09 March 2012

How to Be Alone

Once, when my husband was in Australia for two weeks, I drove home from dinner late at night with the kids to find my way to the front door blocked by an enormous snake eating an enormous toad.  There was a bloody-death scene at the door, blood smeared across the front walk, and the snake just wouldn't move.  I don't think it could, actually, so stuffed with the toad as it was, but eventually my hysterical screaming and Caiden somehow appearing with a rusty machete (We have a machete?) convinced the snake to move.  It slithered around the side of the house, toad still hanging half out of its mouth, and I tiptoed around gore to get in the house, a little shaken.  The violence of it was stunning.

This time he was in Oklahoma, and I had to let him know that Shadow, his beloved lab, found a chicken and played with it, and Caiden had to wrestle his dead chick from the dog's mouth.  It's one thing to have a hawk hunt the chickens and eat them as a course of nature; it's another to have your pet needlessly kill your other pet.  That's a hard pill for a little boy to swallow.  My husband felt bad, and I did the right thing:  instead of cursing the dog, I reminded Caiden that dogs have instinct, that if a hamster ended up in the chickens' coop, they'd eat it in a heartbeat, too.  It's nothing personal; it's the way animals are.  It ended all right, with only a few tears, and an understanding boy.

But the next day, when we drove up after running errands, and Shadow was running around the yard with yet another dead chick in his jaws, feathers spread across the lawn, it felt like too much.  The boy had to dispose of another body, I had to remind him of wretched instinct again, and the silly lab chased him with a toy in his mouth, wanting to play.  Caiden's thin shoulders sagged, and he shook his head.  Tears spilled out of both of us, and I just wanted my husband home, to help him bury the chick and hug his boy and make it all right.

Instead I made comfort food for dinner, with chocolate chip cookies afterward, and let the kids play hide-and-seek in the darkened house.  But by bedtime, my nerves felt stretched and I felt thin-boned and thin-skinned and sad.  I'm not good at being alone, without his help and encouragement and presence, and I think to friends who are shouldering their homes and their children and their lives alone, everyday.

I feel stretched after a few days; I can only imagine a few months, years, forever.  I admire them.  I don't want to be them.  I am terrified of ever being them.

Nothing reminds me more of my frame--it is but dust--than days alone, surrounded by children, and mess, and noise, and clamor, with my most beloved one far away.  I become quick to snap, quick to tire, ready for bedtime early, for a respite, only to lie in bed sleepless.  But it is on those days when I am reminded most that He is here to lighten my burdens, to shoulder them with me, that I am not alone.  I am never alone.

And I lay down the burdens, leave my tender ones in His care, and sigh as I slip into worn-thin pages. "Cast your cares upon me."  "My yoke is easy and my burden is light."  "In peace I will lie down and sleep, for You, Lord, alone make me dwell in safety and confident trust."  He is right.

And I sleep.


  1. I'm so glad you're writing again Sarah. You have a lovely gift.
    I have felt all these same things. You've written it all so well.

  2. Beautifully written, thank you for sharing.

  3. It is true-being alone is so very hard. I'm part time alone. Five nights a week my husband is away working the evening shift and I pray for a job change, a schedule change, a life change....and I hope that in the future I will find some single mom and help her shoulder the cares of her world so she doesn't have to do it alone. Maybe I can offer rides for her kids sometimes. I love it when someone offers to give my child a ride. Being mom to teens is exhausting that way. Thank you for writing this. It was beautifully said and very true.

    1. Beth, that is hard! I'm praying with you for a change, and I admire your thoughts of reaching out to another mom who could use a second set of (driving) hands. Thank you for leaving your thoughts here. :)

  4. I know Tom will want to / need to read this. He's recently told me how your early blogging days fed his soul, when he was screaming out to God and your writing let him know it was okay. I suspect now that he's facing an empty house he will be comforted to know someone else understands, again.

  5. Great message. Really nicely written. You have a real gift, sweetheart. Dad

  6. Thank you so much for this. It ministered to me on various levels. For one, God used it to cut through some layers to tend to some places that needed to be tended to re: burdens that I've been carrying. Must be His Spirit.

    On a side note, I haven't commented in a long time (wow, just looked it up and it's been over 3 yrs--since you asked us to pick our favorite post for that article), but I've often checked in on your blog. Congrats on baby #4! So happy for you guys. Such a joy for me as I've gotten to "know" your family through the years since Addie arrived.


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