the loner at church


Years ago, the mom had given to me a toilet seat cover set to decorate my apartment’s bathroom with.  It was in a beige and white color.  There was Winnie the Pooh and his buddy Piglet next to him on the cushiony floor mat and seat cover.  And there were 2 words printed next to them that said, “Just Pooh”.  Get it?  Not sure if its makers had intentionally made it to be humorous, but it had sure cracked me up.

I just kept that set inside of its packaging, and stored it in my closet because even its floor mat was too good to be placed on my ratty apartment floor.  I could barely afford to pay for my power bill, to turn on my airconditioner during the very humid eveningtimes then.

Although I certainly still have much troubles today (don’t we all), the timing of the types of troubles I had then, had made me feel so very alone.  Not that I feel like I actually have anyone to lean on here today, besides God.  But only that I was much sadder then, with much loneliness and worry.

My biggest worry of all, had been for my junk car, which was about to go bust on me soon.  I had worried daily that I wouldn’t be able to get to work if it were to really die on me.

My apartment had been a studio one, and as usual, I had slept on the floor.  I owned just 1 chair, 1 small end table, and a bookshelf that I had dragged from the dumpster, which someone in my apartment building had thrown out.  It looked like it was supposed to have 4 shelves on it, but only had 2.  That was okay for me, because I just wanted to use the bookshelf as a sort of covering next to the doorway of my apartment.

I hoped that placing it there would prevent anyone looking in from outside, from being able to see the entire interior of my apartment.  It wasn’t because I was embarrassed about its barrenness.  I was more afraid that some of the shady characters next door, might be able to see that I lived all alone.

One evening, as I was again with a heavy heart, I walked into a church where I had begun to attend their mid-week evening services.  As usual, I sat in the back, where the very last pew was.  I can’t remember exactly how the author Anne Lamott had said it in her Traveling Mercies book, but she had said something like, it was a good day at church if someone didn’t try to talk to her, and she was able to leave when she had wanted to.  I totally concur with that.

As church attendees would walk in through its front doors, someone there would hand to them the evening’s list of prayer requests.  Because I didn’t know a soul at that church, all of the names listed on those sheets of paper each week, were strangers to me.

I would just read the names and prayer requests, and would then continue to stare down at the paper, like I always did (for the next almost-decade that I had continued to attend there), because I didn’t know where else to look, without always feeling awkward.

It was from attending that church (and other different churches later), that I had come to realize that I was a very self-conscious person.  I hated myself and my appearance.  I was embarrassed of me.

So when it was singing time, I stood up with everyone else, and held up my hymn book.  I lip-synced along to the songs (can’t sing), and always stared down hard at the hymn book.

I’m not one of those folks who can casually look up and around inside of a church.  Wish to goodness I could.  But I can’t.

From the moment when I find my sitting spot in the back pews, I always keep my head down, all the way until the entire church service is over.  Then I make my dash outside through the side doors, so that I wouldn’t have to shake hands with the pastoral staff who said their farewells at the front entrance doorways.

Yes, I am unfortunately, one of those types of church-goers.  The non-chummy ones.  The ones who come – and quickly go.  Just a brief muttered “hello” and a silent goodbye.

Unlike the sis who enjoys people-watching, I myself very much dislike making eye contact with people.  If I’m at a restaurant, a coffee shop, or anywhere, I always look for a seat in the back, the corner, or by a window.  That way, I can be staring at a wall or out a window, instead of at anybody around me.

Because whenever I do take a moment to look up (for a neck stretch), it just never fails that I’ll somehow accidentally make eye contact with someone way over on the other side of wherever I’m at, and the other person will suddenly look uncomfortable because they thought that I had been staring at them, when I had actually just then looked up for a second.

So in order to avoid having those accidental awkward eye contact moments, I always try to keep my eyes and head down, as much as possible.  It’s always safest there.  Just me, minding my own business.





27 thoughts on “the loner at church

  1. It brought tears to my eyes that you hated your appearance & were embarrassed by yourself. Never feel that way. Do the best you can do. Most people don’t judge others as harshly as they judge themselves. And those who judge harshly, the heck with them.

  2. I used to feel self conscience like that. I actually did what you described after I was divorced when my kids were gone if I decided to try a church now and then. Now I just don’t trust people that much but I don’t worry about what they think about me. I realize the one good thing about me is that I think everyone approves of me & likes me even though deep down I know I’m full of malarkey, lol.

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