My sister and I randomly have a discussion about living alone. Technically, neither of us have ever lived completely alone. For her, it has always been family (including her ex-husband). For me, it’s just in general, if I haven’t lived with family members, I’ve always had roommates because, let’s face it, unless you come with an upper-middle-class income you can’t really afford to live on your own anymore. Not unless you are willing to live in a shit-hole (which, sadly, I have even with roommates).
Nights like these, when she’s away for whatever reasons, remind me that as much as I do enjoy my solitude in some ways, I don’t really like being completely alone in a house. Of course, probably by the time you read this, it will be days later and she’ll have returned.
It’s not from fear of being attacked in my home, although if I was living in an urban area that might be an added fear, but simply from the isolation from humanity.
I could see myself heading out to the bars just to not feel so isolated. But, sitting alone in a bar is almost as depressing as sitting at home. It’s the same kind of isolation, it just doesn’t seem like it because there are people around.
Maybe that’s why I have always gone with roommates. Realizing that I needed something more fundamentally social than my parents or my sister necessarily needed. My family has always been somewhat isolationists. Normal evenings as a child (and now as an adult without a husband) revolved around reading quietly until one was tired or one was put to bed.
Sometimes there was TV. Occasionally we’d have one of a small number of my parents’ friends come over (although, to my memory, most of those friends were my father’s, or at least he was how they came to know us). But, it was fairly much mostly just us alone, or us with Grandma Rose.
But, I digress.
There’s a haunting echo in the house. Not a real echo, and not really any supposed “ghosts” (from being a hospital even as recently as the 1950s), but more of a feeling of abandonment. It’s hard to describe what the house feels like because some of the words imply that it is more about me than about a place.
Have you ever stared out the window and saw a house that was obviously old and well-loved, but no longer had any people to live in it? I’m not talking about the scary abandoned house everyone wants to describe as the “witch house” or something similar. I’m talking more about a completely empty home, one that takes forever to sell. It’s that feeling that the house itself is sad and lonely. That’s kind of the feeling I have now.
It’s not that having someone in the house means I have to interact with them 100% of the time. In fact, there have been days (and occasional weeks) that there is very little interaction with my sister. But, knowing she is there, that I am not alone in the house, gives me a sense of groundedness and safety that I don’t really have when I’m alone.
And no “safety” isn’t that I am afraid someone will hurt me while I am alone or that I will somehow hurt myself and not have anyone around to call an ambulance or take me to the ER. It’s deeper than that.
It’s perhaps a matter of trust. Oh, I’ve always known I have serious trust issues with other people. I work on it, and there are people now I would have never trusted before. But, in many ways, it was also based in not being able to trust myself.
It’s not just hiding away the emotions, creating a facade that shows strength and determination regardless of what is going on inside. It’s about never really feeling that I could take risks. Being suspicious and cynical made it easy to be risk-averse.
Maybe it sounds odd to be someone willing to involve herself in conflict, yet be risk averse.
Think about it. Dreams, your imagination, hopes…these are all things that require a person to actually take a risk. It means you need to take that “leap of faith” to even attempt to follow a dream. And somewhere along the line, I chose to believe that if I don’t dream, if I don’t reach for the brass ring, then I won’t be devastated by failure. If I close my eyes to miracles and opportunities, then I won’t know what I am missing.
Except, I’m not stupid. I do know what I am missing. In fact, I know it so much that there is a huge reservoir of envy and pain. And it had me aiming directly at the same kind of life my grandmother lived as she grew older — the life of a bitter, lonely old woman. I didn’t realize at the time, but perhaps there is an odd symmetry that I was the one who sat with her in the ER on the last day of her life. Mom had just taken over bedside support when she died.
The fact that I am so similar to Grandma Rose in temperament gives me a clue of what might be waiting for me if I don’t choose to change now.
So, no unrelieved solitude. I need that human touch to keep me connected.