Partly by choice and partly by circumstance, I’ve been spending a good deal of time the last few weeks by myself. I get plenty of human contact at work, and my after-work calendar is sprinkled with an appointment here and an after-work outing there. Weekends, I’ve been mostly flying solo.
An only child, I am no stranger to solitude. My mother discovered early on that sending me to my room wasn’t a punishment: I was quite happy to be there and perfectly capable of entertaining myself. Yet there’s a side of me that’s strongly social, too. When I went away to college, it was tough to find any time to myself. Still, I thrived. A prized single room that came my way in the middle of my sophomore year let me shut out the madding crowd but step just into the hall to rejoin it: I had the best of both worlds.
After college, far from home in a brand new state, I found it tough to reach out to forge new relationships. Two unsettling experiences in grad school had left me skittish and unsure of myself, and suddenly time alone was something that chaffed, not soothed. I was desperate to feel connected. I married a man who seemed married to his career, leaving me with still more time on my hands.
At some point I realized that being lonely was much more bearable when you were actually alone. In the years since my divorce, I have struggled to find the balance between “apart” and “a part of.” My circle of acquaintances is large, but I can count my close friends – most of whom live outside Vermont – on one hand. There is no dorm to move into, and while I love my house, it’s easy to tuck in, especially when it’s cold and dark outside.
But over these last few weeks, I’ve gradually lost the sense that something is missing. I feel as though I’ve come home after a long trip; this is a familiar, comfortable place. Like the tide, my social life ebbs and flows, but when the waves drift out, there are treasures to discover in the sand. Whatever cosmic developmental shift I’m undergoing has left me, finally at peace with myself – leaving me at peace, too, with my sometimes-solitude.