If I had a partner, perhaps they might help with the removing and replacing of pool covers, mightn’t they? We might share the choosing and preparing of meals, the washing of dishes, mightn’t we? I might have another human body into which to lean, and not feel so alone, mightn’t I?
But I have chosen to live a solitary life.
Since I understood my vocation to be storyteller-poet-minister, I have learned that to live that vocation well is to live on my own. In order to be available to a community of faith, I need to have no one needing me at home. In order to give attention to my craft, my practice, I need not to have an intimate partnership to which I would want to give attention. In order to nurture life in and through the church, I need not to be a child’s mother or a pet’s human.
I understand this about myself, that I choose to live solitary in community.
And yet. In moments like these, I do feel deeply, profoundly, utterly, alone.
Ministry is isolating. We hold people’s stories, their deep stories, painful stories, hope and dream stories. We receive the expectations of members we serve, who all want different specific things from us. We are responsible for the pastoral care of individuals (where I am, several hundred), and of the community as a whole. We hold the Sacred Story and are responsible for telling it in such a way as to invite the people to embody that Story with their whole selves.
Illness is isolating. Depression causes you to withdraw into the dark. Chronic Fatigue causes such pain and discomfort that you don’t want to move, so don’t go out. Chronic Fatigue means that being with people, engaging in conversation, is exhausting.
We are in a pandemic. So the distance from Canberra to Adelaide feels further than I ever felt from home when I lived in Scotland; and getting out and about to see friends here, well it’s another reason not to bother, when you’re tired and aching anyway.
So I may have lifted some of my shame at failing to adult because I am too tired, and I may be able to find a way to let go of some of the guilt if I remember for what I am properly responsible, and for what I am not to blame.
But being alone seems less likely to change, and I’ll name it all the same. Because maybe there’s someone who’ll read my story, and it might help you feel less alone.