An Antidote to Loneliness

April 2020

“There is no feeling more terrible than loneliness, no feeling worse than the sensation of being locked inside your own heart.”

Davita’s Harp, by Chiam Potok

Loneliness is a modern epidemic. I spent my youth and young adulthood being chronically lonely. It wasn’t that I didn’t have friends or social connections, but I always felt “odd” or like I didn’t belong. I remember reading Chiam Potok’s “Davita’s Harp” when I was a sophomore in college. The main character is a young girl coming of age with two activist parents. After her father was killed, her mother walked the halls like a ghost. Davita feared that her mother was going to die of loneliness. At that moment, I realized that I was not at all alone. And in the twenty years since then, I have felt more and more connected while it seems that the whole world has disconnected.

Here’s the thing about connection: it’s about time. You have to make space in your busy days to connect with people, to meet for coffee, to send a follow up note, to invite friends over for crappy dinner parties. Connection doesn’t just happen without some intentionality. And, if you are like me, teetering on the edge of exhaustion most of the time, taking time to put on clean pants and a little mascara so you can meet a friend for tea often seems impossible. Let me tell you, as someone who went through cancer treatment, it is the most important thing that you do. While I was undergoing treatment, my dear friends came out to mow my law, to sit with me, to bring me tea. They sent me serious gifts and funny packages, even a life-size cutout of my celebrity crush.

While I was sick, I couldn’t repay anyone. It’s possible that I sent one person five thank you notes and another person nothing. I was just trying to get from day to day. But that didn’t matter to those who loved me. They wanted to show their love. My mother, who stayed with us while I was in treatment exclaimed in alarm, “Every day, there is a package for you! Every day someone has sent you something! Who are all of these people?” Her life was changed to see the outpouring of love from a hundred strangers, family, friends, and folks from the church. This is what it is to be loved unconditionally. It’s not the gifts or the money in the Go Fund Me, but the generosity to offer something with no exception of anything in return.

This, my friends, is the crux of it all. And, yes, surgery, chemotherapy, and radiation rid my body of cancer, but it was this unconditional love that cured me. It continues to cure me because love is something that does not diminish. It can only grow.

So, what does this have to do with art? It was in literature that I felt truly seen and after the work pricked my heart, I was able to see the connection and love that was already around me. Art helps us to see, whether that’s seeing physical reality, or seeing our inner landscape.

“There is no feeling more terrible than loneliness, no feeling worse than the sensation of being locked inside your own heart.” Davita’s Harp

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A figurative sculptor for over 20 years, Sarah tells monumental stories in clay, bronze, and stone.

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