Sometimes, I forget that I am not alone.
I had grown used to detailed, silent, fast-paced conversations with myself. This is how I got by, how I adjusted to the lack of another human who gave a whit about anything I did or didn’t do.
I carry the people I love with me everywhere I go. I look to their faces when they are not near, imagine conversations about simple things like an interesting jacket at the thrift store, or more difficult things. Can I pull off this pillbox cap? Should I take that new job? What do you think of eating in the back yard tonight? This habit began when Alone became my chosen state of being. The responses were fabrications to make me feel less pain of loss. I missed my beloved people, so I saw my dear eldest daughter’s face assessing that idea or that feathered hat and raising her eyebrows or smiling in approval. I missed her so much that I made her up until her father, the controller of her place in the world, and her mother, more lax, gave her raised eyebrows and smiling approval back to me for my enjoyment now and then. Still, alone most of the time.
When I met a beautiful boy, the alone lingered. Our schedules with children often conflicted, and I couldn’t quite figure out how to be a regular feature in his life. We stayed connected with smatterings of words in text messages, never phoned, spent an evening or an entire night a couple of times a month when we could. He rode around with me in my heart wherever I went, too, all sparkling green eyes full of love, but he was usually physically elsewhere. He had a dog that needed to be walked, and he didn’t spend much time in my world. I was a visitor in his.
I shared my actual home and my real life with my small person. She made Alone different. When she was by my side, a walking, talking, thinking being drew me into important heres and nows, and I welcomed being so necessary to her wellbeing. She was and is necessary to mine. This small person in that sometimes lonely house, a house that grew around us and to suit us, kept me on my toes. When only one grownup lives in a house, one must be sure to be the grownup most of the time. Sometimes, I forgot on purpose that I was in charge and played like a small person, and we ate ice cream for supper at the drive-in on the edge of town. We could do that. We were alone.
Days without that small person or work landed smotherlingly upon me, at first like blankets too heavy for the weather. I learned to shuffle the weight aside.
Knowing how to mow the lawn and fix the septic and reglaze a cracked window, and doing those things, had caused trouble in my not-alone years. Those jobs belonged to someone else who did not do them, despite claims that such things would get done without my help. Alone, I just did, and no one felt mocked by my silent doing. I never meant to hurt, just to make things less broken. One by one, a wrench and a ratchet and good meal at a time, the heavy blankets lifted. I fixed flat tires and rearranged bike parts to make things roll better, and I got only gratitude and joy from my small housemate. I maintained a working toolbox that I could openly call my own. Alone became easy, the tools diverse, within reach.
But, buried somewhere in that earned ease hid a grain of melancholy, grief at having had to estrange myself from so many people and things that were once a part of me, just to find a place where I could move the furniture and not be in trouble. My rage at being in trouble at all over making small decisions arrived in a rush one evening, after I bought an electric fireplace on clearance. It’s a silly thing, but I’d have suffered for bringing it into the house when I was not alone. Sitting in front of it, feeling a bit gloatish at having found it for such a good price, I remembered in a rush what I’d have had to endure if I had not been alone just then. My adorable little fake fireplace would have been mocked, and it was, upon being seen by my small person’s father. For the freedom from mocking and anger and petty taunts I smashed my family to pieces and dragged my daughter out of the mess. Alone, I learned to accept what I’d lost–family, friends, familiarity–because of the peace we, daughter and I, had gained.
Solitude with intermittent bouts of togetherness became the only way I found peace of mind. Now, very unexpectedly, I am not alone, but the peace has lingered. I worry too much again, a habit I’d shed during Alone, but I’m working on that. The electric fireplace looks lovely where we are now. No one has made fun of it yet, so I think we may have landed in a good place.
I was alone, and I was fine. I took good care of us, my small person and me.
Now I know, but I’d like to forget.