Updated: Jul 1, 2019
After three days of total solitude last week, I came to two conclusions.
1. Too much solitude is not good for me, which I learned in a parking lot.
2. "Who loves you?" is the essential question of life, which I learned on the Ventura Highway.
Let me walk you through it.
Last weekend, I got through my self-imposed, three-days writing retreat, the longest stretch of solitude I've had since 1999, fairly well.
Until Saturday, when I hit a wall. Literally, with my car.
I arrived at my writing hideaway before noon on Friday. I read 33,000 of my own words all day and into the evening, then finally quit at 9:30 to watch A Room with a View and eat a piece of cheesecake (well deserved), which I purchased at the same time that I went out to buy a Bible because I forgot mine (Don't judge me. I'm a bad packer.).
The next morning, I was at it again by 7 a.m. and wrote until 2, when I finally went out for lunch. I was feeling a little kooky by this time from all the solitude, and when I backed out of my parking space and into a cinder block wall jutting out of the restaurant, it took me a second to realize what the sound was. I drove back to my little house, where I then hit a wall figuratively.
Psychologically, spiritually, mentally, I suddenly felt I could not go on. I was convinced that my book was useless crap (all writers feel this at one time), which was really a problem because I've already cashed the advance. It was at this point that I remembered what I was writing about: the need for friendships that help us be all God made us to be. And I decided, Forget solitude: I need a friend.
I texted two of them as fast as possible. They both wrote back: brilliant, compassionate, passionate words that told me what I was doing was worth it (they are both in the book, so they may have ulterior motives) and also that God loved me. And also that God would still love me and not be a bit disappointed if I gave up my Lenten fast of Netflix and just couched it for a while. After that, the tears flowed, and the words. I wrote and cried into my sweatshirt for about two hours. For the reminder of the trip, if I got lonely, I talked to myself out loud.
See? I get weird when I'm alone. Specifically, I lose perspective. I start thinking that all my thoughts are true without someone else around off which to bounce them.
Second evidence of my need for other people's input: On my drive home, I passed a shiny white car occupied by not-very-shiny gray-haired elderly couple. They had a vanity license plate that I puzzled over, and finally figured out meant, "Hugh loves Sue." How sweet is that? I thought. I preceded to write a whole blog in my head about how in TV and in movies, we mostly see love stories between two shiny, ridiculously good-looking young people, until we forget that people who aren't Hollywood-like fall in love and stay in love to. How amazing that Hugh had spent good money in his old age to proclaim his love for Sue on his Mercedes for all to see? I was quite moved by it.
It was not until about 20 miles later that I suddenly realized out of nowhere that the license plate hadn't said "Hugh loves Sue," but "Who Loves You." The letters were thus:
Laugh away, boys and girls. It's obvious now that I've spelled it out for you. And okaaay, it would probably have been obvious if you'd been in my shot gun seat. I wish you would have been.
The rest of the ride home I wrote this blog in my head. I wondered why that man (I still think of him as Hugh) chose that license plate.He must believe, as I do, that "Who loves you?" is the essential question of life. Hugh is doing humanity a great service, reminding people as they drive down California's highways in the sunshine that though they may have everything, even a shiny white Mercedes with vanity plates, that they don't have anything without love. I'd love think that Hugh is hoping we'll come to the knowledge that God loves us, but as there was no Jesus fish or any other sign of God adjacent to his plates, I realize I'm making a leap.
Final conclusion: though solitude might drive me to bad depth perception and license plate decrypting skills, it also gave me space to come to -- and hopefully write -- some profound truths. They aren't new, but ancient. I'm compelled to add my voice to the millions of others who've written them already: That it is not good for any of us to be alone too long, and we all need encouragement and perspective from others. That having loving people to text and eventually come home to is life's greatest treasure. And finally, and we can't write this too much: that the God of the whole universe loves you -- and presumably Hugh and Sue -- too.