This past Friday, the weather was beautiful and I’d just finished having a happy-hour cocktail with colleagues from work.
I smiled as I unlocked my car and put the top down – it was definitely a convertible day. I flipped through a stack of scratched cds and found the right groove for my mood, hit play and pulled out of my spot to wind my way down out of the parking structure.
The first few minutes of my drive home are always the best. It represents this beautiful moment in time, where something I had been waiting for had finally arrived and unlimited possibilities awaited me in the future. Ideas rush through my head, things to do around the house, things to write, and plans to meet up with friends. I love this part of my commute.
Unfortunately, it only lasts about three minutes, since that’s all it takes before I’m stuck in traffic for the next hour, at least (if I’m lucky).
With the first slam of the brakes and honk of a horn, the sparkle in my eye fades, and I come back to my reality.
My reality is that, no matter how inspiring those first few minutes of the weekend may be, in the end, I will be alone.
Everyone has their own preference as to how much social time and how much alone time they need, and from what I hear from those people, it works out great when they can keep that balance. I, however, do not have such a balance.
I spend way too much time alone.
Lots of people are afraid of being alone for all sorts of completely understandable reasons, but what I’m scared of is not the actual being alone part, rather, the reasons why I choose to be alone.
I know, it doesn’t really make much sense. I crave interaction with others, I love my friends and family and I get such a kick out of people-watching and just wandering around. But I almost never actually do it. Why is that?
For the past several weekends I’ve really thought about this. Every Friday I go through the same routine, and every weekend I still go through the same motions. Every minute, wanting, wishing, I would just step outside the house or call a friend.
For those of you who have been following the site, you know I’m working on my self esteem, and I have no doubt this plays a huge role in keeping me solo most of the time, but I don’t think that’s all of it.
My theory is that, over the past few years it has become easier for me to be alone than to be with someone. After ending an eight year relationship a few years back, I have taught myself to be self-sufficient, and have convinced myself I don’t “need” anyone else. When I’m alone, I can do what I want. I can stay up all night watching Dr. Who re-runs, or spend the day hopelessly trying to teach myself how to knit (or maybe it was crochet). If I wanted to read in a corner, or re-arrange my bedroom, I could just do it. I didn’t need permission, and I didn’t need to consider anyone else’s feelings. I could be every bit as selfish as I wanted to, and no one else would know the difference.
But this weekend, when I tossed yet another dirty dish in my sink and didn’t think twice about doing the dishes (because who would know?) I realized I needed to re-assess my comfort level with being alone.
Before, I just told myself I liked my independence, and it was healthy for a young woman to be able to take care of herself. While that’s all well and good, I now realize it was just a cover.
I think, I choose to be alone because I’m so terrified I’ll always be alone.
Wait, what? Ok, let me explain.
A few years ago, I was recently single and was enjoying my newfound independence. I met up with friends often, and was dating pretty regularly. On the surface I felt like I had a lot of people in my life, and that made me really happy.
One weekend, I decided to hang out on my own and do some work around the house. I hauled out my circular saw, a giant ladder and a few other DIY implements and gleefully began to “improve” my house.
At one point over the weekend, I was perched at the top of my not-quite level aluminum extension ladder, a beer held tightly in one hand, a few screws in my mouth and wielding an electric drill in my other hand, it occurred to me I might be acting a bit…ahem…unsafe.
So, naturally I cradled the drill under my arm while I took the screws out of my mouth and placed them in my pocket.
As I moved to re-position the drill back into my hand I lost my balance and my foot slid off the rung of the ladder (apparently flip flops are not OSHA approved for scaling ladders).
While my feet and legs smacked against the rungs as I violently slid down and off the ladder, I looked down to see the shark infested waters below. At my feet was my circular saw, numerous screw drivers, nails, screws and a really big, sharp rock.
This might be bad, I thought.
I had no urge to call out for help, or even to cry out in fear or pain. No one would hear me. I knew when I landed, whatever happened, I was on my own.
I finally smacked down on the concrete, narrowly missing a handful of deadly objects. Shaken, and a bit bruised, but otherwise fine, I looked back up at my ladder and began to sob uncontrollably.
I wasn’t hurt, but I was scared. In the few moments it took me to slide off that ladder and face a potentially dangerous fall, one realization washed over me. It would be days before anyone even suspected something was up. Days.
As I sat on the warm concrete of my patio, surrounded by tools and the remains of my shattered beer bottle, I truly understood what it meant to be alone.
But the realization that I was completely alone didn’t scare me, instead it made me completely and devastatingly sad.
Ever since then, I’ve had the somewhat morbid thought that something will happen to me one weekend, and no one would ever know. At least, not until I didn’t show up for work…you know, at the job I loathe? What kind of a way is that to go?
Not long after that incident I started to become a bit of a recluse, which on the surface seems exactly the opposite of what I would expect someone to do in this situation. How does isolating myself protect me from loneliness (and a gruesome encounter with power tools)?
Until recently, I just assumed my solitary confinement was inflicted because I had grown too self conscious to be around other people. But after this past weekend I realized that wasn’t really it.
As I described earlier, every Friday I run through the same routine, only to accept the fact that I will spend my weekend alone, left to my own devices (although far away from ladders). I’ve now grown comfortable with my loneliness, and never really expect to interact with too many people, excluding the folks in line at the grocery store.
This past Sunday evening, it occurred to me I hadn’t spoken one single word out loud the entire weekend. I’d had a few electronic conversations, but no actual, real life human contact. And I was totally fine with that! Even I had to admit, that’s a little fucked up.
I realized with horror, that I had already accepted that I was going to spend the better part of the rest of my life alone. By hiding out, I was desensitizing myself to the kind of isolation most people would find unbearably depressing. I was actively choosing this life, because I didn’t believe it would ever be any different. I’ve been saving myself from the inevitable withdrawals that come from getting used to having someone around, then watching them go.
Of course I’m scared I’ll end up alone, we all are. But what really terrifies me is that I seemed to have accepted a fate that has yet to be written, and is far from certain.
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