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On being on your own

Loneliness is a very big theme in my life. I had written about it a few years ago  and since then, I’ve worked hard on not letting the feeling increase and consume me. I have told myself repeatedly that I am not lonely. And it helps, sometimes. Mostly, I have gone back to the person in my 20s that I used to be, one who enjoyed her own company and did all the things she wanted to, and had to, all on her own.

There is no space to be on your own, these days. Not unless you force things. Unless you put down rules for yourself, like you’re a helpless little addict who needs to find ways to control herself. You could go out for a drink by yourself but how is it going out by yourself if you’re looking into the phone, opening your mind, your moment and your minutiae to a timeline that couldn’t care less? How is it going out on your own if you’re focusing on a game or an online conversation and scarfing down what’s laid in front of you? Where’s the reverence for the food that sustains you? Where is the space and willingness to live the experience of sitting in a nice restaurant, being served and experiencing all the different sensations a plate of good food, or a great drink can bring to you?

There’s a lot to be said for enjoying your own company, doing things by yourself, and being content knowing that you are enough. But sometimes, just sometimes, that contentment doubles up on itself and starts to insidiously suffocate you, to slowly crawl up the slow growing of your evolution, a growth that looks almost like stagnation because of how slow it is. Your sharing self starts to atrophy. Your bed, your fan, your cupboard, the temperature of the room, your lunch, your bed time, your TV shows, your bath, everything stops in time. Like a jet of water in sub-zero temperatures that freezes mid air. Sharing space with someone you love makes things fluid. Things are this way, or that. They always have room to move, rearrange, jostle about, find a comfortable sameness, till the next round of movement. But when you’re alone, when you live alone. There’s a sameness, a cold autocracy that, one day, might prevent you from being capable of sharing space with anyone.

Today, while I went through my Facebook feed, I saw many of friends post pictures of themselves with their significant others. Now, I am old enough to know that what I see online isn’t always true. And I am wise enough to not care either way. For me, these two people took a picture, by all available evidence, smiled genuinely for it, posted it and said a few words of love. Why do they want to announce their love? I don’t know and I don’t care. I am welcome to get them off my timeline if I don’t like it. But when I see a picture like that, all I choose to see is two people who have found love and togetherness. And for now, that is enough. These are pictures of hope,  pictures of warmth and memory, these are pictures of vanity. They are pictures of people making the best of what they have, whether it’s everything or nothing at all. And I like to see them. They are pictures of defence against the fractures we live with. And I am genuinely happy to see people make do with what they have — love, friendship, tolerance, dependence — whatever it is that keeps them together and makes them smile a genuine smile.

But today, seeing a warm picture of a woman leaning into the comfort of a man she married, or the bent of a smiling head of my friend as he looked down to his wife gripped my heart in a bit of a vice. And a little pity party started. It was really nice to see these pictures; they looked loving and warm. But fuck, it made me lonely.

Even before therapy began, I’ve been trying to relearn the art of being content  by myself. The vulnerability of motherhood had taken that away from me. And then the sand slipped very quickly beneath my feet, so quick that I couldn’t quite catch on. And so, I had to  learn again, to be happy by myself. As I used to be. And I have. I do things on my own — always have. But how much to be with myself, how much to do things by myself? I rarely tire of my own company, but sometimes, it’s deeply comforting to be with someone who fits right in with my oddness. All these things I read about being content with oneself: I am more then content. Heck, my content is spilling over on some days. But on days like today, when the sun warmed my feet, and the rain came down quietly like a jewel, when I forget how supremely annoying it is to regularly find a wet towel on the bed, or to wake up because someone turned the speed of the fan too low, or to get kicked in one’s shin while asleep, I long for a hug from a grown up. From someone you share that unique, sparkling thread of connection that sets them apart from the other people you love. A hug of great affection — because these days, I dare not ask for love — a hug from impulse. I long to have someone look at me and know something is wrong and fold me into them so I can cry even though I have no tears left these days. I long to have someone sense the gloom and say, “You don’t look so good, babe. Come here.” I long for someone to love me so perfectly that when the words are too many, and everything has shut down, he says, “Let’s get an ice cream. Or read a book. Or take a walk.”

I know for a fact that none of these things will cure anything. But it’s nice to speak and have another voice talk back at you. A voice that has a body, a glow and a heart with a steady, reassuring beat that you hear when you are pulled into that hug.