“Cracking open the inner world again…” May Sarton
I am here, teetering on the edge of silence, skirting this world that is mostly hidden, the place where I come face to face with my ghosts. I am trembling as I write this for I have let another into this world, and, learning to love the companionship of another my solitude is more sharply felt when I return to this alone place. It makes me sad and a little teary, but I feel deeply blessed. I have lived mostly hidden from the world for years. To open the door to another is an incredible blessing and makes me feel shy and awkward, cumbersome in my aloneness, inelegant in the empty hours. I have to learn how to balance solitude and friendship, something I have never learned. I am like an animal who lives in the darkness and squints hard to adjust to the light of another bright being on the horizon, but squint I do, and move out of the shadows I must. Yesterday I went with her to the grocery store and I felt a little off kilter as though I didn’t know where to place my limbs in the air. Now I feel like giggling a little thinking about it. We went for eggs and chicken broth which we needed for our cooking, and then back home we worked companionably in the kitchen making dinner and leftovers for the days ahead. Now she is gone and I have the food and I feel sad and lost. Once you let another person enter your midst nothing is the same again, and yet most of my time is still alone. I must needs learn to balance the two.
Alone. A person alone with the company of four dogs. Rescue pugs, darling little dumplings that stay attached to me, and the company is appreciated but still does not touch the companionship I’ve found with Noni. This startles me. A real human being to talk to, to commune with, to eat meals with, and she has spent nights here in my little guest room through a tropical storm and a hurricane and a few other nights when our evenings went late and it was easier than driving home. And then to have coffee in the morning and start the day with another is such deep delight. Making coffee and setting the table for both of us makes me so happy. I don’t sit at my kitchen table when I am alone. To sit there with a bouquet of sunflowers, the half and half, the French Press and other breakfast items feels such a delight it is a deep kind of happiness I have not known in years. And how then to return to the empty hours when they have been so full? This is the new thing I must learn.
The hours alone are tinged with melancholy more often than not. My bipolar mood shifts echo loudly in the stillness and are more sharply felt than when cushioned by the needs and presence of another. I have begun to realize that I am not the solitary animal that I have long imagined myself to be. When I was married with children at home I longed for solitude and hours in the garden or sitting alone writing were the times I felt most at peace. It was only when I was really alone that I realized that solitude is a luxury of happiness cushioned by loving presences that support it. Living alone cuts deeply when there is no one in the wings, no one to hug and smile at, no one to share a meal, a conversation, a movie with, no one whose thoughts and feelings compliment your own. When I longed for solitude I wish there had been someone there to say to me, “Be careful what you wish for. Solitude cuts deep. Empty hours are not all peace and grace. Be aware what you wish for comes with a price.” And yet…
As I write this I am in my studio, light is fading fast through the windows, the dogs are asleep and dreaming around me. I am sipping a glass of wine and my fingers move fast across the keys. I am alone with my thoughts and as I share them with you I am aware that part of me needs this, wants this, still desires it, and hours spent here reading, writing, painting and planning my days are happy ones. All is not dark and lonely and lost, there is a glowing ember at the center of the hours that warms me, that lights my way. And yet, I wonder…
Am I creature that could be happy living with someone again? I have only just begun to wonder about that, and part of me longs for a partner, aches for love, the kind that comes from communion with a soul mate, but how does a woman who lives alone and rarely leaves the house meet the soul mate of her dreams? Is it a myth born of too many tears on lonely nights? Is it the desire to blanket oneself against fear and too many hours tinged with angst, or is it a real need, this human need to be with another that is natural and necessary and healthy. I don’t think we were meant to be alone. How will I continue to do this?
That is the question now? How will I continue to do this? I wonder. And it’s not that one is given the choice. What may or may not happen is beyond my control. Six months ago I could not have imagined having Noni in my life and now I cannot imagine my life without her. Little miracles happen along the way. Unexpected happiness might be around any corner. And living alone might be what life will be for me. How to balance it all, make peace with it, become comfortable in the passing hours? This is my work now, to figure it all out, to come to a peace and comfort within myself as one day passes into another. Just now I feel fearful thinking of it, but I have done it for seventeen years and I will do what I must.
The dogs are stirring. Soon it will be time to feed them. I just got a gripping feeling, fear, and trembling, but it passes with a deep breath. One day will become another. Noni will be here again later in the week. There are appointments, there is work to do. I can do it. I will be alright. I will do it all, I will begin again.