Tag Archives: loneliness

Under the cloud

9 Nov

It’s been one of those weeks.

I saw the dark cloud approaching, hovering on the horizon, probably about ten days ago. I spotted it and I ignored it.

For some reason, I thought that denial might work – this time.

And as the cloud approached, I remained naively optimistic. It will be different this time. I can do this. I can win this battle.

I started feeling slightly disconnected – from those around me, from conversations, from life. And I still carried on thinking I would be ok.

Then. Then – the crash. Unable to get out of bed. Unable to answer my phone. Unable to connect – with anyone, anything.

The cloud had enveloped me. I could no longer deny its presence. I could not fight, I had no resources or strength. Nothing.

I felt so sad. Overwhelmed by disappointment. A sense of loss. A sadness at the world we live in, at the suffering of those I love. A sadness and a questioning – of the path I am on, the world I occupy.

I could no longer see, enveloped by blackness. Bleakness.

I have been under the cloud before. And it is horrible. Awful. It is lonely, isolating, enveloping, all-consuming.

No-one should ever have to live under the cloud.

And today? Today, the cloud is still there but there are some rays of light too.

So please don’t worry. I write these words not to alarm anyone, but in the pursuit of honesty and truth. Of vulnerability.

For I spend many years pretending I was strong. And I am not.

I cannot do this on my own.

And I cannot pretend anymore. It’s been one of those weeks.

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Moving up, moving down

1 Nov

I often hear talk, amongst Christians, of the desire to “be countercultural”, articulating an attempt to live differently in a world that is, in the West at least, marked by individualism, independence and financial aspiration.

And yet, the more I think about it, the more clearly I see: how little difference there is – in terms of every-day, nitty-gritty living – between those of faith and those of none.

For many middle-class Christians have embraced a middle-class faith.

A faith that allows for upward mobility, financial security and “confort zone living”.

A faith that, it would seem, talks about “going the extra mile” – yet rarely leads to worn out shoes.

A faith that ticks the “giving box” through impersonal direct debits, and avoids the command to “give away an extra coat”.

A faith exhibiting a reluctance to give-til-it-hurts.

A faith that has failed to truly cross the boundaries of wealth, class and background – so the rich get richer, the poor stay poor and we inhabit two separate worlds.

I write this not to judge, but as a confession. An admission that I, a fully signed-up Christian, am comfortable  in my comfort zone. I make choices that benefit me (and those I love) and I get caught up – day by day, week by week – in an aspirational, “upwards” mindset – bigger salary, bigger house, bigger cupboards. More. More. More.

Recently, though, my hubster and I made a different choice. You could, I guess, call it a “downward decision”. We had to move house – and so we left our lovely home with a big garden and moved into our friend’s spare room. We stepped off the up escalator and started exploring a different path. We are students of an alternative trail.

I know that some of our friends find it weird. After all – who would choose shared space instead of privacy? Which married couple would move in with others, except in an emergency? In a country obsessed with land ownership, why would anyone aspire to “shared space” over “my space”?

Then, this morning, I read these words:

“The rampant individualism of Western society is a relatively new thing, and its emptiness is increasingly evident … We are wealthy and lonely…”

We are lonely. We live in a world that is more “connected” than ever before. Facebook, Twitter, email, texting, BBM. Instant access to others. And – if the phone doesn’t buzz or beep – instant loneliness.

We are wealthy. And the more money we have, the more we isolate ourselves from others.

We are strangers. We bump into others, for we share the same public space, yet we rarely know each other’s names.

We are upwardly mobile, educated, financially secure and full of aspiration. We are middle-class Christians.

And we are missing out.

Missing out on the wonder of hearing the life-stories of those with journeys very different to ours, and the indescribable joy of the friendships that can emerge. Missing out on the laughter, and tears, of living-entwined-lives, and not solely with “people like us”. Missing out on the reward and challenge inherent in a risky “no” to cultural norms and a “yes” to downward mobility.

A guy called Shane Claiborne said, “we live in community and among the suffering because it is what we are made for”.

I love that. For it is truly counter-cultural. And it doesn’t sound very middle-class to me.

The Other

6 Jan

The need to belong is a powerful one, maybe as visceral and “human-y” as the need for love. Each of us needs an emotional home, that safe place where we are accepted fully, where we belong. Yet belonging is, by its very nature, about differentiation and preferences. I cannot be friends with everyone, therefore I choose some. I cannot help everyone, therefore I prioritise some. Such differentiation, “tribe creation”, seems to be the way of human beings. We create social norms, standards by which “normal” people live, and those on the outside are invariably marginalised, isolated and pushed to the periphery. Playground cliques do not, it would seem, end when we leave school.

So then, what does it mean to be “the other”? The one on the periphery? The one marginalised by depression? The one who is homeless and losing hope? The one with HIV/AIDS? The one with a disability? The one working in a brothel? The one with an unexpected teenage pregnancy? The one longing for a baby, yet unable to conceive? What would it be like to not be in the majority? What would it be like to carry the invisible stamp of differentiation?

Many of us in the West live lives that are impoverished by their homogeneity. Our friends, colleagues, community are “like us”. We have not heard the stories of “the other” and we are encumbered and enslaved by our own presumptions. The homeless became a sub-tribe of addicts, the mentally ill become “those we avoid”, street kids become criminals. We do not understand, and so we create boxes and confine individuals – each made in the image of the divine – within bland, beauty-less boxes. And so we lose out. We create an impenetrable chasm between “them” and “us”. We fail to enrich our lives because we do not acknowledge the worth of someone else’s story, the worth of someone else’s life.

And the reality is, that for many of us, “the other” makes us feel better about our lives. We are more together/successful/wise/normal than them. We have made better choices. “They” confirm our place in the centre, where we need only occasionally glance at the unfortunate souls on the periphery of society. We remain “normal”; “they” remain marginalised and misunderstood.

Could 2012 be the year where we seek out the story of “the other”, giving dignity and worth to those silenced and overlooked because they are “different”? Could it be the year we seek to understand and know – truly, not superficially – those who are not like us? “The other” is, after all, simply another one of us – a fellow human being with unique emotions, hopes and desires. A unique individual who shares our intrinsic human needs for love and belonging.

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