Silence can be deafening.
I confess I often feel alone. But it is not often that I am actually alone. This weekend I found myself alone both in mind and body. And I did not like it. Not one bit.
It is spring break and my children are on a five-night trip with my ex husband. I am happy for the kids. It is important they see their father, especially since he lives so far away. I do not begrudge them their time together and was, admittedly, looking forward to the quiet.
In the flurry of activity last week, I neglected to make travel arrangements for myself for the few days I would be on my own. The truth is, I did not make my own plans a priority because I believed I would welcome the break from the chaos.
How wrong I was.
When I went to sleep Thursday night after everyone had gone, I was suddenly faced with an uncomfortable quiet. Of course I have been home alone before. I have actually spent the past two summers in my house by myself while the children were away at sleep away camp. But on that night the quiet somehow beat down my door anyway like an angry intruder, reminding me of the downside of divorce−loneliness. Aware four more full days of isolation lay ahead while waiting for my children to return, I became increasingly despondent.
When morning came, I resigned myself to using the time productively to catch up on household chores and neglected projects. As the morning wore on, and the errands to which I needed to tend first were completed, I returned to my empty house at lunchtime to attack my list.
Eating alone in my kitchen, the sun beaming radiantly through the window telling of the beautiful weekend to come, I realized nothing pressing was keeping me at home, and more importantly I did not want to be there. Immediately I took to my computer, searching for places to travel. After perusing the airlines for last minute deals and not finding any appealing destinations, I next looked for the perfect spot within a three hour radius by car.
Suddenly the photo of a picturesque bed and breakfast in Cape May, New Jersey popped up and practically called my name through the computer screen. With only one room left I immediately booked my stay, and within less than an hour was on the road to a romantic weekend getaway, even if it would be by myself.
When I arrived I knew I had chosen right. An historic city by the ocean, I found solitude in an old refurbished mansion within walking distance to quaint shops and restaurants and, of course, the beach. In my room on the third floor, appointed with antique furniture and a plush king bed, I began my stay with the satisfaction that I now have enough confidence and wherewithal to take affirmative steps toward caring for and comforting myself. If I am going to be alone, I might as well do it on my terms.
When I went to dinner that first night, in a lovely restaurant just down the street, the maître d’ and waiter expressed surprise I was eating by myself. This is a frequent response, I am discovering, as I venture out more and more on my own. Is a person traveling or dining alone really that much of a pariah, necessitating the stares of disbelieving onlookers?
In my experience, unfortunately so.
I am sad to say I am likewise guilty of making those same snap judgments. When I was living within the security of my married life not all that long ago, I could not comprehend how my single brother would sometimes vacation by himself. But as he explained to me repeatedly, surely in a wholehearted attempt to diffuse my condescension, he emphasized that if he waited around for everyone else’s schedule to coincide with his own, he would never do the things he wanted.
Of course I prefer to be in the presence of others. Though I am at times alone, I am by no means a loner. But, the reality is, sometimes I am by circumstance forced to be myself. Most of my friends are either married or in long-term relationships. Even my single friends are constrained by their own hectic schedules and obligations. If I wait around for others, I will no doubt lead a sedentary life.
I have already spent way too much of my life waiting. My ex husband, then my boyfriend, left for college two years before I did, and I waited for him to visit on weekends and holidays. After law school when we married, he worked long hours while I eventually stayed home raising our children, and I waited for him to come home each night. Years later, his career led him to Asia, and I waited for him to move back. One day he decided he no longer wanted to be married, and there I was again, waiting, this time for him to change his mind. He never did.
My wait is now finally over.
I would love nothing more than to always have at my disposal the company of my loved ones, good friends, or the man with whom I will one day share my life. To date, such a life is not yet my own. And it may very well never be. So here I am, confronting my loneliness head on as it tries to betray my confidence and rob me of my independence. In my fight, I refuse to let silence be my victor, holding me captive with paralyzing fear and preventing me from doing all of the things I once enjoyed and still wish to.
To some it may appear I am fleeing my surroundings, and perhaps there is some truth to that. My house is undeniably haunted, inhabited with the ghosts of a life gone by. On some days it reeks of decay as I recount my contribution to the untimely demise of the family life I worked so hard to create. On those days I simply cannot bear to be in the confines of my home’s rotted stench a moment longer. But usually I cannot escape, and remain chained to my past as I ruthlessly try to urge myself into the land of the living.
It was only as I packed my bag in the still of my house Friday afternoon that I heard the whisper. But it was not from a ghost. The voice came from within, and it told me to forgive and love myself.
There is no silence if we simply choose to listen. Opportunity surrounds us all. If we listen closely, our inner voice will guide us through our most difficult days. Music will fill the air, even when there is no music playing.
So I listened intently. And I heard the music. With the car radio turned up, I followed my heart. And this weekend I loved the one I was with−myself.
This article appeared on the Huffington Post May, 4, 2014.