Monday, August 22, 2011

One is the Loneliest Number That You'll Ever Know

I never wanted a big life. In some ways, my life has been much bigger than I ever imagined. You know the old saying, “To whom much is given, much is required” ? (Luke 12:48) Sometimes I wonder if my life has meandered down this path because I have been given much relatively speaking.

I never expected to own a home. Back in the day, men of the cloth lived in parsonages. Some folks called the place the preacher lived the manse. We weren't that uppity where I grew up. I was in college before I had a poster on my bedroom wall. We weren't allowed to mess up someone else's house. Since the church folks owned the house and we didn't, we didn't do anything but live there. And try hard not to mess things up – by doing things like hanging pictures and posters or planting flowers in the yard.

My folks were near 70-years-old when they graduated from parsonage living to a home of their own. So, it comes as a complete shock to me that we've bought 6 houses, sold 4, lost one, and are living in #6.

Like I told you, my friends say my husband has no idea how lucky he is given what a cheap date I am. I've been satisfied to drive cars with close to 200K miles on them. Kohls is about as fancy as my wardrobe gets...and it doesn't get that fancy unless they have a HUGE sale going on. We have only taken 5 vacations in over 20 years. We just live simply and, other than medical debts, we live within our means.

Living simply has meant that I've had the pleasure of watching my boys grow up. More than that, I've watched them learn up close and personal. I've seen them grow into young men of growing faith. I've been able to talk to them at midnight when the burdens of their hearts wouldn't wait till after school the next day. I don't care who you are, that is worth living simply for. Especially in this fraidy cat world!

I have really only wanted 3 things since I can remember: a happy, uncomplicated family who enjoyed lots of extended family time, a comfortable home with room to host friends, and the opportunity to encourage others toward stronger faith in the God who made them.

Once I became aware that a monster had hidden in the shadows of our life from before we were married, I began to understand why I had not been able to attain some of my goals. I understood why marriage had been more work than play. I began to let go of the dream of big extended family gatherings. Instead, I learned to include others from the community around us who were alone on the holidays. Some years that's been easy. Others, like the year I was hopping around on 1 leg, it has been harder.

There was a long season of my married life when I gave up on being married anywhere except on paper. After the re-wedding, I enjoyed those lovely few months of thinking it was possible to start over again from brand new. After initially trying to get my gyroscope re-calibrated so that I understood what was really happening, I just grew quiet. I again began to accept that life was not going to give me what I had hoped for. Three Dog Night said it best, “One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do. Two can be as bad as one. It's the loneliest number since the number one.”

As best I could, I tried to accept what I had and make peace with it. Life was so MUCH better once the monster in the shadows had been exposed that settling for the new normal was sad and lonely but doable. In the quiet moments, when I struggled the most with dreams that were again slipping away, I reminded myself ad nauseum that life was so much better than it had been.

I remained confused about the mixed signals that characterized communication with the man I had promised to love, honor, and obey. I learned not to do the things that made him look at me with those wary eyes. I didn't need to be reminded that he did not trust me with his emotional safety. At least I tried. Eventually, we were again, no longer even passing like ships in the night. It was back to business as usual. Any spark that had ever been about to burst into flame disappeared completely.

We weren't mean or spiteful. We weren't even distant and uninvolved. A friend who knew our 'back story' observed us together and later opined, “I just can't believe things are this bad because of the way you all laugh together.” Well, I guess when you are a cheap date, it is easy for you to just keep on doing the next thing. You get so used to doing it that you don't think much about what you aren't letting yourself admit when you are alone. So, I rarely let myself think much about how lonely I was.

I wasn't just lonely for my dreams of a happy marriage and family/extended family. I was lonely for God. I got so weary of those happy go lucky, name it and claim it Facebook statuses...statusii? (Ok..just kidding. To see if you were paying attention.) By the fall after my mom's death and Jeff's return home, I was so numb that I no longer worried about the lonely places in my heart. I just kept doing the next thing.

I also I kept waiting for my heart to start tingling. You know how your arm or leg does after it goes to sleep? I kept thinking that one day, my heart would start to tingle, and I'd know I was ok again. I figured there'd be some pain...just like how that waking limb is painful when it is tingling. pain no gain? I'd embrace the pain as a sign that the worst was over. I'd take it as a sign that God had found me after all my searching for him. When it was all said and done, maybe he'd tell me who I was in him and why his plan did not include my being his #1 cheerleader. Maybe?

The long siege was over. My husband was home. My mother's suffering was over. In some way I cannot qualify or explain, mine had only begun.

Job 23: 8-10
See, I go forward, but he is not there; and back, but I do not see him; I am looking for him on the left hand, but there is no sign of him; and turning to the right, I am not able to see him. For he has knowledge of the way I take; after I have been tested I will come out like gold.

Genesis 32: 28
He said, "Your name will no longer be called Jacob, but Israel; for you have fought with God and with men, and have prevailed."


  1. My struggles are different, but I know where you are.

  2. I am sorry for your struggle and genuinely humbled that what I write resonates with you. Everytime I hesitate to post so transparently, someone like you will contact me to say that it is my honesty which keeps them coming back. Even as I hit the 'publish' button today, I had to rethink it a dozen times. I this fraidy cat world, who takes this kind of risk? My hope is that we will all realize that God is in the details...all of them -- including the tiniest and the most painful.

  3. My heart aches right along with you. I feel the depth of your pain and sorrow and can relate. Sometimes I ask myself, "Isn't there MORE than this?" Yes, two can be as bad as one, but I can't change my spouse, I have to change my reaction to him and my pain from his disinterest and lack of showing any amount of caring.

  4. Sighs to you, Caring Friend. I have found that it does often pivot on how I choose to react. In our case, my pain is mediated by knowing that my spouse's history is colored by abuse he suffered as a child. In turn, that affects our relationship on a daily basis. I am also awed by how hard he has worked to overcome that past given how scary confronting it has been. His courage and determination are the things that keep me here and make me determined to defeat the monster every time I realize that history has cost us again! Sadly, my husband is not alone in his struggles. Many, many men are unable to bring themselves to admit/address their own histories of abuse....even when their wives have well documented and acknowledged stories of abuse. I often wonder, when I hear of faltering marriages, what truths are going untold? We live in a fraidy cat world. May the Lord comfort and guide you, and me, as we try to love honestly and courageously in difficult situations!