Alone, Not Lonely

Consistent effort toward a goal is more reliable than a whimsical wish. (1)I have another dissertation for you. It’s one that I need to get out of my brain so that I can move forward. This subject has been tugging at me for a few months, and because it won’t leave me alone, I know I need to write about it. Lucky you, you get to read it. Or click out of this post and not read it – the choice is yours. The choice is always, always yours. Right?

So here goes.

I spend a lot of time alone these days. I think that for many, this way of life would be a problem. I will say that I definitely do not enjoy being “cooped up” and away from the world, but I do enjoy solitude a great deal. I tend to protect that solitude, as well, meaning that I can be pretty selective about who I let into my space. For me, it’s important to be able to settle down and just be quiet for a little bit. These moments of solitude bring a sense of calmness and clarity, and I remember envying those who had these moments when I was so wrapped up in a go-go-go lifestyle. I was right to envy. This has been very good for me.

There is something else, though, and this is what I need to tell you. I realized something in these last six months that I’ve been out of the go-go-go: Alone does not necessarily mean lonely. Maybe that doesn’t sound like a big deal to you, but it’s a very important realization for me.

Here’s where it gets super real (turn away, if you must).

So, as a regular reader or personal friend would know, I was married once before. The man that I am married to now is quite different from my first husband, and our relationship is of a completely different nature. It’s so dramatically different that I have sometimes wondered what, in heaven’s name, shifted so forcefully inside of me to allow such a relationship. I’ll tell you what shifted; it was my perception. It was the way that I looked at life, the way that I saw myself, and the way that I wanted the world to see me – and my marriage.

I lied a lot back then. I lied to myself, mainly, but I lied day after day to friends and family and strangers and the Internet, trying so desperately to convince myself and everyone else that every single thing was perfect. It wasn’t. The untruths weren’t the trivial white lies that most folks are good with, they were bigger than that – they were whole misrepresentations by way of skimming right over the terrible truths in order to only show the good and happy moments to the world.

I clung to the bright moments and brushed the bad ones under the rug as best I could, but eventually, that rug got awful lumpy. There came a point when I couldn’t lie to myself anymore, and that meant I had to tell everyone else the truth, too. I knew I hadn’t failed, but I truly felt like a fraud when it all came to light. After you’ve been telling yourself and the world that you have the perfect marriage for 18 years, what do you think the reaction will be when you let down the façade and say, “Just kidding”?

For much of the marriage, I was lonely. I was dreadfully lonely. There I was, surrounded by my little family, complete with two kids, dogs, a cute little house down the street from my parents, a rental property, a 401k, and a job I loved. We had dinner with my family every Sunday, we went out with friends, we took fun vacations. It was everything I thought you were supposed to have in order to be happy.

But I wasn’t. My then-husband and I fought a lot, and we fought fiercely. Our arguments were always about the same thing, and they always ended the same way. Even when we weren’t fighting over this one particular issue, it was always there between us, and it shaped our relationship very distinctly from the beginning.

I’m an optimistic gal. I see things in a way that most folks don’t. For many years, I forgave easily and tolerated irrational and seriously inappropriate behavior well – and not just from my then-husband. From everyone. I think that what I had done was build a wall around my heart, if you’ll allow me to be dramatic here in this space. Everyday, I was protecting myself, my heart, from harm. And that’s a damn lonely place to be.

After one particularly rough argument, I remember lying in bed and staring at the wall thinking one word over and over: Hopeless. I don’t even remember what that feels like now, to be honest. I haven’t felt hopeless or lonely since the day we separated, and I think that says a lot about what really makes us feel lonely in life.

First and foremost, I believe that we are responsible for our circumstances. If you’re unhappy, choose again. If something has brought you to your knees, stand up. When I hear folks say that they don’t “have a choice” in a matter, I find it so upsetting. Yes, you do have a choice – you just aren’t comfortable with what you believe a different decision may bring. Maybe you’re afraid. Heck, I sure was. Terrified, really.

Remember in the beginning up there when I said the choice is always, always yours? I believe that with all of my heart. I made the choice to stay in that relationship because I thought it was the right thing to do for several really big reasons, though time and time again I was shown otherwise. Because of my choice and the circumstances that came with it, I felt lonely and hopeless. Only when I let go and was willing to be alone did I see hope. Only when I embraced the truth did that heavy blanket of loneliness lift.

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