I want a dog.
After food laboratory duties, or an episode of Brooklyn Nine Nine, I want to be able to turn around, and find a fuzzy little creature gazing at me with affection. If I kneeled to oblige, it would be too happy to sidle up next to me; I smell like bacon.
When a friend shared about how she was feeling the pain of being single, I thought I understood. She’s in her early thirties, and even if she had peace, there was an undeniable desire for someone to do life with. She knew well enough that she was a complete person, and yet, the pang was there. It didn’t always feel that way, the intensity comes and goes, but it’s a consistent visitor.
We know about wholeness in God, of lacking no good thing, and it’s true. Goodness and beauty abound, and so does the love from the circles we’re part of. And yet, singleness can still be painful to many, or to some, and it’s okay to feel frustrated. Loneliness is painful, but it’s a part of the human experience that helps us grow, when we know how to deal with it. It can increase our empathy for others who’ve come by it through other causes, and how to be there for them.
Today, it elbows me sharp enough to realize that I finally I understand my friend. It’s irksome, and I wonder whether neurosurgery could remove my capacity to experience it. Despite friendships and genuine connections with family, colleagues, and even strangers, why must I feel a burdensome desire for someone to be here. Not for chatter, but in the quiet of the evening, to find warmth. When someone at a gathering tells a joke, to know that you can look into one person’s eyes and find a conversation (or eye roll). A life partner won’t, and shouldn’t be everything. But it’s incredible how we, though transient beings in dying bodies can, for a while, find home in another one as transient and fading.
What a gift to find someone to be anything with. What a gift to be closest in recognizing another as their being and bodies change. And to hold them, and to be held by them.
Since this subject usually makes well-intentioned people get into dole-out-advice mode:
Rather than advise pining folk that they just need to get busier (we’re all busy enough), or meet more people (which they’re already probably doing), or to get involved in something interesting (stop assuming they’re not), firstly: it’s not bad to go through the motion of loneliness. Sometimes it’s a choice that ruins people, but other times, it’s just something people are in, just because. It’s a waste of thought and energy for a person to dwell on it to the point of depression or immobility. It’s not necessarily the best thing for the people around them to provide unsolicited advice either. Loneliness is one of the unpleasant things we encounter as relational beings. It too, passes. Rather than tell them what to do, just be with them, acknowledge and accept how they feel. You don’t need to do anything else. Just being there probably already makes them feel better, unless they ask for what to do anyway. Then maybe catch a comedy show or go for a walk or tell them that you spent an hour looking for where your dog took a dump when it was camouflaged on your brown shoe all along. And if you can increase their circle of friends and acquaintances, why not? :)