Moments of desperation. The first time I ever remember having them, and characterizing them as such, was in Prague. I felt very isolated while I was there, far from my support network and the people I loved. I also had a lot of free time. Despite being in a beautiful, culturally rich city, there was only so much I could do — I was there long enough to “outgrow” the touristy stuff but not long enough to establish a real, authentic life. Classes were interesting and even challenging, but neither they nor their related work required a large time commitment. Thus, I had to find ways to pass the time, and I would often find myself looking at the clock, taking stock of my activity options, and having these mini-panic-attack moments of desperation about how I was going to survive. I think the reason, at the bottom of it, was that I was afraid of being alone, of having to pass the time by myself.
It’s silly, really, and I know it. I always managed to fill the time, and I usually ended up doing something fun and worthwhile, whether it was hanging out with a friend or reading a book or taking a walk through the cobblestoned streets. I surely didn’t spend my time in Prague sitting around moping. But no matter how often I successfully filled the moments, no matter how many times I didn’t die of loneliness, I still had that clenching in my chest, that tightness in my throat, that stinging in the corners of my eyes the next time I was faced with an empty block of time and no obvious plan for it.
I started having them again about six months ago. It’s easy to see why — I felt alone, emotionally, for the first time in four years, and I was alone, physically, for the first time in almost a year. Avoiding the moments of desperation is largely what has driven me during these past months. It’s the reason I started micromanaging my social life, plotting activities for weeknights and weekends on a calendar, booking out my time in chunks, planning various activities to pass the hours — so I wouldn’t have to feel or be alone, an attempt to lessen the frequency of those desperate, stifling moments. And again, every time I do have free time, I use it well; I don’t freak out; I don’t perish; I usually even enjoy it. Nonetheless, I still can’t trust that will actually be the case going into it.
I wish I had more assurance about this, about believing that I won’t be alone, even when I am alone, about — as cheesy as it is — the fact that God is always with me. I wish I felt like that was enough. I know it is, in my head, but I have trouble convincing my heart of it in those desperate times.
The truth is, no matter how full I make my schedule, no matter how many dinners and drinks and activities I plan, I’m only running away, fooling myself, prolonging the inevitable. I’m still going to have my moments of desperation until I find and accept that assurance in my heart.
“Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine! O what a foretaste of glory divine! Heir of salvation, purchase of God, born of his Spirit, washed in his blood.” – Fanny J. Crosby, 1873