loneliness or alone…a matter of perspective

Loneliness expresses the pain of being alone and solitude expresses
the glory of being alone.

Paul Tillich


(somebody’s watching you, or acutaly they were watching me / Julie Cook / 2018)

You may remember about a week or so ago I posted a curious image of a pile of bluebird
feathers beneath one of my bluebird boxes.

I surmised from the mass of scattered feathers that something bad and somewhat
tragic had taken place during the veil of darkness.

I also knew we had marauding raccoons who often came to visit the yard at night,
scavenging the stale bread I often throw out back for the birds.

And I knew that raccoons were notorious for stealing bird eggs.

A quick internet search also revealed that they are not choosy when it comes to their
need for a meal.
They are equally notorious for snatching whole birds.

I was rather crestfallen when I thought that the poor bluebird family this year was not
to be thanks to my four-legged black masked visitors…

That was until I walked past the same box where previously a pile of feather lay…
and I suddenly felt that odd feeling when you realize you’re not exactly alone.

I turned toward the bird box and saw what I thought to be an eyeball staring at me.

Watching me ever so closely.

Over the course of a few minutes, the eyeball became two eyeballs…

And then an entire head…

And so it appears that Mrs. Bluebird is alive and well, yet I fear she just might
be a widow.

And as I stood staring at this lone little head peeking out of a birdbox, the notion of this
lone bird now having to sit on a nest of eggs, hatch said eggs and in turn work
like mad to feed the now filled nest of hungry mouths…filled me with a bit of melancholy.

And so I found myself overcome by the odd thought of loneliness and of being alone.

And whereas I know that birds don’t necessarily look at the circumstance of life as I do…
it’s just the fact that I have the knowledge of knowing how hard things will be for
her raising a brood without the help of a mate sharing in the endless search for food
for wanting little mouths.

It reminded me of my own bit of emptiness when it’s time for my little
granddaughter to go home.
Such as she did Sunday.
I find myself with such a lonely ache in my soul.
Not that bird’s heart’s ache or that they have a soul for that matter…

Yet despite these thoughts of a bird’s loneliness and of my own feelings and sense
of a lonely ache, I recalled reading recently an interesting article about
the skyrocketing epidemic in this country centering around loneliness.

The title of the article was
“God may have put you in a lonely place for an incredible reason”
by Pastor Rick McDaniel

Now I know that lots of folks will scoff at the linked thoughts of loneliness
to what we believe
to be a loving, all knowing, all powerful God…
I also know that there will those who will scoff at any sort idea of a God…
Plus that there will be those who will scoff at the notion of our being alone
as an impetus for our, in turn, reaching up and outward from ourselves…
oblivious and unaware of what gifts may actually await us just beyond our
aching empty hearts…

I know how hard it can be when one is in the midst of feeling so utterly
void and alone to imagine that God’s hand could or would be ever so close…

However, I have always been comforted by the words of Padre Pio, that mysterious Capuchin monk
who taught that it is in the depths of our greatest suffering in which God is actually the
closest to us.

There are many who will question such a statement…
but in the hindsight of my own life, I have seen the truth behind his words.

Yet for many, it is the depths of loneliness when there is a real feeling of anger and
resentment toward the unseen God who in our suffering, believe is choosing not to
“rescue” us from our plight of loneliness thus our belief that that is cause for
our feelings of anger.

Yet as Pastor McDaniel points out,
“Sometimes God causes us to seek him by driving us to him through the loneliness we experience.
We can get angry, depressed or we can see it as a gift.
Loneliness is a great benefit if we have drawn closer to Christ.”

While at the same time, I find this whole notion of skyrocketing loneliness an odd result
from the advent of social media where anyone can be connected to everyone with just
the click of a button…

And while our obsession with technological engagement has created a generation of
folks who more often than not feel utterly isolated,
albeit for the screen of an electronic device,
it is that very sense of isolation that can either lead us up and out of ourselves
to something much greater and so much more…or cause us to sink into despair…

I think it’s a matter of perspective…

http://www.foxnews.com/opinion/2018/05/26/god-may-have-put-in-lonely-place-for-incredible-reason.html

A place where everybody knows your name

“The loneliest moment in someone’s life is when they are watching their whole world fall apart,
and all they can do is stare blankly.”

F. Scott Fitzgerald


( the wall inside the Bull and Finch Pub in Boston that was the inspriation to the television
hit series Cheers / Julie Cook / 2014)

I’ve always considered myself a rather independent individual,
as well as one who relishes in the quiet of being”alone”…
yet for the notion of loneliness, I am, like most folks, not a fan.

I’ve spent most of my married life on my own—not so much because I wanted to
or because my husband was always traveling or in the military but rather because he’s
owned and run a smalltown family retail business for right at 50 years.

He has worked 6 days a week, often 12 or more hours a day, for most of his life…
and he was working in the family business long before I came along.
The Christmas holiday season saw that time of working up to 7 days a week
at 14 or more hours a day.

At first, this wasn’t an easy adjustment.

My dad, for most of my growing up, worked for the County–a 9 to 5 sort of dad.
At one point early in his life, he had been a traveling salesman for my
Grandfather’s company, but Dad had hated it.
Dad was more lazy than not, so the idea of being on the road 24 /7 was less than appealing.
So as soon as my Grandfather died at the young age of 67 in 1967,
my dad and his brother sold the family business and dad went to work as an engineer
for the Fulton County Health Department.

So I was used to a dad who got home at a reasonable hour for supper
and who was always home on weekends.

That was not the case for the man I married.
For he has worked more than he’s been home.

He carries a great deal of regret with all of this as far as our son’s growing up was
concerned–but I continue to reassure him that he did the best he could and managed to
squeeze in good quality time with our son when it was most needed.

And I too have rendered my time to the store, especially during the holidays—
but as a career educator and eventually both teacher and a mom, my own time was
equally filled. Yet it seems that the two of us have, more or less,
been more apart then together…

So I was intrigued this morning when I caught the title of our friend the Wee Flea,
Pastor David Robertson’s title to his latest blog post—
Loneliness-the cord of three strands- Ecclesiastes 4:7-12

The Cure for Loneliness – the Cord of Three Strands – (Ecclesiastes 4:7-12)

It seems that the idea of loneliness, as a rife problem, was recently noted in
a commissioned report produced regarding life in the UK…
and it is now seen as such a real problem that the UK’s Prime Minister, Theresa May,
has just appointed a minister to be in charge of the UK’s problem of loneliness, having
named Tracey Crouch as the new Minister of Loneliness.

A rather interesting title…and I imagine there’s a song in there someplace…
such as the song ‘One is the Loneliest Number’ by the 70’s rock group, Three Dog Night,
which suddenly comes racing back into present-day focus.

Our Wee Flea friend notes that “according to the aforementioned Jo Cox report there are
9 million people in the UK who always, or mostly, feel lonely.
It’s a problem recognised in our media.
The long-running Australian soap reminds us of the importance of ‘good neighbours’
who become ‘good friends’.
Yet how many of us live in streets when we don’t even know the names of our neighbours
(other than when the Amazon parcel arrives),
never mind identify them as friends?
Likewise, Netflix has just introduced a new generation to the ever popular
Friends with its instantly recognisable theme tune, ‘I’ll be there for you’.
How many of us have friends who will be there for us?
How many of us have substituted the handful of friends that come from deep and
committed relationships, with the hundreds of online friends who mean virtually nothing?”

The long-running comedy series, Cheers was the show that first popped into
my mind when thinking of the notion of loneliness along with friends and family
being found is the some of the oddest of places.


(yours truly, along with the ever working husband who, on a business trip, found time
to go visit that place where everyone knows your name / 2014)

The story, if you recall, was set in Boston at a fictions pub named Cheers.
The actual real-life pub that was the inspiration for the TV show is named the
Bull and Finch; a Bostonian pub dating back merely to 1969.
The Bull and Finch is a much smaller place than the television version’s pub
known as Cheers–yet is set up in a rather similar fashion.

One does indeed descend down a small set of stairs from the street level while walking
into a more cramped, low ceilinged sort of tightly configured quasi-tavern.
The bar, however, is long and somewhat spacious. There is a bronze plaque screwed
to the end of the bar, commemorating the iconic seat reserved for the character Norm who
always appeared arriving at the bar after work.
He’d take his usual place at the end of the bar where he would receive his usual,
an icy cold mug of beer while he was often heard to lament about life with his wife who
was obviously home…alone.


(a plaque on the bar at the Bull and Finch Pub commemorating where Norm always
would sit / Julie Cook / 2014)

There is also a back set of stairs similar to the stairs in the TV show, that does lead up
to another restaurant, along with, of course, a Cheers gift shop.

This was a show about the lives of the hodgepodge mix of folks who were each connected
to the pub. From the bar owner, bartenders, barmaids down to the patrons–
and how they had all developed their own sort of close-knit family despite having lives
outside of the bar.

The bar was a place where regular patrons could come, having their very own seat…a place
where the bartenders knew what to serve without the patron ever having to say a word—
simply coming and sitting down said it all…as strangers each gravitated to
this nondescript little pub while eventually becoming most important one to another…
much like an extended family.

A place where everyone knew your name…your likes, your dislikes, your history,
your story, your ups, and your downs…

And whereas our friend the Wee Flee was drawn to the book of Ecclesiastes and the
pinning of a now wizened old king found in Solomon…

Ecclesiastes 4 deals with the oppressed having no comforter, a man without
the companionship of family and friends and a lonely king.
The early church had some quite fanciful interpretations of this passage.
Jerome, for example, saw in the three-fold cord the faith, hope, and love of 1 Corinthians.
Ambrose was more interesting – in speaking of Christ as the friend who sticks closer
than a brother he sees him as the one who lifts up the companion when he falls,
the one who warms, and the one who went from the prison to be a king.
He points us to the real solution for loneliness.

I myself seem to find much more comfort in those words and thoughts
offered by our friend St Ambrose rather than that wisdom uttered by the aging King Solomon.

That being the notion of Christ being closer to us than that of our very kin…

The fraternity of Christ, is closer than the fraternity of blood.”
He took what is mine in order that He might impart to me what is His.
He took it not to overturn it but to fill it.

And thus we find that it is in our very relationship with Christ in which our loneliness
dissipates as He and His very essence of being seeps in turn, into our very being,
filling every void and crack within often lonely lives.
Thus being truly the One who knows our name, our ups, our downs, our dislikes, our likes,
our best and our worst—staying right by our side despite what He knows about us
and sees—because He is us and we are Him…

Abide in me, and I in you.
John 15:4

There are plans

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
Jeremiah 29:11

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(A lone sentinel sits watch along the outer wall along the Rock Of Cashel / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

I lose sight you know…

Losing that certain knowledge…

Lost in the day to day…

It’s truly…simply lost…

In fact, I think I, as in myself, my life, my very being, has gotten lost.

I didn’t quite realize it until just recently.

The din of madness from this chattering world of ours, with its dark vacuum and slick diversions, has sucked it all slowly away.

I am like those crumbling ruins of ages past…
Once great and grand, sure and solid…
Impressing both self as well as others…
Made to last forever. . .or so it seemed…
Yet over time and little by little, the beauty and loftiness has faded…
The glory is now forgotten…
I sit alone and abandoned left feeling more numb than sad.

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

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(the crumbling edifice of the Rock of Cashel which dates to the early 12th century / County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Then one day, when it is least expected, a single ray of light shines into the blurry, chilly grey abyss…there is a word, a touch, a feeling, a reminder…

We pursue God because, and only because, He has first put an urge within us that spurs us to the pursuit. “No man can come to me,” says our Lord, “except the Father which hath sent me draw him,” and it is by this very prevenient drawing that God takes from us every vestige of credit for the act of coming. The impulse to pursue God originates with God, but the outworking of that impulse is our following hard after Him; and all the time we are pursuing Him we are already in His hand: “Thy right hand upholdeth me.”
A.W. Tozer

The notion that I, as in me…who out of the billions of human beings on this planet, has been considered worthy enough for the most high Omnipotent God to have long ago, well before I came into being, placed a piece of His own Divinity within my very being…only to call out to that very tiny particle years later, is a thought that is more than difficult to wrap words, let alone thoughts, around.

It is as if two missing pieces, separated forever ago, now palpably yearn, nay ache, to be joined and bound together—at last…in order to finally become one, to be made whole.

Those who are adopted often come prewired with a sense of unwantedness.

It is a psychological hiccup in the cornerstone of formation sadly instilled in utero.
It is a hindrance that is carried beneath the conscious mind throughout life, only to rear its ugly head in the myriad of relationships held throughout the course of a lifetime.

It is that hidden sense of unwantedness that acts to repel the notion that one is deeply and passionately loved, wanted, savored…particularly so by the very Creator of all of Life Himself as it is He who instilled His loving “want” at the time the unwantedness was issued.

A contradiction in utero–the sacred and the carnal colliding in the creation of life.
Want and rejection become a stalemate of one.
Brokeness is pushed forever deeper as all manner of satiation is sought throughout the journey known as life–anything to fill the unrecognizable carnality subconscious ache.

Yet the Divine Want far surpasses any secular carnal unwantedness.
Grace, Redemption, Desire, Love, Acceptance each flows freely, coursing through veins which had narrowed in their ill perceived lack of want and years of temporal satiation.

It is as if someone has taken hold of both shoulders and shaken so hard that a revelation has actually, thankfully, finally been jared loose, knocking all falsehoods off balance. The ah ha moment of the very reality of Creation crushes down on the hardened ego of self and on the sheer act of survival– as joyfully selfless Love indeed trumps all…

…and so it is, the tiny wee particle, buried deep within, hears its long awaited missing half…a Voice speaking through the mist —
“You are indeed worthy…for you have always been mine…
There are plans…”

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Chapel window from Kylemore Abbey / County Galway, Ireland / Julie Cook/ 2015)

Battered yet undeterred

“Out of defeat can come the best in human nature. As Christians face storms of adversity, they may rise with more beauty. They are like trees that grow on mountain ridges — battered by winds, yet trees in which we find the strongest wood.”
Billy Graham

How nice to meet someone so undeterred by things like. . .reality.
The Lorax

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(the first post freezing quince bloom–looking worse from winter’s wear / Julie Cook / 2015)

The Psalmist cries. . .
“Hear me oh Lord. . .”

Cries of anguish, pain, sorrow, emptiness, suffering. . .

The Psalmist also speaks of joy. . .
Joy is longed for and joy is infectious. . .
Praise and alleluias are easily multiplied. . .
Everyone wants in on happy, joy, uplifting, good, glad. . .

It is, however, to the other. . .
to those deep groanings of the suffering soul and spirit. . .
the laminations, the cries, the wailing, the tears, the sorrow. . .
of which, alone we will all eventually find ourselves.

It is a dry place of solitude, oneness, singleness and loneliness
It is a place that is gritty, dirty, uncomfortable
It is the furnace ready to refine. . .

Yet this place of isolation,
this place of misery,
this deeply troubling place of peril
and of anguished sorrow. . .
is also the place in which character is forged.
It is the place where the knowledge of self is realized–
for good or for bad. . .

Crisis crashes down upon crisis
Weary roads traversed
stop and go, stop and go
wills are battered
hearts are bruised
bodies fail
sewage spills forth in a torrent of rage
as money flees through the broken glass

Personalities clash,
while the like minded work in tandem
Step by step, one foot forward
Sinister lurks in the shadow, composing its agenda
Controlling, one way, the only way
Demanding will not yield its way
Selfish will not have the last word

Having been hit broadside. . .
Blindsided by mayhem, confusion and hatefulness
Caught in a place of no control and no return
Nearly broken, battered, hurting. . .
yet decidedly undeterred. . .

A little while, and the wicked will be no more;
though you look for them, they will not be found.
But the meek will inherit the land
and enjoy peace and prosperity.
The wicked plot against the righteous
and gnash their teeth at them;
but the Lord laughs at the wicked,
for he knows their day is coming.
The wicked draw the sword
and bend the bow
to bring down the poor and needy,
to slay those whose ways are upright.
But their swords will pierce their own hearts,
and their bows will be broken.

Psalm 37:10-15

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The lonely persimmon: a tale of the Creator and the created

“We must become so alone, so utterly alone, that we withdraw into our innermost self. It is a way of bitter suffering. But then our solitude is overcome, we are no longer alone, for we find that our innermost self is the spirit, that it is God, the indivisible. And suddenly we find ourselves in the midst of the world, yet undisturbed by its multiplicity, for our innermost soul we know ourselves to be one with all being.”
― Hermann Hesse
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I was out walking yesterday when I spied a lone persimmon hanging from a rather sad looking example of a persimmon tree. I can’t say that I’ve ever eaten a persimmon but I know they usually sell them this time of year in the grocery store. This poor tree had nary a leaf and only one fruit to show for its labors.

There once was a large persimmon tree at the corner of our street when I was growing up. I hated that this was the location for our school bus stop because when the overripe persimmons fell, that meant we stepped on them. Do you know what squashed persimmons look like stuck all on the bottom of ones’ school shoes…only to be tracked in to school and somehow wend up smeared on the bottom of the cubby of my desk…those big ol seeds in that nasty sticky goo.

No wonder I’ve never tasted one before with such memories. And let’s just say that when you’re out walking in the woods, you can always tell, how shall I put this delicately, what the possums have been eating… and trust me, it’s always persimmons.
That pretty much sums up my recollection of persimmons.

Yet seeing this single lone little fruit on a shabby little tree in the middle of a rather barren spot in the middle of no where, did stir something unsettling deep down in my little ol soul. Just something about seeing the single fruit on more of a stick than a tree, there for no one in particular to see… let alone eat—I had a twinge of sadness.

I know I know, some fortunate little bird or bug will be happy at some point, or more likely it will be a lucky possum who happens by the very day, or more likely the very night, when the persimmon decides to fall to the ground—which is Nature’s wonderful way of taking care of Nature…..

Yet there was just something truly a bit sad about the single persimmon or maybe there was something that reminded me of what it was to simply be all a lone–just something that left me feeling uncomfortable…all this from this single little piece of fruit hanging as a solitary reminder of what it is to be lonely—all of which left me a trifle bit unsettled.

Loneliness can be a very scary thing. It is something we all experience at some time or another. It can happen when we are actually surrounded by people–family and friends or when we seemingly feel abandoned by those we love; it is not simply relegated and waiting for us at 2 in the morning when we find ourselves lost and stranded—either literally or metaphorically.

It is in the midst of our loneliness that we can finally be open to and get a small glimpse of the light of the Divine which resides deep in our inner core. No surrounding noise, no distraction, no constant din of activity to keep our attentions diverted. It is at this empty time when we may finally move inward in order to see what is so much greater than ourselves.

And yet so many of us seem so utterly afraid of being alone. We do everything and anything in our power in order to avoid it. We exert tremendous energy fighting being alone. Our society has placed such negative connotations to what it is to be alone—it has become almost a social stigma. It is uncomfortable and most often dreaded. We run as fast as we can away from loneliness and anything associated with what is means to be alone…turning on and up the television, the radio, calling as many people as we know, refusing to be with only ourselves. And yet that is where the Creator waits for the created…in the void of silence.

It is the Trappist monk, Thomas Merton who reminds us of what awaits for us in the silence of loneliness…..“Yet it is in this loneliness that the deepest activities begin. It is here that you discover act without motion, labor that is profound repose, vision in obscurity, and, beyond all desire, a fulfillment whose limits extend to infinity.

Dare to be alone, to be silent…be not afraid of silence or of the singleness of existence. It is in this loneliness and singleness that you, the created, can meet what it is we all so very much long for, a glimpse of the Divine, the Creator.