Tag Archives: loneliness

“Until the very end.”

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“My test of a good novel is dreading to begin the last chapter.” –Thomas Helm

Tonight, I went and saw Horrible Bosses for only six dollars–a steal!  On my way into the theater at 5:15, there was already a long line of fans waiting for the midnight opening of the final Harry Potter film.  I sit on my couch very jealous and slightly bitter that I am not at a midnight showing of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.  I get so excited every time I see the commercials and am bursting to see the movie.  By and large, I love the movies–not quite as much as the books–and love going to see them.  I have special memories of each film (Azkaban through Hallows, that is, but I’ll save those for tomorrow) and the people who love this world with me.  My biggest complaint about the movies tends to be that they are not long enough, leave out too much of the minutia that makes the books that I love.  I was deeply disappointed when I saw the runtime of this movie was just barely more than 2 hours.

Part of my sadness is that the movie has a lot to cover in very few minutes.  More than that, my disappointment is that it is all ending.  Harry has a very special place in my movie and book collections, and in my life.  I was late to the bandwagon, hopping on after film two and before book five.  I devoured the books, after being bullied into reading them, the summer before I started college.  In two weeks, between shifts at summer camp, I was finished and hooked.  There is such a rich world in the books, so much imagination that I deeply envy.  I am in awe of Rowling’s ability to create such vivid places and people effortlessly, with minimal words.  I have tried, and cannot pinpoint how she does it, but she does.  As a person who likes to write, and would love to be thought of as a writer, I am humbled.

More than enjoying the craft of the books, they were an escape for me.  When I was in college, I read the books all the way through twice a year: Christmas break and summer vacation.  The hours at home were long and contact with my college friends was limited.  I was busy with school and new people and lost touch with many of my high school friends.  Thus, when I came home, I was alone.  To stave off the isolation, I would stay up late at night, huddled in my mom’s rocking chair, letting myself drift off into Hogwarts.  I would let my magical friends embrace me when my real ones seemed to forget me.  It was an escape from my loneliness, a retreat.  I read all night, stopping only as dawn neared and I knew my parents would be waking.  I don’t know if I would have made it through those breaks alone without my Hogwarts crew.

Part of the solace that I found was in the fact that Harry and his friends were not popular, that they too knew isolation and awkwardness.  The summer after I graduated, I read the whole series one last time, ending with the final book.  That long, unemployed summer was the hardest yet.  I lived alone, did nothing, and left for one last trip to Hogwarts.  Since then, in four years, I haven’t read all of the books again.  That does not mean that I never will, because I still love them deeply and fall into a spectacular magic stupor when I dive in.  Something in me, something even in my loneliness, has not needed them.  Perhaps when temperatures drop and days shorten I will feel more drawn to that world, but I am finding it hard to believe it has been four years since I have embarked on that journey.

The unopened books do not mean that Harry, Ron and Hermione have not been with me these past years.  I have seen them on the silver screen, and thought of them.  I have talked about them and bonded with people over them.  I felt a deep bond with Harry (which I realize is odd, because he is not real) as I settled into my job.  I lived two lives: one, the before, where I was important, impressive.  The other, the now, in which I am insignificant and disrespected.  I had a Hogwarts, I was known and praised.  And then I fell into a world where the cupboard was too good for me, where dignity had no place.  I clung to the fact that someone else knew this pain, lived two lives unrecognizable to the other.

There is a poignant sadness in closing this chapter.  After the books were finished, no matter how satisfied or not I was, there was always a film to look forward to, something to keep the world alive.  Now, with the stroke of midnight, that world closes.  Yes, I will reread and rewatch, but there is no mystery, no anticipation–all secrets and surprises are revealed.  I love how the books feel familiar in my hands and words settle into their places in my memory.  I have read this before, this is mine, I know this.  I like comfort and familiar, but there is that small, daring part of me that wants to have an adventure, to sneak a peek into the unknown.  That little adventurer inside cannot wait to see the movie this weekend, and simultaneously wants to put it off forever.  If only I had a time-turner…


“Lord! when you sell a man a book you don’t sell just twelve ounces of paper and ink and glue – you sell him a whole new life.  Love and friendship and humour and ships at sea by night – there’s all heaven and earth in a book, a real book.” Christopher Morley

Just Beachy

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“I hope you still feel small/ When you stand beside the ocean…” –Lee Ann Womack, “I Hope You Dance”

The Pacific

With no work, and no friends to spend time with, I headed to the beach today.  I have been alone a lot lately and am trying to work up the courage to go and do all the things that I want to, despite the fact that I have no one to come with me.  After getting up, I decided the longest day of the year and the first day of summer deserved some time in the sun.  I planned to go read, listen to the waves, enjoy the sun and then run my weekly errands.  Because I am me, things did not go that way.

About fifteen minutes after settling down in the sand, taking pictures of the rolling waves, Murphy’s Law caught up to me.  Miscalculating the speed at which the tide was creeping in, I was not quite quick enough to pick up my things and got much, much wetter than I had planned.  So I headed back, sandy and wet, fully clothed, with a very heavy towel.  As my face heated and shame settled in for my stupidity, I remembered why exactly why I went to the beach.

I looked around at all of the people.  Some sunbathing, some walking, volleyball players and cyclists.  People come from around the country and world to see the beaches here.  All different shapes and sizes soaked in the sun, enjoying summer’s emergence from hibernation.  People didn’t come here to judge me and my wet pants.  People watching is part of a day on the boardwalk, but it’s not why we go to the beach.  There are so many weirder, louder, more baffling things there than a girl who’s wet.  While I was uncomfortable and sandy, the anonymity of crowds gave me a little bit of dignity back.

I went to the beach to enjoy the beauty of it, but also to get perspective.  The waves crash in, spreading along the sand, drowning out talk.  They come regularly, rhythmically, always.  The water stretches to the sky, and beyond.  Turning my back on the boardwalk, it is easy to forget that yards away are homes and hotels; the ocean becomes consuming.  The sky and sun  cover the sand, uninhibited and free of power lines, overpasses and towering buildings.  The sand stretches out to the piers, and deep into the water.  It continues deep beneath the small indentations my feet make.  The tide smooths it, erases the messes people make, leaving sparkling perfection.  The ocean is too big, to the point of inducing anxiety.  My heart races when I think of how small I am in comparison, how easily I could be lost if I went out there. 

And it is comforting.  I am small.  I am young.  I am transient.  The ocean in huge, old, permanent.  It doesn’t waiver.  The tide comes in and goes out every day, waves continuing their predictable dance.  Waiting to hear about this job is easier.  The cruelty of my acquaintances, whom I misjudged to be friends, is trivial.  My loneliness is lessened.  We are all small.  I remember why I live in this city, why I struggle and stress over money in order to live here.  This is why I miss my family, why I miss friends, why I stayed behind.  Sitting small in the warm sand, I remember why I love this city.  Everything else, everything that isn’t warmth and refreshing and huge and enveloping melts away. 

“You know what the Mexicans say about the Pacific?’

“No.”

“They say it has no memory.  That’s where I want to live the rest of my life.  A warm place with no memory.”

The Shawshank Redemption

Settling for…?

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“I’ve always believed the greater danger is not aiming too high, but too low, settling for a bogey rather than shooting for an eagle.” –Peter Scott

I have thought a lot about the idea of settling lately.  Like nearly everything in life, there are two sides to the argument, multiple perspectives to the idea.  Settling can be bad and good, life and death, enough or disappointment.

I watched an episode of the Bonnie Hunt Show where the staff was discussing the book Marry Him!: The Case for Settling for Mr. Good Enough by Mary Gottlieb.  I have not read it myself, but the jist seems to be that we have so many little hang ups, such high expectations and dreams about the man we will love, that we miss amazing people.  We imagine that our husband will be tall and Catholic so we do not give the short Baptist a chance.  With all of these trivial criteria, we let wonderful people slip by us.  To settle is to be realistic, to accept the flaws and see what really matters.  It’s learning to throw out preconceptions and plans and be open to finding love where we might not have imagined.  Perfection is overrated.  We are told to settle for nothing but the best.  Why eat Hershey when Godiva is available?  We spend our lives trying to be the best, be first, be perfect, and miss so much along the way.  Life is messy and we need to be willing to settle for something different, something we never expected.  We need to see that “good enough” really is enough, is fulfilling and satisfying. 

Then the flip side is that “good enough” is not “good,” let alone “great.”  It is not what we truly want, it’s what we can get.  Settling is selling our dreams, our plans, ourselves short.  We fear that something better will come, that we deserve more, that we’re tapping out before the fight is over.  It’s the tension that drives the mediocre Deal or No Deal game show.  Do you push on?  Are you being offered enough?  Is there something better waiting to be discovered?

I’m flailing somewhere in the middle of these two points.  I am settling left and right in my life.  I have begun to try harder to get a new job, but for three years, a job I hate has been enough.  Times are hard and a paycheck was worth settling for.  I feel unchallenged and degraded, but I’ve begun to feel like there is not much else for me.  I used to dream big, hope high.  I’ve come to question why I think I’m better than this, what makes me so sure that I deserve more.  I have thought momentarily about pursuing a credential to teach.  I love children and language, but I can’t bring myself to become a teacher.  Since I was young, I’ve been told I would be a great teacher.  I studied English, so every person I meet asks if I plan to teach.  I feel an anxiety attack come on when I think about teaching not because I don’t think I’d like it, but because it feels like settling.  I feel cornered, pigeon-holed before I could choose.  I don’t want to settle, but I have been for years. 

I think about relationships.  Do you hold out for the one who is perfect, the one who might be out there?  Or do you settle for someone good and kind, someone who is willing to settle for you?  Even in my friendships I settle.  I hang out with friends from work because my other friends have moved away.  I do what they want just to not be alone.  And it all feels worth it, to not be alone.  But they are not people I would choose for friends, if I could afford to choose.  They don’t challenge me, support me, bring me joy, but I settle for them because they are here, willing.  Sometimes it’s enough, and for that I am grateful.  Sometimes it’s not enough, and for that I feel all the more lonely.

So what do you do?  What do I do?  Do you take “good enough” and enjoy what you have?  There is something to be said for enough, for adequate, for average.  Friends are better than no one.  A crappy job is better than unemployment.  Or do you refuse to settle?  Do you decide that you earn, need, deserve, want more?  Do you refuse to settle for something less, demanding the best?  Do you fight and work for what you want, risk not achieving it, for the chance that you will?  I don’t know.  I have no answers here.  I just feel like across the board, I have settled for a lot in the past three years.  Some days it feels okay, like I expected too much and enough really is enough.  Other days, I am overwhelmed with fear that I have settled too often and missed my chances to try.  It’s two sides of the same coin.  Maybe it depends on the situation, the thing you are settling for, and how much you are willing to sacrifice.  Maybe it doesn’t really feel like a sacrifice, so you can stand to put away the dreams.  Or maybe it’s too big, too important to accept less than you want.  How do you tell?  And how do you cope when “good enough,” isn’t?   

“There’s something to be said about a glass half full. About knowing when to say when. I think it’s a floating line. A barometer of need and desire. It’s entirely up to the individual. And depends on what’s being poured. Sometimes all we want is a taste…” –Grey’s Anatomy  

Home

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“There are places I’ll remember/ All my life though some have changed/ Some forever not for better/ Some have gone and some remain/ All these places have their moments/ With lovers and friends I still can recall/ Some are dead and some are living/ In my life I’ve loved them all…” –The Beatles

For the first time in a couple of years I went back to my college campus today.  I needed to sign some papers in the administration building and stopped by early in the afternoon.  Almost exactly three years ago I graduated.  It’s a bittersweet feeling being back.  I try not to think about my college life and self much.  When I do, I feel like Harry Potter.  He lived the school year in a world where he mattered, where he was a hero.  Then he returned to a world where he was neglected, humiliated and ignored.  College was my Hogwarts, a place where I was someone.  I was, as Ron Burgundy put it, “Kind of a big deal.”  Now, I live a life so different, so far from that that I hardly recognize it.  I am not a leader, not lauded for my efforts, not given responsibility.  I am not surrounded by friends, cramming my schedule full and forcing myself to make time to sleep.  I spend my days alone, bored, in quiet anonymity.

I walked through the ground floor of a building to get to my office destination.  As I opened the door, I quickly wondered if I would remember the way out of the labyrinthine classes and offices.  As soon as the thought entered my mind, my body took over.  Muscle memory led me through the halls, around corners.  I walked the buildings and pathways so many times, so naturally, that it was still ingrained in me.  My home of four years has changed significantly, new buildings sprouting up and faces all changed.  Despite the new terrain, it was the same.  The bookstore smelled exactly as it did when we wandered it between classes, despite all the new merchandise.  The quiet campus still held a calm and comfort that I found in my hundreds of hours sitting around it. 

All of the memories of who I was, of what I used to do, were hard to experience.  I remembered cramming for finals, frantically finishing assignments and meeting for half-hearted group projects.  I also remembered the people whom I loved, who loved me, and the time we spent there–the hours wasted in the coffee house, lounging on benches in the sun, strolling across the plazas.  It was comforting to know that a piece of me still felt at home, still belonged on that campus.  It also stung to see the new additions, the strange faces, and know that it is no longer my school. 

“Everybody needs his memories.  They keep the wolf of insignificance from the door.”  –Saul Bellow

“Will you keep out all the sadness?”

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“Let’s not forget that the little emotions are the great captains of our lives and we obey them without realizing it.” —Vincent Van Gogh

For a little more than a week I have felt like I’ve been walking around under a dark umbrella.  For one reason or another, internal or external, I have just been down.  A part of it is loneliness.  I miss seeing my family and as I get closer to visiting them, I realize how much I really do miss them.  Part of it is spending a holiday alone and at work.  Part of it is having friends cancel plans and be in funks too.  Most of it is just me.

I have always been an internal processor.  I like talking through things with people I trust, but I never get as deep, as analytical as I do in my own head.  I have also always been overly sensitive, always taken everything personally.  There is no other way that I take things.  An unreturned phone call indicates that a friend is tired of spending time with me.  The small things become huge. 

Spring has begun to emerge and with it comes unpredictable weather.  I love the rain, love cozy, cold weather.  Yesterday, as dark clouds hung over the city and the rain began to fall, I realized that I felt as cold and dark as the sky.  I felt down, falling, disconnected.  I enjoyed time inside, warm and lazy, but it was a rare occasion when the weather didn’t so much get me down, but it reflected and intensified the heaviness I was feeling.

I watched Where the Wild Things Are this weekend.  It is a beautiful movie, but much like the rain, it is dark.  The colors are bleak and muted.  There are instances of striking color and contrast, but it is mostly a shadowy, dim film.  It is visually really beautiful, but something about the story and look really made me deeply sad.  It is a lonely movie, filled with people aching to belong and be wanted.  It just hit the wrong, or right, spot.  One of the first things one of the massive Things asks their new king is, “Will you keep out all the sadness?”  It’s the question we all ask, every time we forge a relationship, every time we spend money, drink, eat, create, pray– will this keep out all the sadness? 

I spent some time talking with a good friend that same night.  We caught up on life a bit and one of the things that we commiserated on was our ability to assume the worst.  We talked about how quickly we jump to the worst case conclusion, specifically with respect to relationships.  I have done this a lot lately with friends in general.  I assume they judge, they tire, they despise, they regret.  I assume that I am a problem, a burden.  Part of this is the dark mood I’ve been in, but part of it is just the core of me.  It’s been a week with a lot of tears, a lot of exhaustion.  It’s tiring to feel sad.  The energy drains from you, leaving heavy fatigue. 

Then today I ran out to the post office.  It was sunny and breezy, with warmth just beginning to cut through the morning.  The radio started up with Daniel Powter’s “Bad Day,” the most upbeat song about exactly how I felt.  “They tell me your blue sky’s gone to gray/ They tell me your passion’s gone away.”  There was something uplifting about singing along with it as the song played on.  It was followed up with Jimmy Eat World’s “It Just Takes Some Time.”  As I sat at the stop light, feeling sun on my arms, the words just spoke deeply into me.  All of the sadness, the darkness, melted away as I listened to the song tell me to not do exactly what I had been doing: don’t write me off.  Hang in there.  Trust that it really is going to be fine.  Trust that time changes things.  Sometimes it takes something really small to change a person.  I had a nice, joyful day after that.  I enjoyed company, the sun, walking around a beautiful city, coming home and resting.  There are still plenty of things that I am worried about, insecure about, hurting because of, but it feels so much brighter, easier.  I just needed a little reminder to lighten up.   

“Hey, don’t write yourself off yet/ It’s only in your head you feel out or/ Looked down on/ Just do your best, do everything you can/ And don’t you worry what their bitter hearts are gonna say/ It just takes some time/ Little girl, you’re in the middle of the ride/  Everything (everything) will be just fine/ Everything (everything) will be alright.” —Jimmy Eat World, “It Just Takes Some Time”

The Ring and The Cross

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“It is a burden he should never have had to bear.”  –Gandalf, The Fellowship of the Ring

In these last few minutes of Good Friday, I have been collecting my thoughts on what today means.  It means something slightly different every year that passes.  In the years that I went to Catalina for the days leading up to Easter, the death of my Savior meant something different from any year before.  When I was a child, we prepared for it with Stations of the Cross, washing of feet, and a Seder meal.  The choice of death, on my behalf, means something different every year because life means something different each year.  I mean something different. 

This week I watched the film Inglourious Basterds.  The film itself is relatively irrelevant here except for its violence.  While much less than I expected, its graphic nature was perhaps worse than I anticipated.  I flashed back to my Senior year of college.  As we finished studying the book of Mark, ending obviously with the Crucifixion, I was deeply struck by the gore of it, the depravity.  The way that humans torture each other, mock each other, humiliate and pain each other will never cease to perplex, sadden and sicken me.  We watched the death scene from Braveheart after reading the passage, a visual of the sort of scene we had just experienced.  I felt myself growing angry and disgusted as it played, looking away for much of it.  After reading about Jesus’ death, we watch a blockbuster film that profits from the depiction of a tortuous death.  It just sat entirely wrong with me.  Those feelings about violence came back to me watching Basterds and I really digress into this only to show that Easter means something different.  I still was uneasy with the violence, but not in the same heated, emotional way that I was on the island.  Life is different this year.

Tonight I sit in front of my television as the first installment of the Lord of the Rings trilogy plays.  Appropriately enough, Gandalf just plunged into the depths of Moria with the scary fire monster.  All three films are playing this weekend, culminating on Sunday with the Return of the King.  The blueray dvds release next week, so I am sure this is tied to the sales of them, but I can’t help but think that it is also deeply tied to Easter.  As a literature and theology student, I spent a lot of time analyzing christ-figures in art.  Any number of characters in this epic qualify for that title, but I was thinking of Frodo in particular tonight.  He is similar to Jesus, but so different.  They both bear loads, on behalf of the world, that they did not deserve, if you will, to carry.  They travel through hell and back, literally seeing the “end of all things.”  They leave this world, at peace and ready, leaving behind a world that they saved.  Frodo is much more human, in some ways.  Jesus tells Peter to stay alert, reminding him that, “the spirit is willing, but the body is weak.” (Mark 14:38)  I grew up thinking that this was in reference to His own feelings, to His sacrifice, but it refers to His companions.  When Frodo begins to fall under the ring’s power, this phrase comes to mind.  He wants to do right, to be good, but there are things that humans (or hobbits) fall prey to.  We are weak.  No matter how noble the intent, people are frail.  Eventually, Frodo ends the ring’s reign and Peter and the other disciples become the church, but it’s messy and a long road.  There are missteps and ugly mistakes, but the spirit’s willingness outlasts the flesh’s weakness. 

I’m going to leap again, since I’ve already been all over the place here, to Aslan.  As I’ve been rereading the Chronicles of Narnia, there has been so much that has amazed me.  Lewis is brilliant.  The thing that strikes me every time I read The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe is the scene at the Stone Table.  This actually starts as Aslan quietly walks to his death, alone.  The girls watch him leave and follow for a bit until they are caught.  He tells them, when they beg to follow, “I should be glad of company tonight.”  This is the second thing that strikes me about Aslan, Frodo and Jesus.  There is an immense loneliness and isolation in their stories.  As the lion approaches his slaughter, he goes quietly and willingly, with no hesitation and fear.  Jesus’ prayer in the garden has always touched me.  He is a willing sacrifice, the payment for all sin, but He asks if there is another way.  It is not weak, nor cowardly, but honest.  He is willing to do His Father’s will, but if there is a way out of what is coming, He wants to take it.  He is sorrowful, scared, lonely and anxious.  This makes the whole story so much more beautiful, powerful.  He didn’t do something that was easy.  It was scary, and He wanted out.  He didn’t want out enough to deny God’s will, but He didn’t want what was waiting. 

I have perhaps the lowest pain tolerance in history.  I fear almost everything that might bring discomfort.  I know the feeling of dread, the clenching nausea that rolls from my stomach throughout my body.  I know fear.  I know loneliness.  I know what it is to feel, whether it is true or not, that no one else can possibly understand my pain, my isolation, my fears.  I can relate to a God who wants to do what’s right, but really is scared of the cost.  I like that my God knows what it is to feel alone.  Not because I want God to feel sad or be pained, but it means He knows how I feel.  He knows the desperate feeling of just wanting to feel connected, the empty ache of being left by those He loves.  He knows my racing heart as I wait to get a shot, because He felt the terror of impending pain.  While my pain cannot compare to His, my isolation paling in comparison, He knows how I feel. 

Today is a day to remember that Jesus, God with us, chose a brutal death.  He died.  A man that walked this earth and sat under this sun, that saw the flowers bloom in spring and had a favorite food and a family, died.  He chose death so that people He never knew, people who curse His name, people who killed Him, would have salvation from damnation.  He died.  He chose the hard, scary, lonely road to death for me.  His victory will be celebrated in a couple of days, but today, His lonely sacrifice is the focus. 

“I am sorry I brought this upon you, my boy. I’m sorry that… you must carry this burden. I’m sorry for everything.”  –Bilbo, The Fellowship of the Ring