All week, I’ll be posting about Lauren Winner’s new book, Still: Notes on a Mid-Faith Crisis. I’m doing so because I think it’s an important book, and I hope that you all read it.
Lauren is a self-confessed introvert, but that doesn’t meant that she doesn’t experience deep and terrifying loneliness, a topic she addresses forthrightly in Still:
I used to say to Ruth, in all those tortured moments before I left my husband, that what I feared most was loneliness. Not being alone, which I often find perfect and peaceful, but loneliness, which makes me want to die, which makes me think I will die, which I will do anything to avoid feeling: call a friend, go shopping; pedal endless, frantic miles on my stationary bike; pour another drink; take another sleeping pill.
What Ruth says is: Maybe I should try to stay in the loneliness, just for five minutes, just for ten minutes. Maybe the loneliness has something for me. Maybe I should see what that something is.
Both my therapist and my spiritual director told me the very same thing.
Like Lauren, I wanted to flee my loneliness. After I moved out of the house with my spouse, I moved into a 3,000-square-foot house, which I rented while the owners tried to sell it. An empty house that I rented and furnished with a few things from IKEA, and a few things from friends. There were entire rooms I didn’t step in; I went for weeks at a time without going into the basement.
I had an old TV on the floor, and the temptation was to have it on, always. Plus the internet. Plus just not be there, in that huge, empty house.
I missed my kids terribly. Just thinking about them would cause me to cry (it sometimes still does, to be honest). To avoid thinking about them, and about what had happened to my life, I did some of the same things as Lauren: go to the gym, go out with friends, drink a couple beers, watch shitty TV.
After the challenge of my therapist and spiritual director, I did the same as Lauren. I’d sit in the loneliness, usually just for a few minutes, and listen to it. There may have been nothing scarier during my divorce than confronting the loneliness, and wondering about why loneliness is such a terrifying experience for me.