Isolation of the Heart
When my lunch date had to cancel for today due to a funeral, it left me with an interesting dilemma: do I try to fill that lunch slot or do I take advantage of some time to myself? Most of the time, I choose to try to connect with someone. On a Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday, I typically will see if Angie and I can grab lunch sans kids. But today, she was on her way to the doctor to get diagnosed with strep. Her illness forced my hand to some degree, as I chose to make use of my lunch time by running over to Menard’s to order siding for this Saturday morning’s big side-a-thon on the south side of my home (volunteer positions still available, email me if you’re interested!). Any excess time would get to be mine.
As it turned out, I was left without about 25 minutes to grab some Panchero’s for lunch. Now, Ryan version 1 would have grabbed his burrito bowl and headed for the hills. But over the past few months I’ve found a certain joy in occasionally getting to take some time to sit at a restaurant by myself. I keep my iPhone in my pocket, so there is no podcast, no music, no facebook, no twitter, no internet, no children, nothing. Just me and God and stillness.
My morning had been filled with chaos as Angie was sick, so I had expanded kid duties — which is foreign because I typically work the night shift, not the morning shift. And as Angie can explain more fully, I don’t really do routine well…so this morning was a crazy blur. I got to work an hour later than normal and threw myself into creating a new presentation for tomorrow. I have an awesome opportunity to share with old agents about how they can begin to understand young people in order to effectively show how life insurance addresses the financial needs in Gen X and Gen Y’s lives rather than just trying to “sell” them some life insurance. When I’m in creative synthesis mode like I was this morning, my mind is all over the joint and I’m difficult to talk to because I’m in Ryanland. And to be honest, I LOVE being there. But most assuredly, the stillness of lunch came at a great time.
As I sat there eating and talking with my Father, I asked Him what He was showing me. I saw a family of three sitting in a booth, talking significantly less than I was! The son was in his mid-20s, wearing a graphic tee with some phrase screenprinted on the front in a smallish font — I’m sure it said something witty and ironic. Dad basically looked like a 30 year older version of his son, except he was gray on top. Mom sat next to dad, but she looked like she accidentally sat down at the wrong table. Had son not had some of her facial and coloring details, I wouldn’t have thought she was mom. But she had the “blank mom stare.” While the son and dad sat there and ate as though the very act was draining them of their life force, mom stared straightforward at (through?) the window, eating her burrito at a pace that said “if I keep eating, I won’t be expected to come up with something to say.” The one that comes after time when a man and woman stop becoming husband/wife to solely become dad/mom and son had long since stopped depending on them. In the 15 minutes that I was there after noticing them, I never saw anyone say a word.
Now, I don’t know if this was the hangover from a crisis or if there just wasn’t anything going on to make small talk about, but it was not just the lack of speaking that struck me. They were visibly isolated from each other. There were three people at the table, but they were all sitting there alone. The body language was unmistakable, there was no connection between them except their DNA. And the thing is, they really aren’t unique. As I thought about the research I was doing this morning, I realized how much each generation is defined by how they chose to find community and how they choose to isolate themselves. Within each generation, depending on environment and the lies people choose to believe about themselves, people with will lose balance and go deep into isolation. But they don’t necessarily leave the presence of people. They just become isolated in their hearts and in their minds. I’ve been at that place — completely alone even when surrounded by dozens of people I know. And as I watched them, their joylessness was palpable. It made me hurt for them.
I think what makes it so painful to watch is, if they’re like me, they don’t know how they got isolated. It wasn’t presented as a single choice “do I want to be isolated or not?” Instead, it’s so often the result of 10s of thousands of choices. And before long, all the little ties that bind us have been cut. And we’re floating there, all alone. And we don’t have the first clue how to reconnect. Well, in case those three people read this blog, I’ll give them a nudge to get them going the right direction: “You’re worth it. So reach out to someone and connect with them. There’s a good chance they’re feeling as alone as you are. Quit worrying about what you’ll say or what they’ll think, and just realize that at the core of human relationships, it’s the intentional effort to love one another that binds us, not the subject matter.”
Who do you know that needs to feel your love today? What will win the day, your fear of loving or your desire to have true, deep joy?