dear hilary: some days it is only you

dear hilary,
before i graduated from college, i knew i needed to prepare myself for loneliness. i saw it coming amidst the goodbyes and graduation pictures and hours of packing my things acquired over four years of dorm life. but now it’s here, this loneliness, and i think it’s here to stay for awhile. so i’m wondering what is the purpose of loneliness? are we meant to experience it and learn from it — or try desperately to avoid it?

reluctantly lonely

Dear reluctantly lonely,
When I left my semester in Washington, DC and packed up my small, cramped room that I had shared with two roommates, and fretted over whether to mail things home by UPS or USPS, I pretended to everyone that I would not be lonely. That we would not be lonely. I promised Skype dates and March break visits and a heart full of memories. I denied everything about loneliness.

But not long after I left on my early bus to my hometown, lonely caught up to me. I sobbed hysterically through the plane ride. I cried for those hearts now at home in my heart. I cried for those who really left. I cried for no reason and for every reason and the truth is that I could not help but cry. No one can- because loneliness is about love. Because longing for someone or something and being lonely is a part of love.

We don’t talk about it. Instead we make those wild promises and worry ourselves sick with how we will manage everything and keep it all just as it was. Perhaps we should embrace lonely as a part of love. We tie ourselves in knots around the gut wrenching reality that people do leave. Departure, and arrival. We cannot control our way around them: and pretending we aren’t missing those who have left is like pretending that you only “sort of” love the book that changed your life or that you just “kind of” want your deepest dream to come true. Don’t pretend not to be lonely, sweetheart. Let the lonely be a new shape of love.

Sometimes it is only you. Sometimes it is just you and the songs on the playlist and the questions. Sometimes it is you doing the hard daily work of building your life. Sometimes you will go home and sit in the stillness and wonder- how long will I feel lonely? and there won’t be anything to do but wait and trust.

I promise, love, that those days which are only you, those days of lonely? They expand your heart most. And that is the real hope.



3 thoughts on “dear hilary: some days it is only you

  1. I heard a sermon preached once on loneliness. And how to practice turning being alone into solitude – how to turn towards Christ whenever loneliness seeped up from the ground.
    Could “what is the purpose of loneliness?” be a better question as “how do/will I respond to loneliness?”? I ask because I have a tendency to question the purpose of everything: why this, why that, what is the reason… And that can distract, pulling me out to unanswerables that involve everyone, instead of focusing on here, now, this situation, me: how will I respond? How will I allow myself to be changed, matured? How now shall I live?
    And of course, the big questions are necessary, and valuable, and beautiful. BUT. They all connect to the little questions, the little decisions, the day-to-day living. And sometimes I have to remind myself that.
    Those times of loneliness? They turn you inwards. Towards Christ. Towards self-reflection. Towards breathing slowly and deeply, letting your heart ache and rejoice. You have to face yourself, and have compassion on what you see, and that will help you have compassion on others. Loneliness can help you to love better.
    grace & peace,

  2. responding to favorite lines, I run the risk of quoting this entire post back at you, so I will do my best to limit myself. I can’t tell you how much of a YES it was to read, “I knew I had to prepare myself for loneliness.” He’s whispered both in the crowded room and the quiet moments, slowly, for about a year now.

    Lauren Winner’s latest book contains a chapter on loneliness. She writes about “seeing what the loneliness has for her” while it’s there, and that phrase has been on repeat since I’ve read it, making its way into my prayers.

    I think “loneliness is about love” and “let the lonely be a shape of love” might do the same now.

    thanks for this, Hilary.

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