Saturday night I started feeling a little low and a little lonely for the first time in a long time. Typically this dark, dreary feeling would send me into a tailspin of tears. This time though, it didn’t. Instead, it did two things, odd things. First, it pushed me to go on a run outside. This is very odd for me being that the last time I went on a run was well, never, and I haven’t seen the inside of a gym since my sophomore year of college. Fit and healthy are two words that have forever been absent from my vocabulary.
I laced up some old dirty running shoes (not from the wear and tear of running, but waiting tables), went outside and just started running. It was warm, the wind was blowing and clouds were rolling in for the typical evening storm. Now, don’t get excited I didn’t run for 10 miles or some amazing feat, I probably barely ran a mile in reality, but I kept running. When I reached this ridiculous hill, out of breath, I said, ‘Okay, run up this hill, and then you can walk.’ So I did. Normally, I would have quit after the first pain in my side. (I used to run 12 minute miles in high school.) But instead of caving, I pushed myself, I controlled my thoughts and I did it.
I felt like I was going to die after my little spurt of exercise, but I also felt a bit refreshed. I had a small goal, and I accomplished it. I also said see ya to my sadness and had ran away from the loneliness.
The funny thing I learned about loneliness is that you can’t run away from it, or avoid it, or keep yourself constantly busy to ignore it, which I already knew from a few months of weekend road trips and tequila and Gilbert (Who went all the way to Italy to escape her loneliness, only to come to this conclusion: When I get lonely these days, I think: So BE lonely, Liz. Learn your way around loneliness. Make a map of it. Sit with it, for once in your life. Welcome to the human experience…”).
So when a show came on TV that was the favorite of me and Dick, my heart started to feel a little prick of the indescribable pain I used to feel. Just as I was beginning to fill my head with bullshit about how great he was, (Gilbert again comes in handy here: “In desperate love, we always invent the characters of our partners, demanding they be what we need of them, and then feeling devastated when they refuse to perform the role we created in the first place.”), my mind went to ‘You should go to church tomorrow.’ What the fuck? It reminded me of one of my dear friends from college who can switch her mind from one random thing to the next in an instant, no warning, no wavering, just bam. We’d be sitting around on the couch studying and she would say, ‘I want some apple juice,’ get up, drive to the store, and get it. Just the apple juice. Nothing else. That’s what my mind did this time. I sat with the loneliness for a minute, and then my mind went somewhere else because the truth is, I’m not really all that lonely.
Church. Ah, church. I haven’t been to church in at least 5 years, and before that it was most likely masses I had to attend since I went to a Catholic high school. I think my mind went there because I have been thinking about God a lot lately. Do I need him, what do I believe, what does it mean to have great faith? My mind has been all over the place with it. I’ve never thought that church was a necessity to have true faith. My experience with church has almost always been a negative one. Snooty people with a lot of money who go because it’s part of their image. (Think Alexa on the Real Housewives of OC, YUCK.) These types of people have left a bad taste in my mouth about church for as long as I can remember. But, Gilbert says this about rituals like church-going in her book:
“This is what rituals are for. We do spiritual ceremonies as human beings in order to create a safe resting place for our most complicated feelings of joy or trauma, so that we don’t have to haul those feelings around with us forever, weighing us down. We all need such places of ritual safekeeping. And I do believe that if your culture or tradition doesn’t have the specific ritual you are craving, then you are absolutely permitted to make up a ceremony of your own devising…”
I’d been thinking about this ever since I read it a few weeks ago. Maybe church would help. Maybe church would help me grow and feel closer with God. Maybe church would help me get rid of these feelings of loneliness forever.
So, I went.
I went to a church near my work that I always had thought to be a non-denominational Christian church. It looks like churches I’ve gone to in my past and although I’ve always disliked them, it still gave me a little feeling of familiar comfort. However, I found out after skimming that day’s service pamphlet, I was, in fact, in a Southern Baptist church.
All I knew about Southern Baptists is that my judgmental grandma is one, and they hate drinking. I like drinking. And do I think you can have a relationship with God and drink? You bet your ass I do.
So, me and the Southern Baptists were off on the wrong foot. However, I’ve always been very intrigued by different ways of belief, so I stuck it out. I noticed that they put a lot of emphasis on Jesus. A lot. Every song they sang wasn’t to God, but to Jesus. Then there were baptisms, based on the participants acceptance of Jesus. Jesus, Jesus, Jesus. At this point in my faith, as I’m figuring it all out, I’m more along the lines of God, God, God.
After all the in-your-face Jesus, (which had been accompanied by my guilt of being a follower of Jesus on Twitter, it’s kind of hysterical, you should follow.) the church’s preacher took the stage. What a delightful man … After a little bashing on those who “carouse” or drink, homosexuals in general, and a few blatantly sexist jokes by this TRULY southern male preacher, came a part of his message where I was finally able to stop rolling my eyes.
The whole message was about controlling our emotions. Not controlling them in the ‘a real man never feels emotions’ way, but feeling the emotion, sitting with it and then dealing with it (i.e. Gilbert’s conclusion).
This wonderful preacher (rolling my eyes again) used the example of Jesse James. James had said in an interview with Nightline how he never dealt with the emotions of being abused as a child. That instead, he masked them with this tough guy image, and in the end, not dealing with his issues caused him to lose his marriage.
Well … I think it was a few other women, infidelity, and I don’t know, his love of Nazi’s that possibly ended his marriage, BUT hey, the message was still a good one: We have to deal what’s in us because it will come out of us. Our thoughts are who we are. To give you more Gilbert than I’m sure you can handle this blog post, “You are, after all, what you think.”
It felt for a moment like maybe God was speaking right to me. A little nudge of encouragement to keep on the road that I am. To remind me that it’s just like running – while the pain in my side was screaming ‘Stop running you moron,’ my mind was saying, ‘You can make it up the hill.’ When the pain from my past relationship starts stomping on my heart, which it will, it’s just a matter of my mind saying, ‘You deserve happiness.’
(A little side note…Now, you may be saying ‘Jena, if your heart is feeling one thing, and your head is saying another, are you really just masking what you feel and not dealing with it?’ Believe me, I’ve thought about this. A LOT. As I’ve slowly but surely started to come back to life I think is this too easy? Am I just avoiding how sad I really am? WRONG. The reality is that I spent months and months and months sad. Nothing about it has been easy. Praying that I could fall back asleep if I woke up early on a weekend, just to have to face less of the day ahead. I flooded my mom and my close family friend with messages and e-mails and phone calls every day about what I was feeling. I had lunches with my co-worker every day to rehash what I had already thought I had overcome. I got a counselor. I dealt. But the truth is, I’m still dealing. What’s changed, however, and what’s crucial to being able to ever really move on, is my attitude. I look now on what happened as an opportunity to grow and learn and be a better person. So yes, I tell myself ‘You deserve happiness,’ even when I’m feeling sad because the simple truth is, I do. Our head and our hearts don’t always have to match … letting my heart do the leading is what got me into this whole mess in the first place. It’s time for my head to kick my heart’s ass for the time being.)
But maybe it was just the establishment of the church itself. Maybe we always feel like the message was specifically for us because we all experience a lot of the same things and we all need the same reminders. Maybe this is why people continually get up every Sunday, on their day to do absolutely nothing because they need that safe resting place Gilbert talks about. They need to deal with their feelings and this is a place they can do it. This is the place where someone always knows what to say. This is the where they don’t have to deal with it all on their own. The place where you can lay it all out there in prayer, forgive yourself, and learn how to deal.
So, I’m going to try church again. (One with a little more of a ritual I am craving, however, where I don’t get a headache from rolling my eyes so much.) Not because it will magically take away any feelings of loneliness or sorrow or because I have to have it to continue to grow, but with the option of having a place to hold my hand and guide me along the way, why do it alone?
xoxo – J.
(PS – In honor of this post I found a blog that posts hilarious church signs … watch the slideshow … it will make you laugh.)