As an adult I get to define my needs and set about getting them met. There is no guilt or shame in that, and to my surprise, by my releasing those, I also feel less lonely. In fact, I feel empowered by my adult awareness, and realize that only my opinion on what is enough matters. There is nothing lonely in that, but I alone get to make that call!