Walking our Faith: Beating loneliness
Walking our Faith
The picture of Kiki from summer camp fills my heart with happiness. There she sits, looking exhausted but happy. My little girl, who so often spends her days sitting by herself shut down and unwilling to interact with others has instead spent the day running through wildflowers and woods with her new buddies.
Kiki is of course my 9-year-old Newfoundland dog, and if I talk about her as if she’s one of my kids it’s because that’s the way I’ve always thought of the Newfies who come into my house whether as fosters or as my adopted kids. And because 99% of dog owners think of their dogs as more than companions, as part of the family.
Kiki has been one of my most challenging kids due to no fault of her own but the circumstances in which she grew up. For the first eight years of her life, Kiki was used as a breeding dog, had very little human contact and likely spent the majority of her time locked in a kennel.
Even after I adopted her, Kiki remained shut down and wary of contact with humans, including me. Slowly, she is learning to trust me, but it’s taken a long time, and sometimes I have felt lonely for her companionship.
Because I am an introvert, I understand that for Kiki, and often times for myself, being alone is a lot more comfortable than making the effort to be with other people. And because it does take an effort to get outside of myself more often than not, I am happy to stay home alone and so is Kiki.
But when I see the happy relaxed look on Kiki‘s face at doggy summer camp, I am reminded that as God said in Genesis Chapter 2 Verse 18: We were not created to be alone and when Noah built the ark he did so not just for reasons of procreation, I’d like to believe, but also recognizing our need for companionship.
Where is the fine line between being an introvert and being lonely? I’m spending this week in a friend’s condo on the beach. I relish my walks alone on the beach and hours spent reading. My life in Breckenridge is similar. But there are times when my loneliness has brought me to tears. I long for the intimacy of deep companionship. I’m reading “A Year of Pleasures” by Elizabeth Berg in which the main character is newly widowed, and I find myself longingly imaging the companionship of a husband whom she eloquently describes.
When I began writing this column, I thought it was about Kiki, but I realize it’s equally about me and perhaps many of us who face loneliness even in the midst of busy lives. What are we to do?
The cure for loneliness is a bit like swimming against the current. It takes action and persistence. And often it takes a bit of nagging from new friends.
For me, it was Barb Rasmussen, who greeted me every week at the 5 p.m. Saturday Mass at St. Mary’s and reminded me that she’d be looking for me next week. Or Pat Hoogheem, who texted me every Wednesday morning to remind me that we’d be carpooling to knitting group, not because she needed a ride, but because otherwise I’d make an excuse to stay home.
Now I attend an adult education class at St. Mary’s every Wednesday, and my faith is strengthened by learning and discussion with new friends. When I join fellow knitters on Wednesday afternoon at the Next Page bookstore, it’s a pleasure to welcome new knitting friends who arrive for the same reason I did four years ago. And when I go to my part-time job at St. John’s, I am aware that my talents contribute to something bigger than myself.
God does not want us to live our faith in a vacuum. He knows that our faith grows stronger when we share it with others. Our talents are honed when we share and receive feedback. Friendships and loving relationships deepen our experience of joy. We are stronger when we are healthy in body and spirit. When we are part of a community, we are motivated to work for its wellbeing.
In the four years that I have lived in Breckenridge, I have grown from an introverted woman who struggled with depression and struggled to leave my home more than once a week, to a woman who understands loneliness can be fought against. Thanks to this wonderful community, I feel I can give back what I have been given, and I am so grateful for that.
Suzanne Elizabeth Anderson’s column “Walking our Faith” publishes Saturdays in the Summit Daily News. Anderson is the author of 10 novels and nonfiction books on faith. She has lived in Breckenridge since 2016. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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