Loneliness or Solitude

Becoming Human Book Cover by Jean VanierLoneliness and solitude are two different things. We can be alone yet happy, because we know we are part of something greater than one’s self. On the other hand, loneliness is a feeling of not being part of anything — of being cut off. It is a feeling of unworthiness, of an inability to cope.

I have experienced both loneliness and solitude. Maybe that’s why I chose to read Jean Vanier’s book, Becoming Human. I felt lonely during my first marriage because my ex-husband and I lived in two different worlds. I didn’t understand him and he didn’t understand me. We didn’t communicate very well about our differences.

Shunning Causes Loneliness

I also felt lonely when I heard I had been disfellowshipped from the family religion. My family and friends instantly begin to shun me after one brief announcement from the Kingdom Hall platform, that the tribunal of elders decided to disfellowship me. The brief disclosure was a big shock to me because it was like these people could flip a switch — and their relationship with me was over. I tried to find that switch in my own heart, but alas, I proved unsuccessful. I missed my family and friends immensely. I felt extremely isolated and lonely, being torn away from those who I loved deeply.

If it weren’t for my newly-created dance community, I might not have survived their rejection and my feeling of utter isolation. I’m truly thankful I was able to open up to a few close dance friends and let them know what was going on with me and my estranged family. I found these kind folks to be very understanding and sympathetic. Unlike what I had been taught about so-called “worldly” people, these folks rallied around me and I felt truly grateful for their support as I think back now. I still feel gratitude all these years later. People need a support system when making massive life changes. My family and past friends were instructed to treat me as a dead woman. They proved to be false friends.

Religion: a Stick to Beat Down the Human Spirit

My belief and experiences have shown me that one of the roots of human conflict is the way groups use religion to dominate their members. But, let me hasten to add here that if it were not religion used as a stick to beat others, it would just be something else.

But, not to dwell on the past — the reality is that it was time for me to move on and open myself up to all of humanity, not stay cloistered in a small group turned in on itself in sameness.

It is true I cannot be dancing all the time. In fact, I often find myself alone now. Not in loneliness, though, but in solitude. I began to create music. I also write, dabble with my art, and go for walks. For Christmas this year, I received classical music books, so I’m spending more time with my piano. I don’t feel that same heavy loneliness and pervasive isolation anymore.

Time Heals Wounds

Another thing, eighteen years have passed since leaving the family religion. I never did ask the elders for an appeal on their decision. In fact, I quite agreed with them that it was time for me to move on. And indeed, it is true that time is a wonderful healer. My second husband is much more understanding, communicative, and loving with me than the first one. I don’t miss my children in that same agonizing way I used to when the shunning first happened. I suppose if it were a physical gaping wound, I would have grown a scab and then eventually be left with a scar where the gash used to be.

Undoubtedly, I do have an emotional scarring of sorts. Human beings are essentially the same in that we all belong to a common, broken humanity. We all have wounded, vulnerable hearts. We all need to feel loved, appreciated, accepted, and understood. I suppose we judge others according to our own fears and prejudices. In my case the “marker” is religion.

Outside the Box of Religion

But, what if there was no “religion marker” to tell others what they were “supposed” to feel toward me?

Let me repeat — what if there was no “marker”?

Could the “walls” be broken down?

What if there was no one telling my family to shun me? Would they still demonize, scorn, and reject me?

What if I knew nothing about the announcement of my being “disfellowshipped”? How would I respond differently towards my family?

Anchor to Measure Growth

For me, the “marker” is more like an anchor which keeps me in present time and shows me how much I’ve grown after leaving the family religion.

One of the fundamental issues of separation is for people to examine how to break down the walls that separate us from one another — how to open up to one another — how to create trust — how to open up the potential for dialogue.

Is the potential for dialogue at all possible under the strict rules of the “disfellowshipping order”? Or is obedience to religious rules more important than love for family members?

From the above text, I can see clearly that loneliness and solitude are two different things. We can be alone yet happy, because we know we are part of something greater than one’s self. Whereas, loneliness is a feeling of not being part of anything — of being cut off. They are both normal feelings that arise out of differing sets of circumstances.

In the meantime, I remind myself that people are where they are on their soul’s journey. It is what it is. It’s got to be their personal choice, or else I might be accused of imposing rules on others. I will leave the matter at that.

And breathe!

As always, your comments are welcome.


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