A Lady Laments About.... Alone(liness)
by Jennifer Philo
It's a romanticized thought; you. Deserted island, picturesque sunset over the silhouette of mountains. Waves playfully caressing the white sands as a gentle breeze whispers sweet nothings in your ear. Palm trees bow in unison as if honoring this hidden paradise. Here, there are no sounds of impatient cars making their daily commute. No glowing neon signs beckoning the lost and the found. No one to interrupt the mecca tucked away in a sea of solitude. Just you, completely and utterly alone.
This depiction of heaven can mean a lot of different things to many. It may represent the glory of achievement - finally reaching the goal of quiet contentment. Perhaps it signifies an escape from the daily grind; the longing to step aside and just be. To me, this representation and the thought of alone symbolized my own private hell which, until recently, took the identity of my own worst enemy. Alone meant isolation, quarantine from the familiarities of daily life. Alone was downright frightening. If you break it down, alone has one letter as a saving grace. Just one letter, clinging to alone like a leash on a dog. Take away the A and you have the making of other words that don't correlate with the fantasy of paradise. Words like loner, lonely and loneliness. Everything I feared and never really wanted.
I'm not sure how it started or when it started. My dependency on others and the constant need for company seemed vaguely equivalent to OCD - the torture of obsessing over weekend plans, preconditioning myself to list people I would intend to call in the afternoon or evening, meticulously outlining my days so the icy feeling of solitude didn't get me. I found myself, many times, personifying alone as though I could sense it behind those dark corners. I could intuitively know that alone was contemplating my doom. This unrelenting feeling taunted me for most of my life. Even being by myself for one hour or one day triggered anxieties equivalent to a five year old fearing the Boogeyman or the monster under your bed. Only, I wasn't five anymore. And the Boogeyman was not waiting for me in my closet. My embodiment of fear stood before me everyday. The strawberry blonde straight hair, the vacant blue eyes, the daunting portrait of someone I barely knew, yet had spent over twenty years with. How can you fight an enemy when the enemy is you?
It hit me one night. I sat sipping my tea, entranced by the sound of nothing all around me. The children were fast asleep in their beds. The dog lay in his own bed, more than likely thinking of a way to catch those damn birds he sees everyday out the windows. The cat dreamt quietly on my lap as I stroked her fur. I took a deep breath in and slowly exhaled. And with that exaggerated breath, it all went away. Instantaneously, I was O.K. I was O.K with alone. I was O.K with not planning my next move or reaching for the phone to create virtual company. At last, I was O.K with me. I came to terms with the fact that I needed to stop running from me; my fears, my worries and my anxieties. I needed to face the demons I had created in my own mind and realize that just be-ing was fine. No, better than fine, it was great! It took me over twenty years to realize that my best source for reassurance, the best company I could keep, the greatest friend I had never known had been with me all the while.
In essence, I released the negativity I had created and the boundaries that caged me. Like a metaphor brought to life, I had shed my skin composed of false perceptions and finally gave birth to my be-ing. No longer do I fear what I can't control, and Goddess knows that there are inevitably sometimes in life when you will be alone. And though the island paradise is not part of the therapy, the thought of getting away from everyone and everything is every bit as alluring as if it was. Nowadays, I look forward to the evenings when I can be alone and the days I can have to myself. Alone is no longer lonely.