Have you ever been uber-productive for three straight weeks in a row? Never slacking off, never choosing comfort or convenience over what you really ought to be doing?
Well, that's okay. Neither have I.
And so, I shall proceed to write this blog post, though I really should be practicing.
I've been back in the U.S. for about three weeks now--good gracious, how time has flown. I stayed with my family for a few days, a goodly portion of which I slept, and then my kind and generous brother drove me back to my apartment in Provo on his way to school one morning. (And he didn't even charge me, though both I and my luggage were weighing his truck down, thus causing his gas mileage to be worse than usual.) Anyhow, I found that Provo was pretty much the same as I had left it, though I did suffer a few minor shocks upon returning to campus: one, a building that I used to walk past everyday on my way to and from the HFAC is now completely decimated (this is rather inconvenient, as it means that my only option that does not involve climbing the Stairs of Death to get up to campus is now closed off and being occupied by a giant backhoe); two, when I entered Dr. Holden's office to practice, his piano was completely gutted (the keyboard and action--yes, that's a noun, not a verb--of the piano was gone); three, the music library (where I work) is currently going through the equivalent of Revolutionary War the Second (explaining this deserves its own post). Somehow, though, I survived these environmental stressors and returned to my normal routine of work, practice, and teaching.
After a few days, however, I started going through withdrawals. Ironically enough, though surrounded by roommates, people at work, a few other music majors who also haunt the HFAC even during the summer, etc., I was feeling really and truly lonely. I suppose that this loneliness might have been instigated by the fact that, while in Europe, I always had somewhere exciting to go, someone to go with, plans to make, things to do. Of course, here in Provo, should I ever run out of things with which to busy myself, I can always practice. But practicing...well, it is, to be honest, a very lonely business. And sometimes even (or especially) Mr. A. Steinway can't comfort me and provide the companionship I need. Now, don't get me wrong; I love my quiet time, my me-time. I couldn't survive without it. I am a very introvert person, meaning I draw energy and rejuvenation from the time I am alone. (Sidenote: I always thought that the synonyms for "introvert" were "shy" and "quiet" until a couple of years ago, when I discovered that, in fact, this is not the case at all! Introverts can be very outgoing, social people--just as much as extroverts. The words "introvert" and "extrovert" simply refer to where one directs one's thoughts and feelings, and from whence one draws strength and energy.)
Anyhow, one particular night, this feeling of loneliness was really eating at me. I got out of bed around two in the morning and just went downstairs and sat on the floor next to the couch and cried my heart out. Quietly, that is; I would have been mortally embarassed if any of my roommates had heard me (and yet, here I am, paradoxically posting this personal experience in cyberspace). If I hadn't been afraid of some weirdo attacking me out on the streets, I would have gone for a walk. But anyway, that's beside the point.
After a half hour or so, I finally calmed down. I decided to say a prayer. And so I prayed, more sincerely and thoroughly than I have in a long, long time. I talked things out, and though I sound cliche for saying this, I felt so peaceful. I came back up and went to bed.
The following few days were incredible. One of the things I had asked for in my prayer was, plain and simply, to be shown that I wasn't actually alone. I had no idea how I would be answered, but I kept my eyes open. The very next day, one of my good friends got a hold of me, and she and I ended up hanging out all afternoon. We went for a three-hour swim, during which we played the world's most elaborate game of "Horse," not to mention the great conversation we had while sitting in the middle of the pool on rubber balls and foam noodles. Seriously, does life get any better? Following our swim, we grabbed a pizza with her brother and had a lively debate about the housing market. After that afternoon's experience, I realized how important it is for me to recognize little things like this in life that wouldn't happen if I was truly alone. However, to my unsuspecting astonishment, there was still much more prayer-answering to come.
The next day, which happened to be Sunday, I went to church (of course). I love my student ward--I've never lived in a better one--and that's saying something, because I've lived in several. Anyway, while I was at church that day, I had not two or three, not five or six, but nine different random people come to me and start up a genuine conversation. These were not the "quickie-compliment" type conversations like "Hey! Your piano skills are awesome. Thanks for playing today." or "I love your hair. It's sooo long." but actual conversations! It was incredible. Then, to top church off, during Sunday School, the inspired teacher had us listen to part of Elder Holland's talk on Christ's atonement. We listened to the part where he talks about the fact that Christ was completely abandoned and alone during his atonement--he experienced the most thorough sense of loneliness possible for a human being to experience, emotionally and spiritually. W. O. W. I hope you--yes, YOU--have heard this talk. Not just read it, but heard it, from Elder Holland's own mouth. And even if you have, please please please take the time to go watch the last four minutes of his talk here right now.
So. After church, you can imagine that I was pretty convinced of my non-loneliness. But Heavenly Father still had more to say to me. My visiting teachers came over that night. One of them--the Relief Society president, no less--mentioned how she has always struggled a bit with studying the scriptures consistently and sincerely. Interestingly enough, I have also grappled with this, off and on, basically ever since I began seminary. That night, I decided to dive in and see what I could find. The past few nights, I had been reading in Mormon. I had recently watched something on the History channel about ancient civilizations in the Americas, and that had gotten me interested in the connection between them and the civilizations mentioned in the Book of Mormon, which had therefore randomly led me to read in Mormon. Or so I thought. That Sunday night, I opened my scriptures to my bookmark, and this is what was staring me in the face:
"And now it came to pass that after the great and tremendous battle at Cumorah, behold, the Nephites who had escaped into the country southward were hunted by the Lamanites, until they were all destroyed.
And my father also was killed by them, and I even remain alone to write the sad tale of the destruction of my people. But behold, they are gone, and I fulfil the commandment of my father. And whether they will slay me, I know not.
Therefore I will write and hide up the records in the earth; and whither I go it mattereth not."
-Mormon 8:2-4, emphasis added
No friends, no family, commanded to record the destruction of your entire civilization. I think that qualifies as loneliness.
Why in the world am I sharing this? Well, I don't really know. Maybe someone will read this sometime who is feeling the same way I was. Maybe I just needed to write this all out to fully realize and appreciate how incredibly and thoroughly my prayers were answered, and how much my Heavenly Father cares for me as one child in a vast, ever-expanding universe. Whatever the reason may be, I would like you to know that I know that Jesus really lives and knows exactly what each and every one of us is going through, that Heavenly Father is truly there for us as our deeply loving Father, and that He is always, always listening.