Well, this is so cliche from the outside, I am self conscious about writing a blog about loneliness, but here goes. My Dad's birthday was yesterday. He died 36 years ago...I was named after him...This one's for you...
This post was inspired by a friend who's a poet and who just published a new book of poetry on this very subject of loneliness. She just lost her Mom (a friend of mine) to cancer. The reviews of her new volume of poems were great. They called her work "brave" and "courageous." They heralded her ability to tackle such an unpleasant subject.
Now some of you may be thinking that being "lonely" is a prerequisite for any writer, a natural fit, like the shoes that every writer walks in are the shoes of a loner. Like maybe writers (I am one) prefer to limp along, sad and reflective. Well if you believe that you also probably believe that all writers are drinkers, and that all football players beat their wives (did I just say that?).
The bottom line is it's not just writers who are alone, we all are. We enter into the world solo, and we exit the same way...the trip we take through life is singular...one body, one mind, one soul (if you will) all neatly packaged inside YOU. You can hold someone's hand, you can make love and feel joined, you can marry, you can co-habitate, you can ride around life with a companion, a significant other, a friend, a dog even, but no matter how you look at this, it's you and whomever is standing beside you is them, and that still leaves just you standing with them...but in reality, it's still just YOU.
Few people live alone out here in the northern parts of Columbia County, but some of us do. I've talked to people about this. Some non-couple domestic dwellers (*I'm trademarking this phrase so don't get any ideas Gweneth Paltrow) seem content, others are clearly making up stuff in their heads to get by. It's all good.
If you've always lived alone, then maybe you're used to it, but if it's new to you, then maybe you're just getting used to it, or maybe you're not. I'm in the 'maybe you're not' group...but tracking toward, 'getting used to it.'
However, here's what runs through my squirrelly little mind...I'm a glass...
Is the glass half empty? Is the glass empty? Is it just a glass with great potential to be much more...full? Is it time to refill the glass? Is it really a glass after all if it's not filled with something? Why does anyone even need a glass...oh right, to fill it.
To me, that's what "alone" is all about....
You can be inside the lonely house looking out at a full world, or retreating to the lonely house taking refuge within the walls. You can reach out, or, reach within. You can fill the house with things and still feel alone among them. There are activities you can take part in by yourself and yet, whom do you tell them to later? Is it really a life if you're not sharing it? This is what being alone gets you thinking about.
But here's the kicker...if you're on the inside of an empty house looking out and waiting for the house to be full...let me tell you...you'll be waiting a long time, cuz Santa is definitely not sliding down the chimney tonight.
After many, many months of pondering this, it finally occurred to me what the problem truly was. I was waiting for something to happen "to" me. As if some brave super hero was going to swoop down into my kitchen and arrange things so that I wasn't feeling so alone. Huh? How old are you?
That's what a childhood friend of mine used to call "Birthday Cake World."
Here in Birthday Cake World, there's pink icing on your super, duper creamy cake and what you expected as your birthday gift gets delivered with a giant red bow on top! Yippee.
The truth is, I think the Birthday Cake World notion is right on. I fantasized that someone was going to make this better. It wasn't until I got brave, mustered some courage and examined the feelings I was having did I understand what was truly going on.
Finally, one day, while walking the country roads that circle around my neighborhood I got the nerve to say to myself..."what the hell is this feeling after all"....What Is IT? I walked and walked thinking and crying and feeling like plain old shit. I dug inside my heart, I yanked on the pain, I heaved it up to the surface and laid it on blacktop. I looked it in the eye...it was black and bloody, like a tick I has scratched out from under my skin. And it was ugly, but we were going to have it out, a good old fashioned "come to Jesus" moment once and for all.
There it was, the God awful thing I didn't want to see...FEAR.
Fear. Yep. I was totally afraid. Yikes. I was afraid that I couldn't be alone. Couldn't cut it. Afraid that I couldn't take care of myself. Afraid I couldn't make happiness real without another human. Afraid of spending a holiday alone eating cereal out of a box. Afraid of being unknown, unseen and forgotten by the world...and the f-ing list goes on.
But the thing that I was most afraid of was not having that joy I used to feel having someone I love come home at the end of the day. When the sun started to set, I would get physically ill. I longed for that Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Beaver Cleaver, Brady Bunch, kind of warmth that you're supposed to get at the end of the rainbow, if you do your life right and win the prize.
I hated that it was missing. I hated that I missed that feeling. I hated myself for acting like a child...yet...it was the essence of loneliness for me.
And then this happened. I got a phone call from a friend who said, "you may be lonely, but you're not alone." I could have kissed this person for illuminating that simple truth. And there it was. WHAMMO. The real answer to this problem.
You can come home, damn it. You can be the one that comes home to you. You can be the one that's warm and happy to see you and loving and kind and brings flowers and great news and plans. It can be you! You do this for others, now do it for yourself.
Wow...was that a revelation.
Now a days, I'm going to like me better than anyone else does. I welcome me at the door. Honey, I'm home!
And even though there is a new special someone in my life who might come home some day...I'm not just getting used to being alone, I'm kind of liking it.
For right now, I'm still dating myself, and I don't want to hear anyone out there laughing because you could be doing the same thing some day. It makes perfect sense. I can treat myself to me...and just for today, that's plenty.