Since late last March a single wild turkey has been canvassing our large backyard and wandering into the adjoining park system and the yards of neighbors as well. The turkey appears, as if on cue, between 6:00 and 6:30 every morning and makes itself heard like an out-of-control rusty alarm clock, ten decibels strong waking everyone along the trail. I have grown quite fond of this turkey even putting seeds out during snowy, cold days, its ‘gobble’ a haunting call while no other turkey is responding.
You see, ordinarily, turkeys appear here in large, and sometimes threatening flocks in late winter and early spring. According to some sportsmen I know, we are experiencing a mysterious thinning of turkey flocks in Northeastern Ohio this year. It seems that the flock to which our turkey belonged went its merry way and did not include this vulnerable member. Or, perhaps it is a survivalist, the other flock members having been attacked by predators. For the longest time I could not see if my turkey was male or female. Lately, I have seen it up close and I think it is female – but even that is mysterious. Females do not have the red wattles that hang along the throat and they lack the iridescence of the 5,000 colored feathers that males show off. She is without those traits. Females are smaller and more oblong in shape and do not ‘gobble’. She is definitely smaller and looks convincingly female but assuredly and faithfully gobbles every morning! I have read that females can gobble but are not as persistent at it unless they are stressed. Ben Franklin loved wild turkeys and lobbied to have them as our national bird. He thought they (the males) walked imperiously like British barristers, all together in a flock, their feathers fanned gloriously to intimidate anything in their path! I am amused when I think of this as I watch the flock trample about our yard. All that is needed is for the leader of the flock to carry a cane. A pince-nez would help, too!
Wild turkeys have a super-charged pecking order within the flock, mostly aimed at males, but occasionally against a female. My conclusion is that my turkey was pecked right out of the flock and made to fend on its own. But I believe this lonesome turkey wants to belong; its instinct tells it that it’s safer to be in a flock. It misses its comrades, its family. It gets no help in securing food and everyday wakes up to the searing reality that a predator can grab it or it can get hurt and no other turkey would be there. So it wanders our neighborhood crying out. Sharing its loneliness.
What does all this have to do with loneliness? Last October I wrote a blog on loneliness related to the pandemic. I focused on the elderly who suffered extreme loneliness in nursing homes and what we might do to help them. But here I am focusing on personal loneliness, unrelated to the pandemic. If you feel lonely, here are some points to remember:
1. Nearly every definition of loneliness says it is a perception that one’s relationships are less in quantity and quality than desired. I am struck that every definition I read uses the word ‘perception,’ meaning it may be true or not; it may be somewhat true or somewhat false. One may need help to sort out the vagaries of personal loneliness, and the perception should always be addressed.
2. You can control your feelings of loneliness. Your health will improve if you manage to get motivated says a recent article in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry. The article goes on to say you have to recognize that something needs to change and set about doing it.
Repeat this mantra daily: God does not want me to be lonely!
No sirree – whether your human heart is lonely or the turkey’s heart is confused and wandering, God does not like loneliness.
God wants you to dig out what is causing the loneliness and do something about it. Remember the description of the Garden of Eden and its abundance of trees and animals and vegetation and fruits and…a lonesome man despite all these gifts? God saw this and said, “It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helpmate.” (Gen. 2:18)
The human heart is made to love. It abhors the vacuum that causes loneliness. It is “not good that (we) should be alone.” Your ‘helpmate’ can be a priceless friend, or your spouse. When connected with an interest or a cause, or any sort of motivation, loneliness disappears. You become absorbed in something other than your loneliness. You find God this way and lots of wonderful surprises that replace the emptiness gnawing into your soul.
Obviously, this blog does not fully address loneliness and the vast research published on it, but I hope it’s a start for anyone facing the fact that you feel lonely. I hope you look for help. And remember, God does not want me to be lonely!
Sometime this week, pray the Great Psalm of Comfort: Psalm 23 and meditate on it.
And add this thought from Joyce Rupp’s book, Prayer Seeds:
“Assure me each day and night that I am not alone –
you are with me, a comforting presence in this dark valley.”
And, by all means, do something to assuage your loneliness. Don’t just wander about like my turkey, painfully calling with never an answer.