Charlotte Donlan is a writer, spiritual director, and host of the Hope for the Lonely podcast. She describes reading on an online site called The Loneliness Project people's responses to four statements:
- The last time I felt lonely was . . .
- To me, loneliness means . . .
- One of the first times I realized I was lonely was . . .
- Tell me the story of the time you felt the most lonely.
The comments made her realize how prevalent this malaise is and also how many different ways it is experienced. Some, like herself, suffer from what she calls "core loneliness," which is not improved by a change of circumstances: "Great loneliness makes us yearn for the Great Belonging."
Whereas many religious and spiritual writers see loneliness as something to be cured; Donlan chooses to see it as a companion. She probes its history, habits, emotions, and psychological dimensions. In sections on ourselves, others, art, places and God, the author reveals loneliness as a spiritual teacher who opens us to ways of belonging. Or as the subtitle of this paperback put it: How Loneliness Leads Us to Each Other.
We enjoyed seeing how Donlon connects loneliness with our five senses, sex, hot dogs, coffee, home, families, and the arts (poetry, music, photography, stories, and paintings). Along the way, she reframes this aspect of our lives and shows us how it can lead to a renewal of belonging and grace.