When I was young, I was a shy introvert. It was uncomfortable for me to be alone in a crowd whether at school or at church. I was safer and more at ease with a companion or friend by my side. It did not matter that I was the shadow or side-kick as long as I could tag along to where my friend would be. When visitors came to our home, I would hide inside our bedroom. My mom used to explain to people that I was shy. Adolescence was an awkward period in my life. I was known at school to be snobbish because I did not know how to greet people with a smile. It was awkward for me to smile at schoolmates who were less than acquaintances for me.
I was most at ease among my ‘barkada.’ (Tagalog term for gang – group of friends that hang out together regularly) Music and singing brought us close together. During the last year in high school, we had a concert. The time we spent at rehearsals brought us even closer to each other. After graduation, we each went our separate ways and one by one, my close high school friends went abroad. I was left with my older church friends. I found myself tagging along these friends – making them my barkada even though they were ‘barkada’ on their own.
Then I got married. My in-laws used to complain about my non-responsive ways. I was quiet when they asked me questions coz I did not know what to answer or how to answer them.
I guess my mom named me ‘静’ (quiet) 薇 (small) because of my introvert personality. Marriage made me grow up. I was forced to speak up even when I did not feel like it. My in-laws expected me to reply when I was asked a question or respond even when I was being criticised.
I learned to be independent and to be brave when I became a mother. In the Filipino-Chinese culture in Manila, it was usual for middle-class to upper-class couples to have ‘yaya’ (nanny) take care of their children. Hubby and I belonged to middle-class family. While many of my contemporaries had house help (maids) and yayas, when we first got married, we lived with my in-laws with no house help at all. It was something new for me because I grew up having maids at home to help my mom do housework. I remember bringing my first-born to see the paediatrician for her regular vaccination. I had to carry my child, along with her baby things in a bag, walked from our place to the hospital (it was very near) alone to have her check-up. While waiting at the clinic, I would enviously notice how other mothers had their yaya and hubby or even mother beside them. Looking back, it was ok. I did not really feel that bad. I had no choice. God put me where I was to make me grow – from a scared dependent child to a brave independent adult by His grace and mercy.
When I was young, I was most contented and secure to be the follower. My strongly dominant friends set the trend and I followed where they led. But these friends eventually moved away. Then I got married. I need to follow my husband. Being a wife and a mother made me grow up. I learned to make decisions and stand by them. God is gracious as he listened to my mom’s prayers for me everyday. By the Holy Spirit’s empowerment, I slowly took on roles to be a leader as I followed the examples of more mature Christian friends who went before me. I guess I became the reluctant leader – the transformed follower-leader.
Over the years I realised that I could be alone and not lonely. My self-confidence grew when I noticed friends following my lead. Perhaps I was unaware of my inherent gifts – God-given traits which God intended to be used for His purpose. And I am learning to tread carefully between the thin line of being alone and not lonely – to stand for what I believe is right even when the majority is not for it. And more importantly, I need to be careful and beware of pride – the state of being too comfortably alone and ending up lonely.
This is a paradox – to be alone and not lonely. Solitude and loneliness – what are they? When I attended a ‘Soul Care’ class at the seminary, the professor asked us to explore our own shadows – the experiences in our life where we are most uncomfortable. She encouraged us to reflect on these dark places – to face them instead of turning away from them. So here are my thoughts on “The place of Loneliness and Solitude.”
To be lonely is to be isolated. To be in solitude is to be embraced.
The place of loneliness is a place of darkness. The place of solitude is a place of light.
To feel lonely is sad. There is joy in solitude.
To be alone is scary. To be in solitude is to be safe.
Paradox of Loneliness and Solitude
I can be lonely in a crowd. I can also be alone but not lonely.
While there is loneliness in a crowd, there is also solitude in a crowd.
Loneliness and Solitude are both places of the heart.
Jesus come into my heart.