Attending a community meeting tonight, the feeling of being the eternal outsider again arose; that sense of being in the community but not of it; being aware that the people who are your people at one moment might be someone else’s people in six months time and that you have no abiding place. A feeling perhaps reinforced by a chance meeting with friends from Dublin while out for a walk on Monday morning (Monday being the clerical day off in these parts), they were friends whom I would have met on a weekly basis, had I not, six years ago, moved from Dublin suburbia to deeply rural Ireland.
Moving parish when I was approaching 50, it was hard to begin again, hard to try to adjust to yet another new community, especially one that was radically different from the last. Since 2010, I have spent much of my time on my own, there has been an enforced adjustment to solitariness and a growing awareness that my total number of friends does not run much beyond single figures.
Enduring friendships are with those who have been no part of our community; our closest friends, those with whom we talk every week, those with whom we might sit in a ski resort bar after a day on the piste, or meet for lunch in some anonymous hotel, are those who live nowhere near us.
I am in my thirtieth year of this strange life, before the collapse of our pension fund, there was an opportunity to call it a day at 60; sometimes I thought that if I made it to 60, I’ll would work through to the maximum age of 75. Being always on the edge, being there to lead in times of grief, carrying on when the tank has run dry, being expected to be wise, because there is now more grey hair than brown, it becomes harder as the years pass.
Walking down the street tonight, there was a sense of loneliness. I will be 56 this year, I have never advanced beyond the level I reached when I was 28. Sometimes, there is a feeling that maybe I did something wrong; maybe there was a point where I should have turned and I didn’t notice it. Maybe it could have been different.
Often I have recourse to the words of the theologian Karl Rahner who once wrote “At the end of the day our task is to recognize that God is in the silence, the frustration, the loneliness, the emptiness. Our job is to become aware of this”. Rahner’s words keep me going.