It probably seems reasonable that being away from home for 5 weeks would lead to loneliness. Today, though, the twelfth day in, is really the first day I’ve felt lonely. I have, of course, missed my family greatly. But I haven’t really felt lonely. In general, it’s been too busy to be lonely.
Week one was all about meetings and paperwork. We had to listen to information overload from 9-3 or so every day. In addition, we had to review each file, write an Individual Treatment Plan, and write our first lesson plan for each client. We were all together, though, all day long–no time to be lonely. There was always someone around with whom I could chat, or eat lunch, in any spare moment we had, and we had very few. In the evening I went out to dinner once, had a group class outside together once, went out for ice cream, and collapsed in my room. I still had time to talk to Carl every day, and the kids most days, and I went home on Friday afternoon.
This week has been a new kind of insanity. I have all three clients on Tues/Thurs, so they are busy days, with 3 hours of therapy, and at least an hour of taking care of paperwork. Trying to gather materials, set up sessions, and think of fun activities that are also useful for working on specific goals (7 sessions is not a lot of time to make a lot of change in a client’s level of performance, so everything is carefully planned for the most efficacious use of time) takes up the rest of the time. On Tuesday, I didn’t even look at my cell phone all day long, and never had time to eat lunch. As someone who carries a caseload of 100 during the school year, I was sure 3 clients couldn’t be all that overwhelming. And, I guess I’m not overwhelmed, but I’m surprised by how busy I am still!
On Wednesday, I did screenings at a nearby Head Start all day. We were there from 9-3, and I drove another classmate there; we had a great chance to talk and get to know each other. I also had great conversations with another classmate who was there. When I got back to my room, I had to plan for Thursday’s therapy, and then got to go out for dinner and drinks to celebrate a fellow classmate’s birthday. It was a lot of fun, and it’s harder to be lonely when you’re laughing hysterically.
Today, Thursday, was of course busy. I woke up at 6 am and left my room at 6:20. I had to get groceries for my first therapy session, and still needed to do paperwork on the computer before I started. I was less scattered today, which was wonderful, and I had time to eat lunch, but it was still busy. I managed to get all of my paperwork done to turn in by 4pm: SOAP notes for 6 sessions, and 6 lesson plans for next week. I had some good conversations with others, and I even squeezed in my first of 25 observations.
But now, the point of this whole post, I guess: I’m lonely. We have a meeting tomorrow from 9-12, but then we’re done until Monday morning. The reality of being here, away from my family, is sinking in. I’m lonely for conversation with my husband, for sweet conversations with my kids. I’m lonely for the familiar. I miss South Bend, and the things that are familiar to me. I’m an extrovert, with no plans the whole weekend with others. There will be others here, and I know that I’ll do things, but I don’t know what they are.
I realize this is the first real quiet moment I’ve had here since I got here. It’s been busy, and hectic, with no space for mental down time. And now that it’s here, it’s hard. It’s not all bad–sometimes things that are hard are really good for you. I know I will have time to think, to rest, to contemplate, to pray this weekend. I appreciate that time! If I consider it as a retreat, I will enjoy the time alone. I could set up a meet up with somewhat-nearby friends, but the thought of driving even 3.5 hours one way makes me feel exhausted. I know that mentally I will do better to stay here, even if it means I’ll be lonely.
And is it all that bad to become comfortable with the thought of loneliness? I think not. Sometimes I think I may need to be lonely, in order to be able to better appreciate and enjoy my family when I’m with them. I’m sure that’s not true for everyone, but nothing makes me want to be fully present with my family than being fully absent from them. I also know I talk too much, and sometimes being quiet is good for me, even if it takes me being alone to be quiet. We’ll call it practice. Not to mention, even when I’m home, I’m somewhat lonely. I have started a lot of blog posts about loneliness and grief over missing my friends in California. So far, they have mostly languished there, as just writing them has been therapeutic, but they are too raw to share with anyone else. This experience of being lonely falls right along with that: deep loneliness while still being happy. Because, I am happy. I am really loving boot camp, the whole experience, meeting my classmates, doing the therapy. It’s fun right now, and it’s fun to consider that when I’m home again, I will have just one year left in the program. I’m not sad, or depressed, or miserable. I’m just lonely. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing.