I've been feeling sad a lot lately.
When I've searched my feelings, to try to understand why I've been feeling sad, I couldn't come up with a solid answer. It was a mystery.
Prayer helps. I get on my knees and I pour out my feelings to God. I ask for help, and I wait and I listen. And the Spirit is present as a comforter, reassuring me that I am loved, that I am good, that my Heavenly Parents are proud of me, that I have much to contribute to my family and the world around me. Recently, the Lord has also offered me this: The Spirit whispered to me the other morning that my sadness -- like any affliction -- could be a reminder that I belong to the Lord, because I find such deep comfort in him. It also connects me to the world around me. It makes me more sensitive to the sadness and pain of others, makes me want to reach out more.
Last night, I woke in the middle of the night, and it finally dawned on me why I have been feeling sad. I first began to notice increased feelings of sadness some time in August, after I returned to Minnesota from the Sunstone Symposium, where I had experienced some incredible fellowship with other gay Mormons; so I thought maybe it was just that I was really hungry for a deeper level of fellowship that I had experienced in Salt Lake that I don't regularly experience here. But then last night I realized, a week after my return from Salt Lake, Glen moved out of our house and into his dorm on campus. He only lives three miles away, and we still see him at least once or twice a week, but we've certainly been sad not to have him around the house all the time. We've got a major case of "empty nest" syndrome. But I realized even that is not completely it.
A year ago last September, I convinced the law firm I work for to let me work from home, so that I could be a more constant presence for Glen, so I could be a better father. But since Glen moved out, I am now spending many more hours every week alone at home. A stay-at-home dad without a kid.
Monday, a friend of mine called seemingly for no reason. This friend is very in tune with the Spirit, so I feel certain that the Lord had had something to do with prompting him to call. He was concerned about me and he wanted to know how I was doing. I almost wept I was so happy he called. I told him I was feeling "isolated." I didn't know where the feelings came from. I wasn't even sure why I picked that word at the time. But it does describe what I often feel lately.
Is it possible that there is just a basic quotient of human contact that any person needs in order to feel balanced and healthy and whole? Is it that working alone at home and losing my kid has just tipped the balance into the unhealthy range?
Part of what helped me acquire this insight is that I've been reading Jonathan Langford's No Going Back, and there are is some interesting narrative in there that has prompted me to reflect on the relationship between healthy human touch and spiritual well-being. I realized that I have been "hungry" for touch lately. When Göran leaves in the morning, and when he gets home from work, he's been getting much longer hugs and kisses from me. I've been much more affectionate. (He doesn't mind! He's always wanted me to be a bit more affectionate!) I find I have also become a better, more sensitive, more responsive listener. I think all because of my increased need for human connection.
I can't imagine what my life would be like without some kind of life partner or companion. Göran and I are blessed to have an excellent relationship that has only gotten stronger and stronger over the years, despite bumps in the road we've traveled together. Loving touch is very important to both of us, and it is woven into the life we have together. Good morning hugs and kisses; hugs and kisses after coming home from work. Meeting for lunch. Eating dinner together. Watching TV intertwined on the couch. Holding hands at the theater, or in church, or at foster care meetings. Playing games together. Doing chores together. (I wash, he dries the dishes!) And -- as we both experienced when I was in Salt Lake last August -- neither of us sleep very well if one of us is not curled up against the other as we sleep.
We both take good care of our health. We eat right, we exercise. We don't smoke (and he drinks only very rarely and very little). We anticipate, God willing, having many, many more years together, perhaps adding another four or five decades to the nearly two decades we've been together so far, "growing old together." We are so much closer as a couple now than ever before in our relationship. Each year seems to bring us closer together. I can only imagine how intense our bond will be, if we continue to tend and care for our relationship as much as we tend and care for our physical health. I think I understand why it is that when couples live together into extreme old age, it is not uncommon for one to die shortly after the other.
I wonder about eternity...
I know it is possible to live alone. And yet... I have experienced a noticeable increase in sadness, just because of the reduced human contact that has taken place as a result of the teenager being around less. Where would I be without Göran? I'm not sure.
So I want to extend an invitation. Or make a promise. If you are lonely, reach out to someone. If you have no one to reach out to, reach out to me. I could use a little extra friendship right now.
If you know someone who lives alone, be a friend. Sit next to them in church. Invite them out to the movies or over to dinner more often. (Even though I don't live alone, I so often go to church alone, and it feels so good when someone sits next to me, or invites me to come sit by them!)
Give more hugs. Be kind.
Love one another.