crickets: on loneliness.

a completely unpolished post, with capitalization varying throughout.  it sat in the drafts for days.  but i felt like i should post it anyway, so here it is! on loneliness, legalism, the internet, and the Spirit, just to name a few….

things have been rather lonely around here, haven’t they? that’s because i’ve been spending all my extra time on my internet addiction. (you think i’m kidding, but i’m not.)

last weekend, my hubby took off for nagoya with the husband of a dear friend (megs, i’m lookin at you!).  and that dear friend came to hang out with her little bebe so we could pass the time with each other.  eventhough she got sick right before she came, and i caught some bug the night before my husband left, it was the best time i’ve ever had while bryan was gone.  dishes overflowed in the sink, and the house was a total mess, and i was tired, feeling sick, and not eating, but i was happy and enjoying the time, eventhough bryan wasn’t around.

things went back to normal a few days later, and i started praying and wondering: “God, what made those days so different?”  and He told me two things:  “jamie, you are lonely” and “jamie, you are going online to make it better.”  has been impressing upon me a need for change.  when i’m too “busy” to do the things i used to love, like enjoy taking walks to nowhere and stopping by friends houses unannounced just to chat, because i spend your free time online, ignoring the chores in the house so that they pile up and i feel pressure to get them done every time i leave the house, its time to let go.

okay, so it hasn’t been that bad — and a large part of it is feeling like leaving the house is a monumental task with a thousand different things depending upon its success (will the baby need to eat/nap? do i have food made and ready to take out?  is there a window of time between ezra’s nap and harper’s nap?  will i have energy during that window? etc).  some of those lines of questioning need to stop, in and of themselves.  those things aside, it’s true: i’m lonely. not the i-don’t-have-any-friends kind, but perhaps in the everything-makes-me-tired-so-i-don’t-make-time-to-relate-when-i-really-need-it kind.

ever since we moved to this house, things have been strange and different for me.  we used to live right next door to our teammates, but now we are a neighborhood away — which might as well be world’s away to someone with small kids. (“do i take the time to walk there, or drive? what if she’s not home? and the baby needs to nap in 30 minutes.  will the other kids fight me if we just have to go there and come back? better to not go, i guess.”)  i’ve made good friends in this new neighborhood, but its hard to explain how unknown cultural factors can affect friendship.  I can’t read where I stand with them.  I don’t know if its really okay to just pop in or if they’re just being nice.  I don’t know what Japanese people do when they are casual friends, or really good friends.  And I have no idea how to ask or what to say to  claim some confidence in this area.  So since I can’t just go outside and ring the doorbell of my English-speaking, American neighbor anymore, on days when I’ve felt lonely, I’ve stayed inside.. and opened my computer.

I didn’t know that this was what I was doing.  I didn’t even know how lonely I really was.  For an introvert in a foreign land, playdates can feel like your worst nightmare — it takes double the energy because you’re not sure of all the cultural standards, and then you’re chatting in another language, which depletes more energy.  And then when the mamas and the kiddos go home, you wonder, “did they just have the same experience i did? or something different entirely?”

my instant desire is to make rules about internet: take an internet fast, deactivate my facebook, quit blogging, pick times of day that i can be online and times of day that are a strict no, etc. or even rules about relationships, like making once-a-week coffee date a must. but paul in galatians is pretty clear about his feelings on rules, especially in relation to finding comfort, relief, or peace in them: “you foolish galatians, who bewitched you? … Let me ask you only this: did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? are you so foolish? having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (chapter 3) and later: “for freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. … but i say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (chapter 5).

i am not certain of all of the rule-making achetypes, but i am the type that trusts in a rule’s ability to keep me from sinning or doing the behavior i want to avoid, and feel effectively safe inside that rule.  or even when i’m not trying to avoid a behavior (like not being online too much), but am instead trying to succeed at something (like being a natural parent), i make rules to feel like i’m progressing.  i can make (and have made!) a sparkling moral program out of anything, even breastfeeding, or healthy eating, or TV, or bible reading, or house cleaning, or sleep habits, or making friends, or language learning, or money management, or… you get the picture.  following wise guidelines in life is completely different from putting our trust in them to make us feel clean, help us feel better about ourselves, or save us from guilt.  they often do the exact opposite, because who can adhere to strict guidelines perfectly? the old testament is full of people who failed.

the point, however, is not to make and follow a moral program — or even to develop “wise guidelines,” i think — but to instead listen to and walk by the Spirit.  this is uncomfortable — what if the Spirit says nothing? i don’t have time to pray about what i eat for lunch or blogging. or what if the Spirit whispers something i didn’t want to hear? or what if walking by the Spirit frightens me, and i feel safer in my rules?  or what if following the Spirit contradicts wordly, and sometimes even “moral”, wisdom? all of these are true of me.

many more thoughts to delve into here, but harper woke from her nap and the boys went up ahead of me to “play” with her.  i’m sure i’ll be needed rather quickly…

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8 thoughts on “crickets: on loneliness.

  1. I relate so strongly to basically every part of this post – the introversion, the foreign land culture/playdates, the internet escapsim! To the point that as I was reading along, I was thinking, “Yes, I do that too – maybe I need better rules about internet time.” And then read your next part. 😉 Thank you for sharing your wisdom and what you’re learning. As always, I am learning from you. And desperately wishing we could sit down and share an iced latte together and talk while our kids ran around!

    • Ditto to the wish for sharing lattes in person, with mt fuji in view! Expat life is difficult on a number of levels, isn’t it? But I the in I’ve also learned more about myself (and consequently more about the gospel) in these 4 years than I would have in 10 in my home culture. It has been what I’ve needed.. Hoping Germany is doing some of the same for you!!

  2. “Sparkling moral program” — yes! Though I live next door to one of my best friends and though I am a total extrovert, I too go to the internet to make connections and seek friendship and affirmation throughout the day. I’m pretty good at making sparkling moral programs, too, and I admit I love having rules to follow. But Jamie, you are so right. We’re not built to follow programs of intricate rules to please Christ and find rest in our souls. Our church small group is deep in a study on Galatians right now and, yes, like the Galatians we are very foolish. We have the Spirit but so rarely do we ask him what he wants for our day, for each moment that passes! Foolish indeed. We have great riches before us. Is it so hard to ask for them?

    • we’ve been studying Galtians, too! so applicable. the book really came alive to me this time because i was dealing with similar things in my life.

  3. How funny that I’ve felt very similar things upon returning to the States from Europe, and now that we’re getting ready to leave again I fear this type of loneliness will follow me. Thank you for your words, Jamie!

    • apparently we are never alone in our loneliness. oh heather, i still want to write you back! its been on my list for ages.. will do soon, hopefully

  4. You are so honest with yourself Jamie it makes me sick and a little jealous! Thank you so much for sharing especially about trusting in rules to make us feel clean or feel better about ourselves or save us from guilt, this spoke very loudly to my heart. And also about the ” line of questioning” you put yourself through when your tring to make plans or leave the house. And I loved the “everything-makes-me-tired-so-i-dont-make-time-when-i-really-need-it” type of lonliness 🙂
    I’m full of excuses on this matter.
    Thanks again love you Jam

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