One of the things I hate most is being alone.
Maybe it’s because I have never really been alone at all. I have never, ever lived alone. I got married young and had kids right away. Even now, I’m technically not alone although I often feel lonely. I have a house full of kids running in and out at any given time. There are times that I wish they’d leave me alone, but mostly just so I can get work done. I never wish for them to leave me alone so that I can be alone.
When I hear people talk about needing time for themselves, I think it sounds dreadful. I couldn’t begin to imagine what I’d do with myself for any amount of time. I’d be terribly bored with nobody to talk to. I’d never dream of going out to eat alone and when I see others doing so, I want to rescue them from their solitude. I make up stories in my mind about why they’re alone. Sometimes it’s their fault, sometimes not. But it’s never just because they want to be there by themselves.
You can see then, why when a friend invited me to use their place out of town to spend some time alone, I was hesitant.
What would I do by myself in a strange city where I knew nobody? How would I survive without someone to talk to all day? Where would I eat without feeling like everyone was watching me eat alone and making up stories about me in their own minds? Certainly I’d die being so alone.
So I said yes.
Not because I wanted to be alone but because in my mind this would be a test of my will to survive. It was to prove to myself that I can in fact be alone. In my disillusioned head, it would be like Man Versus Wild. I’d deliberately dump myself into a busy city, yet I’d spend my days completely alone foraging for food and fighting the odds to make it out alive at the end of four days.
Yesterday was day one. And it was lovely. I wandered the streets not knowing a single soul. I meandered in and out of shops at my leisure. I ate lunch alone on a park bench while reading a book. I sat on the edge of the river for at least an hour barely moving, just staring at nothing. I watched couples walk hand in hand. I watched business men rushing to meetings where they’d probably never be missed if they didn’t show up. I watched moms drag their kids across streets yelling at them to hurry up, not realizing that the toddlers tiny legs just can’t keep stride with their own. I watched assumedly homeless people lie down on ragged blankets on the bank of the river and fall asleep with their belongings unprotected beside them. I stared at the foam that billowed against the edge and marveled at the biggest freighters I’ve ever seen move at a snail’s pace down the mighty Mississippi. I read every single sign that I passed with a bit of the city history engraved on it. I didn’t take a picture, start a conversation or check the time at all. For hours and hours, I was just alone. And I loved it.
Today is day two and so far I have drank two cups of coffee. I’ve taken a hot bath in a jetted tub while reading a book. (It’s the first uninterrupted bath I can recall in 20 years. There was no sound of children fighting on the other side of the door, no little hands knocking and asking if I was almost done yet, and no tiny fingers sliding underneath the door asking if I’m going potty.) I’m currently sitting on a little enclosed patio listening to the city bustle around me and Ella Fitzgerald sing to me on Spotify. I might actually get dressed and ready for the day, but right now it’s only 11 a.m. and what’s the rush? If I decide to go out, there’s a little vegan restaurant that I passed yesterday that I may get lunch at. By myself. And I overheard some ladies talking about an antique shopping district a little ways away and I may check that out today too. Or I may not. I have no plans. I have no plans. I have nobody to look after, nobody to take care of, nobody else’s opinion to consider or take into account.
I can do whatever I want. Because today I am alone. And it’s not so bad after all.