It was strange learning the contours of another’s loneliness. You could never know it all at once; like stepping inside a dark cave, you felt along the walls, bumped into jagged edges. p 94
Last Sunday I stood outside my front door, bleary-eyed but watchful for the headlights headed up the drive . It was a little after 7:00 in the morning and my coworker and I were driving together to a library conference. The ride down was uneventful, the hours in the car were not as painful as I imagined. We chatted about kids, books and our expectations—neither of us had been to this event before.
Overall the two days I spent at the hotel were fine. I sat in on some great presentations, I actually contributed to some of the conversations and I brought back some new ideas. Meals were tricky, it felt like junior high cafeteria all over again. I wished that I had that Sit With Me app I learned about in the Coding for Kids sessions. None of this is easy for me. We librarians are an interesting bunch, I think we’re classified as extroverted introverts. I can only be “on” for so long before I reach my breaking point and need to retreat for a bit of solitude. Fortunately sharing the hotel room turned out to be easy. We had a king-sized bed and two toddler twins. For future reference I can tell you that sleeping in the kids’ area is quite comfortable. And it comes with its own TV. Bonus.
I made it a point to thank some of the presenters afterward with sincere gratitude and appreciation. I know it’s not easy to get up in front of a group of strangers—even a cardigan-clad bunch of knowledge-seeking individuals. The topics covered ranged from Cookbook Club to Storycorps in the Stacks. I took lots of notes, and got excited and felt inspired. But once the last presenter had come to the last slide, I breathed a sigh of relief, eager to get in the car and make the journey home to husband and pets.
It always feels good to come home, and just as good to come back to my library. There I try to find answers and materials for anyone who asks. Being helpful is what I do. Then yesterday one of my patrons came to the desk to return a book. I asked after her son who had started his freshman year of college. As it turns out he had had a crisis and had come home. As I listened to her story I couldn’t help but cry. I thought of this boy, one who I have known since preschool-age, alone in a city with no one to turn to. All of these issues that she thought were behind them had come bubbling up. I tried to offer advice and support, but mostly, I listened.
For that’s what we mothers do—we mother. The age of the person in need isn’t even a concern. It’s the need to be held, to be cared for, to be nurtured that matters. Being alone can be a vastly enormous feeling with no connection or bridge in sight. Solitary confinement surrounded by fog as far as the eye can see. Loneliness is divisive and debilitating. But often there’s a hand reaching out to pull you back in. Arms to wrap round or words on a page reaching across the miles.