“I’ve Never Really Been Anyone’s Girl,” Mary said in The Secret Garden.
When women move to the field I let them know loneliness is going to be a part of their stories in ways it wasn’t before. It doesn’t matter if they are single or married, life overseas will include loneliness. Single women might sit in their apartments thinking, “If I was married I wouldn’t feel lonely.” And married women might hear their single teammates and friends going out to eat and think, “I’m stuck here with my family. I really wish I could go out for some girl time.” Starting life over and establishing relationships takes time. We get that, right? We’re willing to pay the price.
What I hadn’t expected was the amount of rotation involved in relationships. Between language school, home assignments, God leading folks to other opportunities either on the field or in their passport countries … relational stability isn’t a given for us, is it?
I’ve been struck by how many lonely people are in this book: Mary, Colin, Mr. Craven, and Ben Weatherstaff!
“Since she had been living in other people’s houses and had had no Ayah, she had begun to feel lonely and to think queer thoughts which were new to her. She had begun to wonder why she had never seemed to belong to anyone even when her father and mother had been alive. Other children seemed to belong to their fathers and mothers, but she had never seemed to really be anyone’s little girl. She had had servants, and food and clothes, but no one had taken any notice of her.”
Mistress Mary went a step nearer to the robin and looked at him very hard.
“I’m lonely,” she said.
She had not known before that this was one of the things which made her feel sour and cross. She seemed to find it out when the robin looked at her and she looked at the robin.
(Mary and Martha were chatting and Mary had just said, “I wish I had a little spade” and Martha wondered why.)
“This is such a big lonely place,” she said slowly, as if she were turning matters over in her mind. “The house is lonely, and the park is lonely, and the gardens are lonely. So many places seem shut up. I never did many things in India, but there were more people to look at – natives and soldiers marching by – and sometimes bands playing, any my Ayah told me stories. There is no one to talk to here except you and Ben Weatherstaff. And you have to do your work and Ben Weatherstaff won’t speak to me often. I thought if I had a little spade I could dig somewhere as he does, and I might make a little garden if he would give me some seeds.”
Mary began to find her way out of this season of loneliness through friendships, changing herself, and finding something purposeful to do. There you have it, the simple formula for combating loneliness. HA! While I think they are wise principles, they aren’t meant to be a formula. If you do X you will get Y. And that’s what can be so tricky about loneliness – right? What has your experience with loneliness been like overseas? And for those who have been at this for a while, what seasons and ebbs and flows have you seen in this area? What’s helped you (all of you)?
As for this book, any thoughts on the characters and lonliness? How might the authors person story impacted her portrayal of this theme?
We’re half way through the book! Don’t you wish you could have seen what the garden looked like the first time Mary entered? And Dickon!! What a nice lad. And Colin and his fits. UGH!? Anyone else speaking with more of an accent? =)?
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