I actually just said it aloud. I hate the holidays when we are overseas. No, I don’t hate everything about them. I do have fun and enjoy celebrating with our family, especially now that we have kids. But every time a big holiday rolls around, a wave of loneliness rolls over me. It’s not for the reason that you might suspect. We do miss our families back home in the States, and we feel sad that we are missing out on family celebrations and traditions. I can handle that. The worst thing for me, however, is the loneliness that I feel here in our missionary community.
We missionaries always say things like, “For every child here that is missing a grandparent, there is a grandparent who is missing a grandchild.” There is this lovely ideal of our children growing up with surrogate grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins. Friends who are like family. The major holidays are one of those times when it feels like that is true… for everyone except me.
I feel like I need to ban myself from looking at Facebook or other people’s blogs during the holidays. Everyone posts photos and stories about the wonderful celebrations that they had with their friends. Their kids call their parent’s friends “aunt” and “uncle.” They always have a home for the holidays. When I see other people’s posts, it fills me with jealousy and discontent, even though I know deep down that social media is not an accurate portrayal of one’s life. We don’t have that kind of group of friends here.
Now, I just want to clarify that I’m speaking for myself, and not for Brian here. I’m sure he will be totally mortified when he reads this. I’m sure some of you reading this are thinking, “OMG, I’m so embarrassed for her! I can’t believe she actually put this out for everyone to see!” It’s the kind of thing that I should be telling to my best friend over coffee. Except that I don’t have that kind of best friend. We have a lot of friends here in Papua New Guinea, don’t get me wrong. We just don’t have friends who are as close as family.
I can feel sorry for myself all I want, but I know that the blame lies a lot on me. Close friendships have always been hard for me. Probably the last time I had a real, honest-to-goodness best friend was in High School. Maybe it’s because I grew up without sisters, and I never quite got the hang of that girly socialness that comes so naturally to others. I’m an introvert, and it’s very hard for me to be the initiator in friendships. I’m sure in part it’s because I’m so good at portraying self-confidence, and that I don’t need anyone. My mom told me once when I was in High School that the reason I didn’t get asked on many dates was because it was obvious that I didn’t feel like I needed a boyfriend to feel good about myself, and that was intimidating for High School boys! I’m sure that many times I portray now that I don’t need a best friend.
I don’t want you to think that I am going to be wallowing around in self-pity and depression for the next month and a half. The truth is, most of the time I’m happy and content. The loneliness is something that comes and visits for a few hours from time to time. I have a good cry, and then I get on with my life. I already feel much better just having written this.
So why am I writing this? Because today, with Thanksgiving approaching, was a hard day for me (I went on Facebook this morning… STUPID!). Because I know that loneliness is something that a lot of people struggle with, both on the mission field and back at home – but it’s something that we don’t ever talk about. No one wants to admit that they feel lonely. This is the single biggest struggle that I have had since we came to the mission field. I know I have a Heavenly Father who is always there for me and will never leave me or forsake me. I have a wonderful husband and great kids. But I still feel lonely sometimes. And there is probably someone out there reading this who can relate.