A Different Kind of Lonely

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[Stephen Lamb (no stranger in these parts) recently had an essay featured on the Art House America blog and it’s too good not to share. Is it a record review? Yes, sort of, but it’s also a lot more. The opening paragraphs are posted below; click over to Art House America and read the entire piece. It’s great.]

The day I turned thirty, I met some friends for drinks and celebratory cigars at a smoke shop across the street from one of my favorite restaurants, an Asian bistro where the sushi bar offers a roll that uses raw filet mignon instead of rice to hold everything together. After a couple of beers, and halfway through my cigar, I responded to the question someone had posed, asking what I wanted from the future. For one, I said, I hoped I’d be married before another decade had passed. “I’m not looking for someone to take away my loneliness. I know another person won’t do that. It’s just that sometimes I think I’m ready for a different kind of lonely.”

* * *

I listened to Leonard the Lonely Astronaut seven times in a row the first day I heard it. A concept album from Andrew Osenga, it tells the story of a man named Leonard, set in the year 2365. While in the process of finalizing his divorce, his wife and child are killed in a car accident. Crippled by grief, Leonard decides to volunteer to pilot a transport shuttle to a distant planet. The trip will take a year—six months there, six months back—but due to the laws of relativity and such, everyone he knows will be dead by the time he returns to earth. “I’ll make some new friends / maybe with their grandkids,” Andrew (Leonard) sings, ready for a new start, hopeful things will turn out differently this time.

I loaned Andy my old 60s Rogers drumset for the project and helped him build the spaceship in which to record it (yes, you read that right), so he sent me a copy of the record as soon as he had the final mixes. A couple days after my first listen, still hitting repeat over and over, I read Terry Tempest William’s new book, When Women Were Birds: 54 Variations on Voice, in two sittings. A beautiful book, equal parts reflection on her own relationships and meditations on the ways women find their voice in a world that often says their voice is unimportant, she has this to say about her marriage: “I have never been as lonely as I have been in my marriage. I have also never been more seen or more protected.” That night, I e-mailed the quote to Andy (one of the friends who had been around the table when I’d answered that question), saying I didn’t think I could come up with a better short summary of Leonard, no matter how hard I tried.

Click here to read the entire post at Art House America.

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Pete Peterson is the author of the Revolutionary War adventure The Fiddler’s Gun and its sequel Fiddler’s Green. Among the many strange things he’s been in life are the following: U.S Marine air traffic controller, television editor, art teacher and boatwright at the Florida Sheriffs Boys Ranch, and progenitor of the mysterious Budge-Nuzzard. He lives in Nashville with his wife, Jennifer, where he's the Executive Director of the Rabbit Room and Managing Editor of Rabbit Room Press.


8 Comments

  1. Hannah

    Amazing. Loved that you took the time to explain yourself so well and could seamlessly work in so much of Osenga’s album, which I guess I now need to go listen to. Thanks for sharing part of yourself with strangers who aren’t articulating [but can identify with] some of the same thoughts and feelings.

  2. JON SLONE

    I know this is off topic but you guys are the best people I know to ask this question to:

    I’m getting ready to teach my youth the importance of building up their vocabularies. We will be writing poetry as well.

    How would you tie this in to the bible? Words, writing, poetry, being creative.

  3. yankeegospelgirl

    Well Jon, a good place to start is pointing out that the Bible is full of great poetry. Take Job, Psalms, Song of Solomon, etc. You can also refer to passages about excellence in craftsmanship in general (e.g. building the temple), as an encouragement to excellence in the craft of writing in particular. Also, discuss that God loves to create, and we’re made in His image, so the urge to create is part of what makes us like God.

  4. Dan Foster

    A little late to this, but here goes… (and by the way, I love Leonard… and Andy O). In so far as this article made the point that we shouldn’t get married just to fix our problems and we need to love our spouse selflessly instead of selfishly, I think it’s right on. But I’m really not tracking with the notion of “I’ve never been as lonely as I was in my marriage” or “marriage didn’t make me less lonely.” Actually, God saw that Adam was alone and that it was not good and that’s why he made Eve. A big part of the reason for marriage is so that we won’t be lonely. Of course, after the fall we still have sin and lots or problems, including loneliness. But I think it’s proper to expect that getting marriage will in fact make you less lonely. I can’t say that I’m never lonely, but in my 12+ years of marriage, loneliness is definitely way down the list of the emotions I feel (and even more so with children). Is our marriage so idyllic that this is not common?

  5. Danielle

    Dan, I wonder if the key here is that “Loneliness” and “Aloneness” are not the same thing.

    Example: I’m single. When I come home at night to an empty house, I’m alone, but not necessarily lonely. Sometimes I am, sure, but sometimes I think back on how full my day has been, how full my life is at the moment, and that seems to me to be the opposite of lonely.

    Everything I know about being married is from seeing other people do it, so please forgive my ignorance here. However, I think I’ve seen this “loneliness” between my parents and other married couples, although it does seem to happen in seasons. To my mind, loneliness in this setting looks more like feeling as if you aren’t understood by the one person who is tied to you in irrevocable ways. I wonder if the peculiar flavor of loneliness in married life doesn’t have something to do with this failed expectation.

  6. Jennifer K.

    Danielle, what you said about loneliness in marriage is “spot-on” for me. I am at a point in our marriage where I am just here for the children. All the things beyond them that bound my husband and I together have fallen off one by one until I feel I am cohabiting with a total stranger. Please pray for me, for us…rough waters ahead!

  7. Danielle

    Jennifer-
    I’m so sorry that you’re having a hard time. Your family is in my prayers.
    I don’t know your situation, but I think that if my mother were sitting here (married 29 years), she would say to hold on- some seasons are harder than others.

  8. Carl A.

    I saw this post after spending last weekend at a Marriage Encounter retreat with my wife. At the weekend, we talked about three stages of marriage: Romance, Disillusionment, and Joy. We were cloistered from distractions separately to write about so many topics that don’t often come up in the daily grind. Through this writing time, we actually had to deal honestly with how we felt and then dialogue about it. I think Danielle is on the right track here. The loneliness comes when there is incomplete understanding from the one who you think should know you the best. It is a slog- tough, pursuing work, to really know someone. Interestingly enough, there have been so many great topics that I have been wanting to write comments on in the Rabbit Room this week, but I found myself writing in another way. Continuing the conversation with my wife has been a grace and a blessing. As stated by Stephen in the post, “If being fully present to another is one way we embody the love of God, one way we make known to another person that they are worthy of respect and love, then is this not what we should, in our best moments, strive for?”

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