This post is a confession of sorts.
If you read my confession, it’s quite possible you’ll just think I’m strange and need help—and you wouldn’t be wrong.
Even if that is your reaction, I still I hope you’ll read the whole thing. Why? Because maybe it will stir up some compassion in your heart for strange and needy people like me.
But it’s also possible you might actually relate to what I’m saying—like, “Oh my gosh! I feel like that too!” If that’s your reaction… you’re why I’m writing this.
Have you heard that 1990 Michael W. Smith song “Place In This World?” OK, I know, it’s totally corny and he has a wicked mullet. The thing is, this song has always resonated with me. Sure, I thought it was cheese back in ’90 when I first heard it—but I also felt the truth of it, particularly these words:
“Looking for a reason, roaming through the night to find my place in this world, my place in this world. Not a lot to lean on, I need Your light to help me find my place in this world, my place in this world.”
Here’s my confession: I feel alone.
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This past year, Shari and I were talking about something when she suddenly switched subjects and dropped a bomb of a question on me. “Do you ever wonder if you should be on medication for depression?”
I was shocked. My wife thinks I’m depressed? What the heck? I don’t think she knows me…
I answered, feeling rather incredulous. “No, not at all. I don’t think I’m depressed and I don’t feel like I struggle with that. Actually, I have wondered the same thing about you. You have some crazy mood swings. Have you ever thought antidepressants might help you?”
Now Shari was shocked. She couldn’t believe I’d suggest she might need help in this area.
Honestly, the whole exchange was pretty funny.
I really don’t think I struggle with depression though.
Instead, I struggle with something else.
I feel alone. Frequently. Misunderstood. Like an outlier. A fish out of water. An odd duck.
* * * * *
There’s a fun picture of this feeling of aloneness in the romantic comedy/zombie apocalypse movie “Warm Bodies.”
Here’s a quick synopsis of the plot: with much of the world’s population now an undead horde, “R” is a young and oddly introspective zombie. In the course of typical zombie activities, he meets a living human named Julie, and feels an urge to protect her. What happens next is the beginning of a strangely warm relationship that allows R to begin regaining his humanity.
Throughout the movie, you can hear R’s thoughts – almost like a narrator.
“What am I doing with my life? I’m so pale. I should get out more. I should eat better. My posture is terrible. I should stand up straighter. People would respect me more if I stood up straighter. What’s wrong with me? I just want to connect. Why can’t I connect with people? Oh, right, it’s because I’m dead. I shouldn’t be so hard on myself.”
The tagline of this movie? “Cold Body. Warm Heart.”
That is the description of one odd duck. And I can relate.
R is not your average zombie. He struggles with his conscience. He doesn’t want to feed on living bodies like all the other zombies do – but he’s hungry. And now he finds himself caring for a living human being.
Because Julie is alive, she has to pretend to be one of the walking dead in order to not get eaten by the hordes of zombies. It’s comical.
R coaches her on how to fit in: “Be dead,” he says, then follows up with a helpful correction, “It’s too much.” Hilarious.
Watch it (it’s not scary).
Both of these characters are quite relatable to me. They live in a world they don’t totally understand or fit into. And although they’re surrounded by lots of bodies, they feel alone in the world. They try to understand each other, but the relationship is tenuous and tricky.
* * * * *
Yesterday, I received a notification that this guy @MichaelJaiWhite started following me on Twitter. Apparently he’s an actor who has been in some movies. His Twitter bio caught my attention, “I pretend I am other people for a living.”
I know what he means. He’s talking about being an actor. But so am I, in a different way. That Twitter bio really resonated with me…
I pretend I am other people for a living.
I pretend to fit in.
I pretend I’m a guy who is comfortable in social situations.
I pretend to be someone who enjoys having conversations about American Idol.
I pretend I want to be at this party (for 5 minutes anyway, then I can’t handle it anymore and go hide).
All my pretending and acting is pretty bad – like Julie trying to look and sound like a zombie…
Awkward, something just doesn’t look quite right.
* * * * *
In the Warm Bodies movie, R introduces us to another Zombie – M.
“This is my best friend. By best friend, I mean we occasionally grunt and stare awkwardly at each other. We even have almost conversations sometimes. Even though we can’t communicate, we do share a similar taste in food. Traveling in packs just kind of makes sense. Especially when everyone and their grandmother is trying to shoot you in the head all the time.”
I feel like that’s a good description of my best friendships. “We even have almost conversations sometimes.”
Sometimes I wonder what I’d be like on MDMA, ecstasy, Molly, or whatever it’s called. Would I be all friendly and outgoing? Excited to talk with people about American Idol? Give hugs freely and without awkwardness?
Could it cure my sense of feeling alone in the world? Is it like an extrovert pill?
That’s OK. I don’t really need to know. Even though I’m curious, I’m trying to stay drug-free.
* * * * *
Maybe feeling alone is a common trait with introverts. I’m definitely an introvert. My inner life is so much more vibrant, exciting, and engaging than my outer life. I think the upcoming Ben Stiller movie “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” might portray what I’m talking about…
It is difficult for me to mingle and make friends. It just doesn’t come easy. It’s hard work and I’m clumsy at it. I try—I really do. The small talk kills me. Chit chat turns me into a socially awkward, conversationally impotent, absolutely boring individual.
I don’t know how to do it.
Class reunions. Benefits and fundraising auctions. Conferences. Receptions.
These types of things slay me.
* * * * *
I saw this on Twitter yesterday…
“I love the beginning of relationships, tricking someone into thinking you’re not as terrible as you really are. So sweet.” —Caprice Crane
You detect the sarcasm in her tweet, right? I’d be willing to bet money Caprice Crane is an introvert.
There are few safe places for me, being an introvert.
And there are few safe relationships – where I can truly be myself – say what is going on in my mind without fear of judgment or disapproval or rejection.
It’s weird. I’m really comfortable in my own skin. I like who I am. I really get me…
It kinda blows me away that others don’t seem to.
My wife has to try and get me. She’s married to me, so it’s sort of obligatory. We work on understanding each other, and we work on communicating with each other – because we have to. We’re very different from each other – like R and Julie. We do the work because we’re committed to each other. We are family.
Even with the commitment to working on it, there are still times when my wife doesn’t get me. This makes me wonder, does anyone get me? Will anyone ever really get me?
I don’t think anyone will ever work harder than my wife trying to understand what’s going on inside my head and my heart. Somehow I doubt that I have a twin out there somewhere who thinks and feels and dreams just like me—a doppelganger who 100% gets me.
* * * * *
I frequently feel misunderstood. Am I alone in this? Do you ever feel misunderstood?
Not only do I feel alone because of my personality, I also feel alone because of my profession. I hate the assumptions people make about who a pastor is.
I don’t golf or sing or play guitar or want to go on retreats with other men. And since we’re being honest, I’m probably one of the more difficult people in my church.
In fact, stereotypical pastor-types bother me.
This confession has already gotten too long and I’ve probably revealed too much. I’m not trying to make anyone feel sorry for me. It’s not a cry for help. I don’t feel like I need more buddies.
More than anything else, I just want to be understood. I like being different, and I like who I am. I’m comfortable with myself and I like being alone—but I also want to be known and understood, I want at least a few people to get me.
From the zombie movie reference, R and Julie live in a world they don’t totally understand or fit into. And although they’re surrounded by lots of bodies, they feel alone in the world. They try to understand each other, but the relationship is tenuous and tricky.
This perfectly describes me. Maybe with some time and effort, and the help of some unique people, my cold body will develop a warm heart.
“If you meet a loner, no matter what they tell you, it’s not because they enjoy solitude. It’s because they have tried to blend into the world before, and people continue to disappoint them.” ― Jodi Picoult
Do you relate? In what ways do you feel alone in the world? How do you cope?