Lonely. That's what I'm feeling these days. I am almost always by myself, and I find I am not very good company. And that is a problem.
For as long as I can remember, I have brought home trophies. "I'm singing a solo." "I won an award!" "I got the part!" "I kissed a girl."
I have carried these things home to parents, lovers, friends. "Look!" my heart was saying. "Look what these strangers think of me!" Why did they matter so much to me?
Because I believed they were wrong. Where they saw talent, intelligence, strength, and compassion, I saw only luck, fear, and selfishness. I crafted myself like an essayist, working every day to guide the reader in the direction I wanted them to go. See how funny I am. Look at how much I know. Laugh at me. Learn from me. Admire me. But for God's sake, don't look too close.
Don't see how afraid I am to get out of bed some mornings, knowing that sooner or later, you're going to discover that I'm faking it.
Don't see the hours it takes me to finish reading a paragraph or memorize a scene because my mind just can't hold onto words.
Don't hear my sobs of self pity for the choices I've made and the consequences I never thought through.
Please turn out the light so you don't notice that after all this running and writing and dieting, I'm still ashamed of how I look naked.
Please pretend with me that the judges and the bosses and the audiences and the reviewers are right and I am wrong. Love whatever you imagine is lovable about me, but please, God, please don't look close enough to see all the things that are not.
All these years, trying to prove something I didn't really believe. Trying to build an image of the man I wished I was. Longing to be loved for being someone I knew didn't exist. I became convinced that every failed relationship, every lost job, every faded friendship was because of a hole in the wall I had built around myself. Sooner or later, if they looked closely enough, they would see the things that were wrong with me, and they would hate them as much as I did. And they would hate me.
And now I am lonely.
A few days ago, someone posted something on Facebook that really rattled me.
Do I want my marriage back? I'm not sure. Do I want someone else? I can't tell. But out of the fog of my loneliness, something is becoming more and more clear. The relationship that needs healing the most is the one I have with myself.
Fifty-three years old, and I'm just now getting around to figuring out who the hell I am.
I know the vices. I can recite them like a litany. But somewhere in me there are virtues, too. The facade I build didn't come from a vacuum. The man I wanted people to see was built out of the best parts of me. That's the man they loved and respected. But I couldn't believe in him because I had treated him like an artist's palette, picking each color carefully. I need to see him too. I need to nurture him.
I've been using my strength to hide my weakness. Using the judgments of others to contradict my own self blame. Using my pride to disguise my shame.
It's time to open my arms a little wider. God has more in mind for me than this.
I am lonely. But in my loneliness, there is an opportunity that I've never really had before. For maybe the first time, I have a chance to look at my whole self with open eyes. There is no one here to fool. No one to hurt. No one to impress. No one to lose. I have a chance to receive the thing I have tried and failed to earn... unconditional love. To lay myself all out on the table, good and bad, sins and graces, and wrap my arms around the whole package and say, "I love you, you big beautiful messy man."
That's not going to happen today. Or tomorrow. But it has to happen. Because I long to touch someone again. But I've spent half a century building a wall to hide half a man from the people I want to love. And it's going to take a whole man to tear that wall down.
It's time to start making this man right. With himself.
This is going to be a lot harder than running a marathon.