It’s ok to be alone.
Writing that sentence is very painful for me, yet it is also triumphant. Today is the 85th day since I was discharged from the hospital. When i had the episode that led to my hospitalisation, I told my husband of 19 years to leave. To take our children (15 and 18) and leave because I did not deserve them; to just leave and let me die. He told me to do whatever I needed to do. And so I left, got in my broken truck and tried to drive off to die, but it was too broken to drive so I came back to do I know not what, and they were preparing to leave. I collapsed on the floor sobbing and begged for help. He stood there stone-faced and said no. And left.
A day later I was in the right hospital, getting the right treatment. About two weeks later he was driving me back to my apartment telling me that eventually we would get marriage counseling to attempt to fix our marriage, but in the meantime we needed to be separated; our son had moved out and our daughter would be living with him at a friend’s house. He told me I needed to be alone to find myself; heal myself; become the source of my own happiness. There is much more to the story than this. His part of the story, for example…and his part is extremely important; it is terribly valid and terribly strong and terribly beautiful. My husband is a fiercely strong man. He is my best friend and my love for him is mighty not just as my best friend and my husband but as a Good Person. One of the best people there is. But what I want to say, what the point of this post is, is that he gave me the power to be alone.
It was awful. That first month I ended up collapsed on the floor in some of the most wrenching sobs I have ever experienced. I cried myself to sleep every night. I still cry myself to sleep sometimes. I was alone for our 19th anniversary. I was alone for my daughter’s 15th birthday, the first time in her life I did not celebrate her birthday with her. But each day I talked to my gods and they gave me strength; they fed the seed of strength Jean-Michel had planted in me. They wrapped me in a cloak of fur and feathers and starlight and told me that I was loved and that the only way out was through. That I was a warrior and to keep fighting. And so I fought.
Today is my 44th birthday. Money is terribly tight, and my writing has been sporadic. I have been scribbling here and there, but I have traditions. I find it is difficult for me to process my thoughts and get them out if I do not follow my traditions. A pen that writes smoothly in black ink. Just so lighting. No invasive smells. Something tasty to drink. A journal, for the journalling. Journalling is essential. Up until yesterday I have not done my years-long tradition of morning journalling because I have lacked a proper journal. But my mum sent me a surprise birthday package and inside was a delicious pink leather journal. Large, with a soft soapy cover, beautifully-printed endcovers, these odd wide pages lined with tea-coloured lines that have an odd stippling to them I find quixotic and amusing. I immediately placed a silly note my daughter (now spending half her time with me) in a random page to “discover” later.
But back to loneliness. And The Artist’s Way. Julie Cameron says that when you sit to do your daily writing, you do it in your sacred, special place, alone and free from distraction. When I set out to do this many years ago, it was a distinct pleasure to create my own space and carve out that time for myself. My husband supported me in my daily writing time and we both instructed my then-young children that when mom was doing her writing I was not to be disturbed, so that hour or so I spent doing my journalling was a precious time for me. And the past two days, as I sit down with my brand-new journal, caressing it’s cover and then it’s silky unwritten pages before claiming them with my words, I experience loneliness in a new light. My second month alone is still sad, but it is better. A thousand percent better than the first month. I’m not *as* alone, and that has something to do with it, but only a fraction…a tiny fraction. Because I have begun to discover that I am, after all, responsible for my own happiness.
When you decide to write, whether it is journalling or to create your own work, do so alone. Create your own space and your own traditions. Perhaps you too will need a special pen (ah, the joy of fountain pens), a certain cup will bring you joy to hold, the way the light streams through a certain window *just so* will get the words flowing in delightful madness, or the smell of a dish of freshly fallen leaves will stimulate you to a frenzy of keyboard clicks. But do it alone. Cats do not count. The treasure of alone-ness cannot be overstated. The pain of being alone cannot be overstated. It is a crucible I cannot fully explain. The dichotomy is still too freshly experienced. But I do know that writing alone after experiencing truly being alone has brought a new depth to the writing experience, one I am loath to leave.
Happy birthday to me.