When was the last time you felt alone?
It’s one of the worst feelings in the world, isn’t it? I’m not talking about being alone – I often like to be by myself. I’m talking about experiencing something hard when it feels like no one else has experienced the same thing. I’m talking about feeling isolated, not understood, singled-out. My guess is that we’ve all been there, maybe years ago, maybe now.
I don’t know anyone else from my high school, college, grad school, or current circle of friends who has lost a child. Sometimes, I have these really terrible pity-party moments when I wonder how I won this particular lottery, when I feel like I’m the only person that I know who has had to bury her firstborn. I listen to the moms in my mom’s group complain that their sons are “too into electronics” and it’s really stressing them out. On the one hand, I can relate. I was THAT mom, worried about whether he was studying enough, whether he was eating enough, whether he would ever get his stuff together enough for school, for sports, for life. On the other hand, I want to throttle these other moms, to share with them this hard-won perspective: “It’s not worth stressing over. You can’t take life for granted. Your precious son, he might not be here tomorrow. How would your worries change if you knew that was a possibility? How wonderful is your life now?” But then I think, “Nope, it’s only you. Only you have lost a son.”
But that’s my self-centered view of the world talking. In reality, I believe we all have felt alone at some point. My friend, Carla, shared with me last night about how, growing up, she had to deal with the demands of living with a disabled brother. About the difficulties his disabilities imposed on their family, about the maternal attention that he required. No one else in school, Carla said, had had a disabled sibling, so no one else really understood how that impacted her. In that situation, she felt all alone.
Another time I have felt alone is when I had my first child, when I had Dragon. I was 28, the first person in my circle of close friends to have a baby. While everyone else was getting together for Grey’s Anatomy viewing parties and windsurfing trips to Mexico, I was juggling working and breast feeding, first smiles and diapers. I was in a different life stage from my friends and peers, and felt out of sync and left out.
I feel that same way now. I used to have a normal life. It wasn’t perfect, it had lots of bumps and bruises, but our family was complete, happy, safe. And now, and now…
A wise friend once told me, “Everyone has her burden. Everyone is dealing with something.” Last week, I came across a quote that said something like, “Be kind to everyone you meet, for everyone is fighting his own fight.” As I get older, I realize that that’s probably true. People are dealing with all sorts of things. Things that they don’t advertise in their Facebook profiles, that don’t make it into their annual Christmas cards or their daily Instagram feeds. And often, these trials make us feel alone. It’s the worst feeling, feeling that you’ve been singled out for this tragedy, this illness, this awful boss, this marital problem. I don’t have a neat solution for these problems, or for mine. Just the thought that everyone is dealing with something