Saturday, December 03, 2005

Alone time

I’ve been craving alone time in recent weeks, which comes as something of a surprise. I’ve always needed it, to be sure, and I am inclined to become cranky when I don’t get enough of it, but since I’ve been on my own it has rarely been in short supply.

For a while after I moved out of the apartment I shared with Phil, it made me slightly nervous to spend too much time by myself. Knowing this, I tried to arrange my days so that each one would include at least one cup of coffee, one drink, or, if all else failed, one phone call with a friend. On most days I achieved this goal easily, but every now and again I’d have no choice but to resign myself to my nerves.

When you live with someone for a long time--and by this I mean a decade or more--you become physically accustomed to co-presence in much the same way that you become accustomed to smoking. The person, like the cigarette, is always near at hand, and even when they are not, you know that it is only a matter of time.

In the days after Phil left, there were strange, almost hallucinatory moments when I felt his absence as amputees must sense a ghost limb. He was palpably there and not there, a physical habit suddenly broken but not forgotten by the body. It took months for me to learn how to sleep in the centre of the bed, which is to say it took months for me to learn how to live alone.

Yes, I needed to learn this.

Still, it is one thing to learn a lesson, and it is another thing to live as though one has always known it. Today, while walking across a skin of ice to the supermarché, it occurred to me that solitude doesn’t make me nervous anymore. In fact, on a day like today, when the apartment is impenetrably warm and the cats take long turns on my lap, it is a special and entirely necessary pleasure.

Remarkable.

5 comments:

g_pi said...

I love this post.

Been thinking on it for a couple of days' now.

Been thinking that it's strange how it can work the other way, too. About how you learn to live inside your aloneness, and oftentimes, loneliness, and it's not something -- unpleasant -- anymore. It becomes expansive. Sweet to the taste, even.

And then you go and get yourself well and truly, securely coupled and find yourself longing nostalgically for those alone times. What is that? Just plain old contrariness...?

wind and waves said...

I appreciate this. I am in the process of trying to learn to embrace the loneliness, in a new city, in a new country, all alone. I have to admit that using the whole bed didn't take me very long. I make a huge X in fact with my limbs. But falling asleep is another matter entirely.

It is somehow about embracing wherever we are at, not trying to run away from the pain or grasp the elation -- but to just be with where we are at.

Thank you for your words -- so eloquently put.

Vila H. said...

g_pi--Maybe it's just that you can't help but miss what you don't have. It's forever a trade-off, isn't it? Or so it seems.

When I imagine what it might be like to be in a proper relationship again, I see myself keeping some part of this aloneness I am learning. I'm not sure I could do it any other way.

I wonder if this is possible?

Vila H. said...

wind and waves--Ah, another insomniac--welcome! Shall I make a pot of tea?

Is it harder or easier when everything about your life is radically new? I would think that one is immersed in possibility, potential. But then, what is it like when nothing whatsoever is familiar?

I think I'll try sleeping in an X tonight. You've inspired me.

g_pi said...

On whether it's possible to have your cake and eat it too...

S'tricky. Mighty tricky. Takes a lot of navigating/negotiating, but is not impossible...