I spent a lot of time alone this past summer. As a matter of fact I’ve spent quite a bit of time alone this past decade. One of the side effects of working from home is that, apart from my trusty canine, I’m pretty much alone all day. And when warmer temps arrive, I transport that canine and my computers to my bay-side happy place and I am alone once again.
Well … as alone as you can be in a park full of people.
The thing is, when my beloved is working or otherwise engaged (read: home improvements or familial obligations), I spend days on end alone. I may be just a shout away from lots of folks, and social interaction is usually just a quick text away, but I spend days on end alone.
Because I like it.
I have learned to enjoy my own company. I find myself to be quite entertaining, quite frankly, and the dog is a great conversationalist. He never bores me with mundane chatter and he’s typically pretty content to just laze around, something I’m also quite proficient at. I mean I like loud music and cooking and movies and writing and reading and walking. But I am quite content to do all of these things by myself.
This was not always the case. I used to HATE being alone. I avoided alone-ness at all costs. Especially in the evening. And overnight. I recall one occasion when my darling ex-husband was called away last-minute on business and I was a wreck. I didn’t have a chance to line up a babysitter. You know … for me, the 35 year old. I was such a wreck that hubby’s boss actually offered to come for a sleepover.
Um … weird, I know.
When I started working from home (and my child was in school) I once again discovered aloneness. This time it wasn’t so bad because I knew that both my son and husband were at some point coming home. I still wasn’t a big fan of those solo overnighters but hey, I was a MOTHER and that lioness thing kinda took over. Plus we had a killer attack dog who would have annihilated anything that messed with my son or me.
Fast forward to the demise of my marriage and the subsequent demise of my post-marital relationship. Suddenly I found myself truly alone. No man, no kid, no friend, no dog … just me. It was super weird and I was super lonely. Like loneliness of the torturous kind.
There’s a wonderful Canadian singer/songwriter named Lynn Miles and her song “Loneliness” describes it beautifully:
Loneliness is an envelope you can seal yourself into
And send off to a stranger in a town across the sea
Loneliness is a tired old friend who carries your baggage
Through airports and train stations for free
Loneliness wears a suit and tie on busy city streets
And makes you cry at parties filled with people that you know
Loneliness will take your hand and lead you to the shoreline
On foggy days to find the undertow
“And makes you cry at parties full of people that you know.”
Wow. Just wow.
Because that was me in my marriage. I was the ultimate social queen, the queen of distraction, the queen of fake smiles and the queen of party-giving. Anything to keep that hollow aching at bay. Trouble is that hollow aching didn’t cooperate. It followed me into empty bathrooms in the midst of rousing revelry. It liquefied me onto the kitchen floor when music was playing and so was the rest of the family (downstairs). It sat next to me on plane-rides overseas, it kept me awake every night with its nagging arguments and it forced me to up my social game even further, in a noble yet futile attempt to shut that bastard up.
Loneliness was never my friend. And sure, I could be lonely at a rip-roaring shindig but I also equated being alone with lonely. And so being alone became the enemy.
But then there was that fateful night. That night of true alone-ness. And I was forced to have a good long look in the mirror and ask myself what the fucking problem was? Was I alone? Was I lonely? Lonesome? Solitary? Companionless? Dogless?
All of the above, I reckon.
My friend K solved the one problem by gifting me with a kitten that Christmas. But the rest of the problem I was forced to solve alone. Because thereafter arrived many “alone” nights (and days) and the hits just keep on coming!
The difference is … I learned. Through practice and repetition and experience and desire, I learned to be alone. And I learned that being alone no longer equates to loneliness.
Being alone can be a gift. An absolute joyful, self-indulgent, awe-inspiring gift. To dance around the kitchen, listening to the music you love, cooking the food you love, wearing the cut-off jeans (and no bra) you love and loving every minute … THAT is a gift. No fake smiles. No crying in the bathroom (or on the kitchen floor). And most importantly, no FEAR that you are a loser. No fear that no one wants to enjoy your company. Or even that the “guy you loved” doesn’t want to enjoy your company. Because the reality is that YOU enjoy your company.
This past week I have been enjoying my happy place for the final week of 2019. I’ve had a bit of (wonderful) social interaction but for the most part I have been pretty much alone.
I have not been lonely.
I have been grateful. Grateful for gorgeous sunny days and cool, snugly nights (yes the dog is here). Grateful for long walks close to the water which bring me so much peace. Grateful for chick-flicks and wine and candlelight and yes … solitude. I mean there’s an army of fruit flies living with me (just smacked another) but yeah, the serenity of my assistance has been palpable.
I am alone. But I am not lonely.
And now, as the park begins to spring to life, with this final thanks-giving weekend upon us, I am grateful for that too. A child’s voice, a dog’s bark, friends arriving soon and revelry to be made … I am ready. There will be no private weeping in the bathroom. That girl does not exist anymore. Loneliness will not “take my hand and lead me to the shore.”
My dog will. And there will be a Frisbee in his mouth.
And we will both be smiling.