Look, I dont know how to begin to write about this. I don't know who I'm writing it for, even. Is it God, or myself, or you, reader, whoever you may be? And I'm not sure what the outcome will be or should be. All I know is that every time to sit down to write about this, I write about something else instead. And every time I get up from the computer, I'm dissatisfied because I didnt say it again.
I really just want to say that lately I feel lonely. A writing mentor I knew once said the word "lonely" was probably wrong, and didn't really get at it. "it's more alike alone, in the cosmic sense, with the capital A, Alone." she would say. But I don't think that's it - I really do think it's lonely. I have great friends, a wonderful husband, a delightful child, a large and funny family, an abiding faith, meaningful work and still, still, still I feel lonely.
Once last summer, I went to hang out with some people I met on-line. I liked meeting them in person. It felt so cool that we had connected in this virtual, invisible way and now we could catch each other's facial expressions and play with each other's children IRT (as we cool bloggers say, and if you dont know what it means, I'm glad, because it means that I'M the IN one, even if it's just for a second). If I were still in the big small town of my childhood, reading about something like this happening in a big city, how wonderful it would seem! And how jealous I would feel! That, I would say to myself, THAT is real connection in the 21st century.
I'd always said, and always believed, that I wanted to live in Christian community. In my vaguely specific vision, I knew it involved a lot of prayer and eating together and celebrating and being very intentional about dividing finances and household work. It was about wanting to know each other on a soul level and being able to count on each other long term. And, most importantly, it would be supportive when I felt like company and it would leave me alone when I wanted some privacy. It was, as I see now in a way I did not see then, a complete fantasy, no more real than my adolescent imaginings of the perfect marriage.
Anyway, before I saw the unreality of it, I told those new virtual, real friends some of my hopes about living in community. As I talked, I thought about how this conversation always made me feel like a kid on a rainy night outside a candy store - looking in at all the people laughing and eating, and figuring they have the Kingdom of God all tucked in their pockets, and if only I could get in, I could have it, too.
One of the other women said something about some people she knew who lived in Christian community, how they brought all their hurts and wounds to it and expected them to be fixed, how disappointed they were when nothing was fixed at all.
The other woman talked about some plans she had for living together with a group of other people, and how the whole thing fell apart and now she doesn't even see those people anymore. And how she believes now that as urban people, we can't really plan our family lives around other families and make promises about forever and ever.
I nodded and smiled and I went home completely deflated.
The next morning, I talked to my husband while he was taking a shower. I sometimes do this to him, because he is (as he would tell you) unusually wise in the shower.
"We can't live in Christian community" I announced tragically. Never mind that the closest I'd ever gotten to the contentment of my ideal is right here in my own little family. Never mind that my attempts to really belong to communities in the past- the boys in my family, the jewish students at my tiny college, the lesbians the northern forests, the other moms at that little playground up the street - pretty much ended in, at the very least, a creeping sort of dissatisfaction. Never mind that it wasn't even REAL - the end of that dream was still tragic that day.
"Because. I only want to do it because of all my worst parts - mostly my pathetic, desperate loneliness. Nobody wants someone pathetic and desperate to be in their group. I have to heal this loneliness before I can even be around other people."
His eyes got all gentle and loving. "Oh sweetie. Don't stop being lonely. I love your loneliness. And other people love it too. That's why people are drawn to you. It's the thing that makes you want to gather other people around you all the time. It's good, really."
I was incredulous. But then I had a few more tentative conversations with people I trust and I started to really believe it. Maybe Christian Community didnt HAVE to be based on Acts (in that story everything went to hell in a pretty fast handbasket anyway) and maybe the sweet little weekly gatherings we have with friends could really be IT, even if we DO sometimes begin our meals with the theme song from Chitty Chitty Bang Bang instead of something like a lovely Taize chant for the prayer, since that's the kids favorite song at the moment. Maybe those moments of contentment I sometimes feel with my family when we're all walking to watch the sunset together were really real. Maybe all of this, and me in all of this, could be enough.
For a while, my eyes were really open to the abundance around me, and I was so grateful.
Then, just recently, I threw my hat into this webring, which includes a sort of suggested daily reading list of noteworthy posts. Before I joined, I used to check the round-up of what others were writing, grateful to see what else was out there. With more than 70 blogs on the list, it's impossible for anyone to read them all, or list something noteworthy about every one, every day. But now I find that instead of finding the wisdom in others' words, I check the page with my fingers crossed. I'm 8 years old again and all sweaty in gym class, my brain going "Pick me, pick me, pick me...." Once someone DID pick me and I was so pleased that I couldn't even really say "thanks."
Instead of feeling like I'm part of something, I'm on the other side of the glass again (still?) and I'm not sure of the right words to get in. I'm still having that same fantasy I thought I was done with - the perfect community and me perfectly ensconced in it, in sight but just out of reach. And that fantasy is impeding my ability to embrace and enjoy the abundance that is actually available to me right here and now.
I said at the beginning that I didnt know what I was writing this for, but now I know why. I'm going to keep writing, but not because writing is some kind of ticket into a candy shop which doesn't even exist anyway. I'm going to keep writing because there's a voice in there that wants out.
When I close my eyes and picture my words now, they don't have to be, as I was imagining for a while, in the center of a circle with everyone jostling to see. We're not much into sacrifice in my tradition, but I see them now on a table, laid before God. Now I know why I am writing this. To bring me back around to where I always need to be brought around to - to trust. I'll put my words out here. I'll stop trying to make them a ticket to the Imaginary Kingdom. And I will trust in God, just as much as I possibly can, that these words will fall where they need to and heal who they need to - even if it's just me.