I was lying in bed, exhausted from a long night spent sparring with a stomach virus. The stomach virus won that battle, so I stretched out, awake but resting.
“Are you okay?” came a male voice from the corner of the bedroom.
“I’m fine,” I answered, “and perhaps I’ve lost some weight, so that’s good.” I looked up only to realize that the bedroom door was shut and nobody was there.
I was momentarily alarmed, and then shrugged my shoulders and collapsed back on the bed. This was nothing new for me.
Last night I felt a hand on my arm and went to pat it, thinking it was my husband. It wasn’t. He had his back to me, hanging off the side of the bed thanks to our Boxer which had stretched its 85 lbs vertically across the end of the bed.
So, I whispered “Good night” to whoever or whatever was touching my arm, and asked it to please stop.
I’ve spent a lifetime being comforted by things both seen and unseen. . .
I told my husband today that the most wonderful part of my experiences has been that I never feel alone. Not even when I was a young girl in a hospital room after visitors left. Not even when I was driving to Alabama by myself at the age of 21 to take a job as a DJ on a country-western radio station.
I have felt afraid, certainly, but never alone.
Someone or something has always shown up in my most desperate moment, taking a variety of forms. Whether it be the emergence of an owl, the landing of a raven, a Comcast man actually showing up early, or a disembodied voice . . . there is always somebody ready to share a single message.
And each time that message is shared, it can be whittled down to this –
“You are not alone. You are loved. You’ll be okay.”
Years ago, I passed a street artist who was singing Jamaican music. The kids and I stopped and listened for a second, and noticed that he had his tip jar positioned in front of his foot. I promised the kids that once I dropped them off I would go to the ATM and return to give him some money.
As I passed back by him, I leaned over to put the money in the tip jar, but he stopped me. He put both of his hands on either side of mine, looked me in the eye, and said, “I knew you’d be back!”
His smile was so spectacular, I couldn’t help but smile back at him. I responded with absolute conviction — “I knew I’d be back, too.”
And that was it. For a split second, we knew each other. We were more than a mom or a street artist. We were two parts of a greater whole.
Believing you are alone can make you sick . . .
Psychobiologists can now show that loneliness sends misleading hormonal signals to our bodies, and can shake up the molecules on genes that govern behavior. Not only can loneliness make you sick; it can kill you.
An article on The Science of Loneliness by Judith Shulevitz reveals —
“Emotional isolation is ranked as high a risk factor for mortality as smoking. A partial list of the physical diseases thought to be caused or exacerbated by loneliness would include Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease, neurodegenerative diseases, and even cancer—tumors can metastasize faster in lonely people.”
So, the next time you feel alone . . .
Look around you – listen and watch for a message that says, “You are not alone. You are loved. You’ll be okay.”
Because the message is there, you just have to get quiet.
And, don’t worry, for most of you it won’t be a disembodied voice.
Ask for a feather. You’ll sleep better.