Personality tests identify for whatever strength, a shadow side, a limitation, a potential downfall.
What about the shadows, the traits, features, elements of our lives that are seemingly out and out limitations, downfalls, weaknesses?
Is there really a lining to these clouds that shimmers all glittery silver? Can you polish the dirt and reveal gemstones of beauty, however rough?
This I pondered when the grand feature of my life - aloneness - seemed again to loom overwhelmingly as a negative, a weakness, a limitation, a downfall.
I am single. This is isolating.
I am a PhD student. An isolating experience.
I am a writer. Often isolating.
I am an ex-pat. Also isolating.
I live with depression. Very isolating.
But 'solitary' is a choice I make, a feature of the vocation to which I know myself called that I am growing to appreciate and embrace, not least because it is rare to be single by choice, and I do so love being different from the crowd.
As I returned to the north this month, these features of isolation loomed overwhelming, compounded by the ever-present money woes I am sure you are all sick of hearing about (I know I am), and the uncertainty about the next steps beyond the PhD.
I landed in Scotland two weeks ago, arrived in my flat and in those days of post-travel jet-lagged fog (though thankfully not too much of the actual Scottish Grey, which lifts, at last), I began to remember that this is a choice, I do like my solitude, this current living situation within this grand adventure is a gift, and gradually, I relaxed a little within that anxiety over isolation.
Then in coming days, I banked cheques and issued invoices and realised that rent will be covered for two of the next three months before the two month reprieve, and I released my metaphorically-held breath. For the third of those months might be ok, too, fingers crossed. And I might even have the capacity to book necessary flights to the USA for an important event in August. More deep breaths of relief.
I spent the weekend in the country, with a congregation that has 'adopted' me this past year, and this one last event in a busy two month season was one more affirmation of the growing reception for my gifts in the church, the call I have been discerning to travel with stories and poems, to listen and to tell, to facilitate and encourage, and the bigger picture with its blurry lack of clarity faded from view.
Back in Edinburgh, all I know and all I feel I need to know for now is that I am where it is right for me to be; I am not unseen at home as I felt I had been for some time; I am excited to be writing the thesis towards which I have been working so long and so hard.
Personality scales identify your strengths and their shadow sides. Between the lines of the scales I have done, and an ever emerging implication of the vocation they helped me to name, is solitude. At times the isolation feels like a cloud whose sliver lining I must reach, stretch for; then I find it and discover it is no lining on a cloud, it is a cloak of strength to wear boldly and with joy. So I shall, and I hope that you also find light drawing your eyes away from the shadows, and strengths where you may think there is only weakness.