I enjoy my own company. (According to friends, colleagues and former teachers, I also enjoy the sound of my own voice. A bit too much, apparently. Fair enough, working on that.)
I have long found serenity in solitude. I enjoy a night at home with a good book and some classical music on the radio. I go to the opera by myself and enjoy watching the crowd watching each other at intermission. I write, and sitting alone at my computer, writing, is probably my favorite thing to do.
Before I met Mike, I had made peace with being a single woman. When I was in college, I drove myself to California from Chicago and back once a year. As a young professional, I took myself to Disneyworld (where one of the “cast members” asked me, when I stepped up solo in the Pirates of the Caribbean souvenir photo studio, “couldn’t you get anyone to come with you?”) and I took myself skiing in Breckenridge. I went to theater and movies and bars. I enrolled in improv classes and ended up performing 4 shows a week. I had fun. I didn’t stop hoping to meet a guy, but I didn’t pin my happiness on it.
Only then, when I’d learned to be happy on my own, did Mike show up.
What happened to that self-assured solitude?
Lately, when I have a moment or two by myself, cracks appear; I feel my composure peeling away, flaking off, like the veneer on the antique composition face of Baby Margaret, my Mother’s childhood doll.
Right when I need to recapture confidence and even serenity in solitude, I find anxiety when I’m alone.
I was cleaning the bathroom and I suddenly started breathing hard, on the brink of sobs, thinking about taking care of my daughter as I try to help her gain more independence, and feeling inadequate. Talking to Mike, aloud, asking for help.
I’m nervous when driving home from choir rehearsal in the dark. It’s only 15 minutes away, but in my car alone I feel weirdly vulnerable, exposed. Fearful, even. As if I’d left a door unlocked somewhere, putting valuable things at risk.
That’s not me, or at least not who I think I am. I think of myself as strong, capable, enduring; sometimes soft and sentimental, maybe, but no ‘fraidy cat, no scaredy-pants.
I come from hardy stock. Women who gave birth on leaky 17th century ships crossing the Atlantic, or without doctors in remote farmhouses in Maine and Massachusetts. I myself gave birth without painkillers. So I’m disappointed when I feel panic rising.
Mike could calm me down when I felt panicky, which was often, back when I was working high-pressure jobs with toxic bosses or impossible goals. I got some major panic mileage out of those times. It drove my colleagues crazy, and tried Mike’s patience to the breaking point at times.
I kept that panic button pictured up there (with the Hallmark characters called Hoops and Yoyo, who kind of crack me up) on my desk, to remind myself of how charming I am when consumed with anxiety. Here’s what it sounds like when you push it:
What happened to that confident single woman, who travelled alone, went where she pleased, and knew she could take care of herself?
Well, she got married. Became someone who took care of others, as a mother, a wife, a breadwinner, a caregiver – and now a widow.
Isn’t getting older supposed to make you bolder? Isn’t surviving loss supposed to make you wiser? More open and easygoing? Less prone to worry and fear?
It doesn’t seem to be working for me that way just now.
Which brings out the spirits of the hardy New-England ancestresses in my head, especially Grammie E, a retired New England schoolmarm, thirty years a widow herself after caring for her dying husband, in her mid-70’s, wiping her hands on her apron after producing a kitchen full of homemade donuts at 5 am, telling me to just pick myself up and go outside for a good long walk, deah.
Then come home and scrub something.
Well, I did get the salad veg drawer in the fridge washed out today. So there’s that.
OK, Grammie. I’ll suck it up and do my job to build my daughter as independent a life as she may want.
Well, if my knees can take it, I’m going skiing.
Maybe I’ll meet a nice guy on the slopes, tee hee.
Daydreaming is what makes solitude serene.
Awaiting the rheumatologist’s report, while trying-to-stop-feeling-sorry-for-myself-and-get-my-creaking-joints-and-fat-ass-to-the-gym (or at least outside for a brisk walk),
Your loyal, devoted, solitary,