I wrote one thousand words about feeling alone. I started with: “the difference between being alone and being lonely is whether or not you have a choice in the matter.” Sentences of loneliness hummed quietly along the page. I was waiting for them to crescendo into some sort of realization. I was waiting to conclude on a note far happier than the one I found in the paragraphs’ repetitions: I am alone alone alone. I waited and waited until I didn’t wait anymore. That was a week ago.
I returned a few times, thinking that I could write that final paragraph. I wrote this: “I feel it leaving me now.” But that wasn’t true, so I deleted it. Again, a few sentences later I typed out: “(I feel it leaving me now.)” I tried, in the desperate deliberation of punched keystrokes, to make this true. It isn’t true. I do not feel the loneliness leaving me now. It sits with me, hangs over me, it pushes firmly into my chest. Ah! So there you are again.
We can try to will away our sadnesses. We can close our eyes tight and ball up our fists and hold our breaths until we’re sure that the next exhale will rid us of what’s been hurting us so badly. Exhale… still sad.
When my sister and I were young—maybe 7 or 8, we tried to swim across a small channel. Our best friend, two years younger and much braver (still, she is) joined us in the venture. From the beach where we waded with our parents we decided to swim the 50 yards to “the island.” We waded deeper and deeper. Our mothers called us back. We swam up to them, arguing our case. My friend’s mother said, “But girls, you cannot fight the current. It doesn’t work.”
Eventually, when we were older, we swam across that channel. It wasn’t easy. It may even have been my first taste of pure physical exhaustion. There’s something wonderful there, something to explore. Youth and joy and shit. But those moments have faded for me. I acknowledge them as something that has passed. The words of my mother’s friend, though, stay. I need them every day. They tell me to open my eyes, drop my shoulders, and inhale my loneliness. (Still sad).
We work hard to love ourselves. We exercise and eat right and plan social gatherings and get dogs and cats and blog and meditate. We consistently live the run-on sentences that I write. I work so hard to be okay. Really, I do. I try every minute of every day to love myself unconditionally. In this outpouring of love I still fail to love myself wholly. I love the good things that I am and that I do. I reject the bad parts. I leave them out of my loving, and in turn, they stay. Stubbornly I feel them coursing through my veins. They are currents. And for some reason I thought I could fight them.
I told someone the other day: “I feel like I’m on the edge of something.” That’s true. I do feel that way. For hours after I said this I felt a deep sinking in my stomach (this is where loneliness lives, in case you didn’t know). I felt as if I’d said something insincere and I couldn’t figure out why. I thought back on the past year, and even the years before that. The sinking was the realization that I’ve always felt this way. I’ve always been on the edge, waiting to topple into something new (implied: something better). I cried into my pillow, feeling stuck.
After a few days of heaviness, I began to feel light again. Different things trigger the joy that overshadows my doubt. It may have been a song or my cat batting at my dog or a really decent black bean burger. I realized: that feeling of “being on the edge” is my hope. It courses through me as powerfully as my loneliness. They are my currents. I’m not sure if one can exist without the other. Rather than sinking into the sadness of my fated life (forever lonely, hopefully on the brink), I think I can live in the opposing forces of myself.
So this, all of this, is my penultimate paragraph. I cannot conclude who and how and why I am.
I don’t know why I’m lonely. No, that’s not true. I do know why (need more friends, need career direction, need my dog to stop barking at strangers). I just think the little parts of life, the parts that a lot of people can see and forget, stay with me. I think I may feel small hurts greater than other people. I think that I’m a fatalist. I know that I assume the worst and that I remain cautious even when I see that the best is happening. Sometimes I choke on my loneliness. It catches my breath and I feel it aching in my bones and I really don’t know if I’ll be okay. I cannot conclude that. That still happens. I’m always trying to make it better. I make promises to myself: it will end it will end. And it does. Still, I wish it wouldn’t happen in the first place.
I’m not sure if I’ll ever fall over the edge. I know that my life changes every day. Physically, we try to take flight. New city! New job! New me! I’ve gone back and forth on the benefits of external changes. Everyone says you need to start with yourself, but I think they’ve got a different kind of assumption about toppling over the edge. They don’t tell you what kind of changes are required for a life lived forever on the tightrope.
A few weeks ago I came into class and my yoga teacher asked me why I was frowning. I shrugged and told her that I’d been grumpy all day. She reached out, grabbed my arm and nodded: “You know, everyone I’ve talked to today has said that. I sort of feel it too. Must just be a Wednesday thing.”
And it is. It’s just a Wednesday thing. I am lonely. I am hopeful. I bet a lot of other people are these things too. Maybe they stopped fighting their currents long ago. Maybe they’ll never stop fighting. Maybe if we all grabbed each other’s arms more often we could at least live in our currents together.
Last week I wrote 1000 words about being lonely. I cried through a few sentences. My dog looked over and growled at me. She is, undoubtedly, my best friend. I think, somewhere deep in that walk-eat-sleep-love brain, she wants me to be as happy as she is. I can be lonely, but I at least owe it to my dog to be lonely in an upright position. I decided to return to the edge, where I am now, teetering and tottering in no particular direction.
Your emotional life meets your practical life and you make a decision. It’s usually: today I am getting out of bed. You work from there. I get out of bed every day. It doesn’t make me less lonely, but it makes me hope. Sometimes I hope so hard that I start to think that I fell over the edge long ago. Perhaps it was when I was 7, standing and staying in knee deep water. Maybe I’ve always been my better self.
Maybe I never had to wait at all.