Blanched: A Haiku
I sleep alone. I
always have. Rarely have I
been lonely alone.
I like being alone. Almost.
I have nearly always slept alone. Perhaps it was early childhood obsession with Marlo Thomas as Anne Marie, Mary Tyler Moore as Mary Richards, and Valerie Harper as Rhoda Morgenstern, or it may have been the example of my sister, JoAnne, leaving the tiny area outside which no family member had ever dared venture to brave Philadelphia for the glamorous life of the single city-woman in the 1970s, or, quite probably — like every other major decision about who I am and what I love and how I live — I was influenced by the example of my aunt, Frances, who we called Sissie, who never in her adult life had a romantic relationship. Or, maybe it was just dumb good-luck (or, good dumb-luck?), but I’m fundamentally a quirky character, able to and worthy of love, but with a storyline requiring a room of my own.
And, as I said, I like being alone. Mostly.
There was a time when I ached with wanting to be part of a couple. A romantic couple. Or, I thought I did. Somehow, this yearning to create union resulted in misunderstanding my way into primary relationships where the attraction was the absence of romance as culturally defined; I and my partners (for lack of a better word — for, in most instances, these were not partners in the way society defines partner) were most often consumed by a lie (or delusion or disorder) which complicated our connection resulting in a disastrous, messy ending. When one half of a duo fantasizes the possibility of a Bronte-esque love story in which the mismatch of physical attractions (age, sexual apparatus) or social situation (age, status, title) is overcome by the intensity of the soul connection, you’ve got the makings of a Lifetime-movie-tragedy about unhinged obsession, not a love story.
(There is another discussion about surviving the hell of constantly disappointing someone who professes to love you just as you are, all the while criticizing every detail of that “are”, but I am not yet evolved enough to tell it in personal essay format without bitterness, so it must wait.)
In retrospect — which seems to be where I am living lately — it seems I have spent the last decade in recovery. I quit smoking. Twice. I reduced my wine intake from a bottle (or more) a night to a glass or two a week, or month. I lost thirty pounds. Three times. I started exercising. And I have — by and large — stopped investing belief in the opinions of people and cultural groups who want me to contort myself into their normative boxes.
At least in my case, said recovery required a near total withdraw from society, real life and virtual.
This has left me a lot of free time and energy. And space. In general, plenty of room and opportunity for that mid-life upending (it’s not always a crisis, darlings) thing which compels some to pilot a sleek sporty vehicle, climb an impossible mountain, train for a marathon, or lust for all those sorts of people one never braved pursuing in one’s youth; it’s been called a second adolescence, but I find such labeling to be as dismissive as I do assumptions about gender, race, age, and sexuality, so, I like to think of the navigation of this complex maze of memory, discovery, and delights as the Great Letting Go.
And I am navigating it alone. Mostly.
As has almost always been the case with me, I am experiencing this life stage in ways unlike most of my cohort — most of the world, even. I’ve no desire for a little red Corvette, no Everest trek, and I’m content with reasonable visits to the gym absent triathlons or long distance running. I will admit to a healthy interest in the sort of men I would never have considered approaching in my youth, a fascination with the availability to me of the sort of sexual adventuring I would never have considered possible outside of onanistic fantasy.
But, that said, this life I live is unlike the lives of others I know, and is foreign, or confusing, or terrifying, or, even, repugnant, to some of the people with whom I am very close.
In life, there is a place of discovery you can reach where it becomes clear that most of those things you thought were done to hurt you had only the effect you permitted them, that most of those people against whom you held grudges were also doing the best they could, and their “evil” was mostly about the energy you invested in believing in hate.
I have achieved that place. But I have to work every day to live in the belief that everyone — not just those I love deeply, admire, and wish to be with, but also those whose words and behaviors are horrifying and offensive to me — is made of the same basic building blocks of Love & Light. Sometimes, real life and events make that very difficult.
Fear takes over.
When it does, I begin to doubt all my choices. I begin to doubt all my relationships. The cacophony of existential questioning drowns out the good sense of my aunt, Sissie, who always said, “You only need to worry about what you do, what anyone else does is not in your control and isn’t about you, the only thing about you is what you do with what you’re given.” And, the Duchess Goldblatt, who said, “When we count our losses, we turn the balance sheet over to see what’s been gained, you and I.”
So, the fear of late, this contagion of doubt brought on by the news, politics, world anger and striking out, the broiling, bubbling hate being broadcast and campaigned, in combination with forgetting Sissie’s words and feeling I am somehow less than and have sinned because some folks on Twitter seem to love me less than they once did (silliness) and some folks in real life seem to want me less than they once (or, a few times) did, and my life-long, nagging-to-debilitating suspicion I am a temporary stop on any journey, a compromise until something (or, someone) better comes along, a fraud who when discovered will be discarded; those fears have left me forgetting to turn over the balance sheet to see what’s been gained.
Here, where I am, going, what’s been gained? Like Anne Marie, Mary Richards, Rhoda Morgenstern, JoAnne, and Sissie, and, too, the Duchess, I can exist in this Charlie, this brilliant character I am, as who I am, myself. I appreciate and often thrive on the Love & Light of your reflections, but, the center of any of us is who we are without the reflections of others, who we are when we go to bed, quietly, alone.
And so sometimes, I am here, where I am going, in retreat from the noise and the Twitter and the family gatherings and the being out and about, to renew myself, to remind myself, to remember myself, and to be the self who Sissie and Her Grace hold in their hearts. And yes, now, Sissie and Her Grace cannot physically hold me, do not speak to me in real life presence, but they are — their love is — representative of what I’ve gained, in this life, the confidence and Love & Light enough to know I can be and am happy, here, where I am going.
Often (and never) alone.