After living in a large family for the first nineteen years of my life, and then another eighteen years married with children and an array of pets, spending a few days alone has turned out to be a rather terrifying experience. My fourteen-year-old daughter is spending two days a week and every other weekend with her dad, leaving me without human or animal.
It's as if I’ve relocated to a completely different planet where the air is barely breathable and the terrain is unreliable. I drive down to the Redbox and rent movies that I only half-watch, wash the one bowl and spoon I used for soup, sit on the back step with a glass of wine and desperately search for someone to reply to my texts.
One afternoon I’m frantically calling and texting friends and everyone single person is occupied.
No one is around who can rescue me from myself.
I begin to get a panicky feeling in my chest, right in my lungs where the air is getting thick and stormy. I have the realization that now is the time when I need to decide how I am going to deal with the rest of my singlehood, but I come up empty. So I do the only thing I can think to do.
I sit on the edge of the couch and I look around the room and I do nothing except say to myself, “I can do this. It’s ok to be alone.”
It’s ok to be alone.
Miraculously, I don’t crack and crumble under the weight of my thoughts. I breathe in and breathe out, my heart keeps beating, my brain keeps doing all its brain stuff to keep me alive and the quiet I was so afraid of loses its bite when I sit there and stare it full in the face.
This is how I'm facing my loneliness. I bite my trembling lip and stare that thing right in the eyes so close I can see my tiny reflection and say, “It’s ok to be alone."
All great wins have a start, and this is my starting point. A staring contest. One tiny little blink from my opponent and I've won.
That's all it takes.
Find something that needs to be cleaned... blink. Remember a podcast that I wanted to listen to... blink. Send an encouraging text to a friend without expecting anything in return... blink. One little success at a time. It hasn't been a big, dramatic, medal-winning victory, but it's been growth.
And growth takes time, which I have plenty of.