It might sound strange coming from a 45-year-old single woman, but finding myself alone is almost foreign to me. The only time I have lived alone was my sophomore year of college and even then my best friend lived next door with only a thin wall between us. We could hear each other’s phone conversations and practically talk without picking up the phone. The rest of the time I’ve had either roommates or family sharing my space.
My present house, located in the center of town, has always been a stopping place for family and friends. Its revolving door policy means that typically you can find someone coming or going day and night. Sometimes I’ll be sitting up working at 3:00 a.m. only to find my brother, Paul, has stopped by to grab a snack on his way home from night patrol. In the morning, before I even wake, family may have stopped and used the computer or the bathroom, and I will come downstairs to find traces of their presence. It’s sort of a Goldilocks moment – whose been sitting in my chair, etc. etc.?
Even when I travel it’s usually with someone or at least with the intention of meeting someone. For example, I travel back and forth to Cambridge, NY for my writers’ group, but the other members are always there waiting. When I make the hour-long journey between my house and Joan’s, I know there is someone on both ends to see me off and greet me. Even if my house has gone to bed for the night, my pugs wait patiently for their evening romp and snacks.
On my annual trek to the Woodstock Writers’ Festival, it’s true I meet up with other writers, but I know none of them. Although my name is on a checklist of having purchased a festival pass, no one will really pay any mind if I show up or not. There is a freedom in this. I am afloat and without boundaries, unsure how to take best advantage of this. I could go eat pizza or check in at the hotel. I could grab some soup or head to the story slam. There is no one else to consider. There’s just me. It’s a funny feeling. I have to stop and think – what do I want?
Some of my married friends with children look at my life longingly, imagining secret freedoms and independence. It is not a life I’ve known. Seldom has my life been untethered. And, true, it is not really this independence and freedom I crave. Although I always seem to have people around me, I am frequently lonely, craving a family of my own. And, yet, at moments like this, when I find myself truly alone, I can’t help but observe with scientific objectivity that it is an interesting experience. The feeling is alien, but potentially exhilarating as if every action holds the promise of adventure. I wait to see what may happen next.